Monday, March 31, 2014

Fronting the money, does that make sense?

Sometimes you have to learn from experience.
Here are some examples in the money category: Your Gen Y kid fronts the money for something and is told that they'll be paid back (by their friends). Well, not exactly:
1) Getting a storage unit for the summer. Your college student has got to move out of the dorm, move his/her stuff into a rental storage unit and it makes sense to go in on this unit with a few friends. The rental company requires payment in full for the three months, your kid takes care of it and his buddies say they'll pay him back. It takes months and months to collect after many very uncomfortable conversations, emails, etc.
2) Your kid is on a club sports team. He volunteers to help organize a BBQ after the game with the other team. He heads to Costco and makes all of the purchases, paying for the shopping spree himself. He's already communicated with his teammates that everyone needs to chip in X dollars. Collecting the money from each team member proves to be a real challenge. He's left holding the bag to the tune of a few hundred dollars!
3) Your college kid puts the money down to secure an apartment for next year's housing. He's not flush with cash, so he's counting on being reimbursed for half by his future roommate right away. They talked about this upfront. The roommate doesn't ever get around to paying him back.
Needless to say, each of these scenarios leaves a person feeling:
disappointed in people
upset with oneself
irritated that they volunteered/signed up to be the "front guy"
questioning one's own judgement
feeling differently about someone that you thought was your friend
and not to mention: out the money!
In a word: Lousy.
What are some of the learnings?
And.... Where does Mom come in? What kind of advice do you give or do you?
Well, I listened, I chimed in when asked (OK, maybe even if I wasn't asked), but I think I've learned through the years and my kids that listening and then "couching" your comments in a way so that your kid feels like you're bouncing ideas around....much more effective, much much! So...
The "tough" advice and obvious: Without the money upfront from everyone, there's no BBQ, no storage unit, no.... whatever.
If that's not an option and the money's been spent, one of my kids did this:
First, asked repeatedly for the money he was owed. When that got more and more irritating and uncomfortable, then he sent out an email to everyone (bulk, so all could see) who paid + owed money and specifically highlighted those that have paid. That got a few more to pay up. And for that last couple of stubborn people that just would not pay him back, he sent an email (again copying everyone) letting everyone know that a letter was going to go home to the parents about the money owed to their son's college friend. This worked (before the letters went out). But I'll tell you, it was months and months before he was fully reimbursed and it certainly left a sour taste in his mouth.
As for the BBQ? That was a very expensive lesson. (My son didn't choose to listen to Mom, but in his defense he may not have chosen to share with his mother until after the fact and he sure didn't want to "hear it", at that point.)
And the apartment? Haggled over the first and last month deposit, the roommate had to anti up more to make up for the IOU. Mom's advice.

No More Sideline Conversations: So We've Written A Book!

From senior year of high school ‘til they say “I do!”
Empty nester? Not exactly.
If you’ve seen the book, “What to expect when you’re expecting” by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, fast forward to senior year of high school, graduation, college, life after college…what can you expect as a parent of these kids? If you think of the book, “Letting Go” by Karen Levin Coburn, really? Who do you think you’re kidding? Not with our parenting styles. Not how we’ve been parenting all of these years.

Well a friend of mine and I have written a "book" about this ongoing parenting. Now that we have this new website, we are going to do something fun: do you remember studying "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens? Well, he released his book in serial form and we thought we'd do the same. so....over the next however long, we'll be releasing ours in chronological order. After all, we want to keep you interested.
As a fellow baby boomer shared, “I could feel the boot kick by my parents when I graduated from college….When I asked my Dad in my late 20’s if I could borrow 10 grand to buy a car and I told him I’d pay him back.” Dad’s response,”prime plus X….” BB said "There may have been presents under the tree and at birthdays, but otherwise, you were on your own."

Not us. Not us Baby Boomers. We’ve always done it a little differently. If you thought your days of parenting were over, you’re sorely mistaken. Hang on, hold on, the ride's just picked up momentum. Your Gen Y kids have just been accepted to college, are in college or have graduated from college. You no longer have the benefit of your “sideline” friends. You know, those people you used to talk to while watching your kids kick the soccer ball down the field? Parents of same aged kids. Gone are the days of standing on the sidelines comparing notes with other parents of similar aged kids. You just don't realize how valuable those sideline conversations were until they aren’t there anymore.

When you're a parent of a school aged kid (K-12) there are so many opportunities to gather information about your child: from their friends, the stuff they're doing, the things they should be doing, the timing of applications, of interviewing for private schools, for college, looking for sports' camps or jobs over the summer...the network is incredible and incredibly valuable! You have other parents to share with. There's very little like it. Where else is there such a great "laboratory" for this raising-a-child-thing? The ages are similar, often you're talking about the same gender, you're living in the same community, familiar with the resources, the demographics... it's great!

We see more and more ads for these kinds of opportunities online with "Mommy bloggers" or online communities. All good, but not the same as the "sidelines" and us Baby Boomers aren’t as likely to do the blog-thing. Oh sure, we Google stuff and then leap around from website to website, but our generation tends to turn to the good old fashioned book. We’ve been conditioned through the college application process to turn to reference books/guides and now that they’ve moved onto that next phase, there’s no parenting manual out there. Nothing to alert you to potential issues or challenges.

Once your kids have gone off to college, do you think the questions stop coming or your consultation is no longer requested? What are you, nuts? On the contrary. These Gen Y-ers have numerous things they want to run by you or ask for your advice on and where do YOU as the parent of this age group go for answers or questions or consultation? You don't see those same parents anymore, you don't run into them necessarily, so having a resource or a place to go or a reference to turn to...that could be invaluable!

This "book" is the:
“wish I would have known thats!”
“Would have been nice to have had a heads up about that!”
“Why didn’t anybody tell me that was coming? Are you kidding me!?”

What's wonderful about this website is that you can chime in! We would love to get your thoughts, your ideas, and your life's experiences. We certainly don't claim to be experts, by any stretch of the imagination, we just know that we learn SO much from each other and we want to continue to share and learn as our kids grow older.
Once A Mom, Always A Mom!

Roommates after freshman year of college

Let's talk about roommates. Remember freshman year? Think back. Most colleges and universities assign freshman roomies. I blogged about it last Spring. Well, now I'm talking about roommates after freshman year and beyond. Your Gen Y kid gets to choose.* Last week a friend of mine shared that her son called to just bounce some thoughts off her about what he was thinking.
*Please note: This is not a time to insert yourself as a parent! This is their choice and decision. But if asked, well then. Otherwise just be a sounding board!
It made me think about those times when my kids called and did the same:
Do I live with just one person or
Do I live with three, four, or five?
Do I try to go for a single?
I really like these guys but they're all a bunch of slobs and I don't really want to live in a pig stye for a year.
I get along great with her, but she has a boyfriend and I really don't want to "live" with him too. Or
She has a boyfriend and I know since he lives off campus, she'll be over there most nights, so I will be virtually living by myself.
I know it'd be really fun to live with him, but I'm afraid it'll be too fun and I won't get anything done.
A couple of different guys have asked me to room with them and they're from totally different "groups," how do I say "yes," to one guy and "no thanks" to the other, because we can't all room together, it wouldn't work out.
I want to live in housing that has a kitchen, so I can cook my own meals, if I live with her I know I'll be the one always doing the dishes, what should I do?
Some of my throw back responses were along these lines:
Do you want to live on your own? Will you be lonely?
If you're thinking about more than one roommate, do you get your own room? If not, how are you guys going to decide who actually rooms with whom?
Are several girls too much drama? Are several boys too much like a frat? Is that a bad thing?
What about the boyfriend thing? The girlfriend thing? Really think about that. You may feel that it's a bonus to have a "single," but then again you may really want a roommate.
If there's a kitchen (or a private bathroom for the suite), how are you going to keep it clean? What are you going to do about food purchases? Your own separate shelves? Purchase together? What's mine is yours and yours is mine?
Things to think about.
Bottom line with roommates: Expectations should be vetted BEFORE moving in together. I think it's probably safe to believe that if people go into a roommate situation expecting that everyone is going to get along then most likely, they will.

Roommates after college

Now, let's talk about roommates after college.
Similar questions as when they were in college, but there's a real difference, the kids may be moving to a city where they don't have any bffs or anyone they really know. Your Gen Yer may be making the decision to live in a particular city because of the roommate, they're bffs, and they've agreed on a city together, ya never know? The other important thing to note is that you may not hear much about this at all, until after the fact. After all, they are over 21. But you can inquire because you care or are curious (and you are the mother). But again, ratchet it back parents! This is their life, not yours. Besides, your kids now have had real roommate experiences (and oh btw, much more recently than you have). They know what they're looking for, what they can and can't do as far as what / who they can live with. Trust them.
One of our son's had a great idea and posted his move on Facebook, saying he was moving to Boston and looking for a roommate. Shortly thereafter a mutual friend from college connected him to a buddy of his from high school that was moving to Boston too and voila! It worked out great, that six degrees of separation thing is a good thing! I, as the Mom, really liked the whole idea much better than a random Craigslist listing, because there's comfort in knowing who someone's "people" are. :) Spoken like a mother, I know. Another son has FB messaged friends from high school that attend college in Denver, looking for a sublet situation for the summer. I thought that was a good idea too. If your student is looking for summer housing in a city because of work/internship, suggest they look into University housing. Our daughter did this. FYI: NYU offers summer housing to students even for non NYU students, they just have to prove they're a student somewhere (NYU students have first priority), so it's worth checking to see if other universities offer this. In this housing situation it was much like freshman year, you don't know who they're going to room you with. It's only a summer though, right?
What about a roommate of the opposite sex?
Are they a friend.... or more? Is this "living together?"
I've heard of and know of a lot of different situations, so it really depends. Not that as the Mom you have much say,but hey, you're asking. If it's a "just friends" scenario, then questions that come up are:
Are you going to be able to relax comfortably, ie., wear your jammies on a Sunday morning while reading the NYT? Are you comfortable sharing a bathroom? Now you'll probably get the eye-roll or the equivalent look that we gave our parents, that "you're such a square"-look. And you may be asking these questions only if you have a daughter (sexist, I know), but ask. It's worth throwing out there, so you know your Gen Y kid at least thinks about it.
As for the "living together" scenario.
It's a big commitment. And I think the pivotal word in that sentence is "commitment." They're not a "roommate". It's more than that, it's very different. Some of you may be asking, "why don't they get married?" and others are saying: "living together is a good idea. How else are you going to know if this person is "the one."
It's a personal discussion, one that needs to happen between the couple and if either one of them chooses to speak to their parents about it, then as parents, we listen, we offer advice if asked, we ask questions that they may or may not have thought of, (going right for the jugular) ie., "what happens if it doesn't work out? How do you separate?" And you may get a response like: "We're certainly hoping it DOES work out, but if it doesn't, it's really no different than when you move out from a roommate that is your bff and you lived with them for a few years." And you think and may even say, "not exactly. I'm just hoping you've thought this through and that it all works out." And then you smile and think, this is their life, their decision. All I want for them is to be happy and happy with their choices and decisions... and so far, they sure seem to be.


What are MFO's? Mandatory Family Obligations.
A friend of mine coined the term years ago and I instantly adopted it! "Imitation is indeed the greatest form of flattery!"
MFO's are those non negotiable things that a kid has to do when being a member of your family. Everyone's MFO's vary from family to family, here are some of ours:
Learning to swim
Learning to ski in ski school (ski school, that's the key) through middle school!
Learning to sail / boat handling
Eating dinner with the family (you parents of teens know what I'm talking about)
Going on family vacations (another familiar tune amongst teens' parents)
Taking and passing the American Red Cross Babysitting course... (whether or not your kid ever babysits for others, it's a great thing for each child to know when they are left home alone or watching little brothers or sisters.)
As your kids are growing up, just think about some of the struggles you have, getting your child to do something. The power of an MFO is that there's no argument. Once you state this is an MFO, that's it. The importance is how you implement it and then your follow through. No wavering, parents, stick to your guns! We used MFO's sparingly, more bang for the buck.
We live on the coast, water is everywhere and when our kids were growing up we lived in California and pools were everywhere... learning to swim was non negotiable. Did we have tears, absolutely. But once over the hump, swimmers!
We ski and we wanted our kids to learn to ski so we could vacation as a family and participate in something together. There aren't many sports where you can do that. And going to ski school is the only way. They're with their peers, they learn the correct way, not Mom's Stein Erickson's method, and they actually have fun, meaning they want to get back out there the next day or the next time. Now our kids can tackle anything, with anybody, and they have a ball.
Boating skills? Since we do live on the coast, there are many times when there's an invitation to go sailing or boating and to have knowledge and (some) skill means another invitation because you're helpful, not to mention it's much more fun.
The eating together as a family is a tried and true MFO, always! There were definitely times when it became a real challenge with sports and extracurriculars, but MFO dinners were ever present at least twice a week.
MFO vacations, I've never understood those family friends that gave their kids the option of whether or not they wanted to join the family on a trip to wherever. It was always an MFO in our household.
And as for the American Red Cross' Babysitting course,I highly recommend it for any 11-15 year old. It gives your kid a real self confidence in knowing how to handle an emergency and feeling more comfortable if left on their own or in charge of younger kids. Not to mention Mom's piece of mind.
Now that the kids are older and living on their own in college or really on their own, it's harder to use the MFO moniker, but I'll confess, though I probably didn't have to, I did resurrect it for a wedding not long ago.
MFO gets their attention and they realize and understand the importance of something. It's been a very useful tool over the years.
What are some of your family's MFO's?

Save your important documents!

For you parents, this is a no brainer, but for our Gen Yers...say what? I never really gave this much thought before, but as our kids have gotten older, the "real world" has a way of sneaking up on them AND you as the parent don't have copies of the things your kids are doing.
Let me back up.
Your child is in college, they are living off campus and renting an apartment. Some day they may need to prove that. In our case, the state wanted proof that our child was actually a non-resident and a student out of state, four years ago! The good news is that her roommate had a copy of the lease and an ex-landlord was happy to certify that she lived in his house off campus. As Mom, I didn't have copies of either of these leases because I wasn't involved with leasing the house or apartment. (As it should be, I might add). Another example:  A friend's son was marrying a young lady from another country, both of them had to prove, separately, all of the places they had lived since high school and for how long in each place.
It doesn't sound like a big deal, but let me tell you, it's much easier if your Gen Yer gets in the habit of keeping these things in a file starting with college, rather than having to re-construct past documents or searching for past landlords. Maybe the best idea is to scan these items into your laptop and then be sure to back up onto a cloud, or a zip drive...
A) Keep a copy of the lease (and from now on, keep copies of all leases for your records).
B) Keep a copy of your diploma
C) Keep copies of your tax returns
D) Hold onto your pink slip for your car
E) Store your passport in a safe place
F) Keep copies of your school loan, auto loan...
There's a list of things to keep in a safe place. Good Housekeeping has a good list of important documents to keep and where to store and for how long.
Here's the link:
Being organized is a good thing!

Another thing on important papers....passports and visas!

So your son has just been accepted to an overseas program. WooHoo! Well, slow down, there are some logistics involved and of course, one of the first few phone calls they make are to Mom. 
After you're initially proud of them for taking care of the application process on their own and happy for them because they get to have this wonderful opportunity, then reality sets in, visas and deadlines.
1) Do they have a valid passport?
2) Do they actually physically have it with them at college? or Do you have it at home in a safe place (because Moms keep this stuff in a safe place)?
3) Is the passport valid? or Has it expired?
4) If it's expired, this is when life flips into high of the things your Gen Yer will need is a certified birth certificate, you know, with the embossed stamp on it. If Mom doesn't have one filed away in that safe place, your Gen Yer will have to chase after it.  I strongly recommend that your kid does the chasing...a learning experience in and of itself. If Mom takes care of this...lesson missed.  :)
Of course if it's expired then for an extra chunk of change you can get the passport request expedited and according to the website that's a 2-3 week process and if you request it on a regular cycle it's 4-6 weeks.
Why is any of this important? Well, your Gen Yer will need a visa (most likely) to study abroad and in order to get a visa, they need a valid passport with extra pages available, so...
5) If it's valid and Mom has it at home, Mom's got to send the passport certified mail or FedEX (some traceable way) so that your kid can take care of the visa steps.
Of course time is of the essence on all of these actions, especially if it's the end of the semester and they're going next semester. If it's Spring and they're going in the Fall, you have a little cushion, but not much.

One thing I've noticed with our friends from other countries, they have their passports and handle their passports much like we do our driver's licenses, we on the other hand are either much more cautious about them (not a bad thing) or have a disregard for their significance. Wherever your child may fall on this scale, it's a good idea to have a conversation with them about this, because now that they're older, they should be responsible for them, holding onto them and renewing them, etc.
But you'll be involved initially, because you probably have the passport or you have the certified birth certificate that they'll need to request a passport...

Packing up and moving out...'til next semester

"Mom, remind me next year to be the first one out of my dorm room. It sucks being the last one out: You're picking up after everyone else, repairing the holes in the wall, returning the cable box, even though you don't have a TV, throwing out trash and then there still is that one sneaker or that old T shirt in a ball under the bed, dust balls EVERYWHERE.... and outside of the dust balls, this stuff isn't even mine!" "Gross."
Don't you just love that? Well, the good news is that as a parent, I learned a couple of kids ago, that my Gen Yer is packing up and moving out without Moms help.  :) They're on their own to navigate these waters.
Some thoughts on how they might make it easier on themselves:
First, don't wait until after the last final and hours before the dorm has to be vacated. I have heard (hilarious) stories about kids just chucking stuff out the doors onto the front lawns, throwing stuff into the back of cars, complete disarray...
I know, I say this, but inevitably, it's procrastination-city and it's the last minute push. Trust me: if you start packing and taking things off the walls. selling your books back to the bookstore a couple of weeks before you HAVE to be out, you'll be so happy you did!
side bar: There was a business that popped up at Bowdoin that relied on this procrastination and this "chucking" mentality of students. I wonder if in this economy they're still in business? Are kids less likely to throw out perfectly good stuff just because they've run out of time?
Second, reserve a storage unit with a friend. There are many storage facilities available if your college doesn't have any and sharing a unit with a buddy makes good economic sense, not to mention some moving help for each other.
One thing I did not know was the ability to be able to store your car in these facilities. A friend's daughter is headed abroad next year for the whole year. She lives in Hawaii and goes to school in Maine. She brought her car to the local VIP, told them she was storing her car for the year and they prepared the car accordingly. I don't dare say what they did to it, because I really am not sure, but they seemed to know what to do. 
Third, storing your stuff in plastic boxes and duffle bags rather than hefty garbage bags helps you avoid little creatures making their nests out of your comforter.
Store your electronics carefully. You'll want to be aware of the heat factor. Those units tend to get really hot in the baking sun of summer and the survival of some of your things is compromised. Think about that before you store it.
Fourth, once you disassembled your room, taken the stuff off the walls, take an inventory. A trip to the local hardware store or Home Depot may be in order. You (and your parents) want that room deposit back!
And remember, most airlines seem to be charging for luggage, so don't bring it all home because you think it's easier...plan ahead, store it, because you probably still have shorts in the drawer at home!

Moving out of college, permanently!

Senior year, graduation....moving away from college!
There's a lot talked about and written about when it comes to graduation from college, but not a lot about moving from college permanently. Here's how it seems to go: The same issues are present and arguably more exaggerated as previous years: papers, finals, lots of partying, no sleep and deadlines to be out of your living space. Now add in emotion. Goodbyes are tough and they tend to take time. The colleges have this down to a science, but from a parent's vantage point, it's a whirlwind!
All of the graduation pomp and circumstance, the receptions, the celebratory meals, the nice clothes, the cap and gown...and nine times out of ten, the kids have to be out of their dorm rooms, graduation day!
Our last graduation went like this: all of the above happening; our son was high five-ing his friends, talking to everyone as we slowly walked across campus and suddenly, he looks at his cell phone, checks the time and "S@#t! I have to be out of my dorm by 5!" It was 3:30 and not a box or bag was packed. (Note, some schools accrue an hourly fine to help get those kids moved out in time.) Everyone switched into high gear. Of course, these kids completely under estimate just how much stuff they have accumulated over the years and just how long it takes to get the stuff moved out and packed up. (In our case, the grandparents' giant Town and Country wood paneled station wagon and a Subaru Legacy sedan. Keep in mind that people had to be transported as well, so there wasn't the ability to just jam stuff in from floor to ceiling.) It was nuts. Of course the outside temperature is soaring, everyone is totally pitted out and we all are wearing our "Sunday best."
Some takeaways from this insanity:
(With any luck, you as the parent are NOT involved in this phase. You've told your college grad that you'll meet them somewhere in a couple of hours and let them deal, but no such luck for us, foolishly, we got sucked in.)
Comfortable shoes to change into.
Ideally, a change of clothes (certainly for Dad and the brothers, sexist, you betchya!) Most likely there's a long drive ahead of you, or dinner at a restaurant or a plane to catch, so this change of clothes is simply because of the physical labor involved in moving all of the stuff out of the dorms.
-What's always surprising is the overlap in stories I hear from other parents about their kids' move out.-
As I stated in my last post, being the last one to leave the dorm/apartment is the worst. And when it's graduation, it's even worse. It's not likely they'll be seeing that roommate any time soon to give them whatever they left behind and sending it can get really expensive.
Now some of this stuff may horrify some of you and for those of you that have been through this, chime in please! You may hear a roommate say, "well, I'm all set, I've got everything, gotta go! If you find anything of mine, either keep it, give it away or throw it out. I don't care." Handshake / hug goodbye. Quick and dirty. Heed this as a warning!
Your kid goes back into the room/apartment and there is a ton of stuff they've left behind. Not only does your son or daughter have to take care of all of their stuff, suddenly there's the addition of their roommates', which of course involves more time and trips to the dumpster. You can NOT believe the stuff these kids throw away, perfectly good stuff....couches, mattresses, tables, chairs, electronics, clothing,'s frightening!
Now some good news I've heard, is some of these college grads are more organized and have yard sales and sell this stuff. Or they contact the upcoming seniors that will be moving into the space the following fall asking them if they're interested in anything: first attempting to sell it to them, and then if that doesn't work out, they'll just "give it to them." Now that's not always ideal, if you're the upcoming student moving in, so if you have an upcoming senior and they don't want the bed, bureau, whatever, they really need to spell that out to the grad that they want THEM to move the stuff out, they have NO interest in having the stuff be there in the fall when they move in, because suddenly THEY have to deal with it. Huge pain in the neck.
Another interesting idea: You've graduated and you don't yet have a plan. You pack up your car, you store it in a reliable / safe, secure location (ie., a nearby friend's driveway) and you head home with your family. You spend the next several days/week recuperating, making a plan and then you go back, pick up your car and your stuff and with luck, you move it to your new location/job. Why drive and move everything home if you may be moving elsewhere very soon,especially if it's to another state or on a different coast.
Before I left for their graduations, I made room for some of their stuff, but I must confess, I underestimated the amount accumulated and I also didn't realize how long their stuff stays in your home... Maybe someday they'll move into a home of their own where they'll want their stuff?!? Hahaha...why do I think that could be YEARS away???

Graduation Gifts: Top Ten Ideas

Your Gen Yer is graduating from high school, college or grad school... some good ideas: (In no particular order)
1)  $$ good cold CASH! (Not gift cards)  Kids put it in the bank. Suggest a money market account or a CD. It's amazing how it can add up and then they can cover concerts, weekend excursions, skiing, spring breaks, movies...whatever!
2)  iTunes gift cards: legal music, iBooks, etc.
3)  College bookstore giftcard. A nice thought, it takes a little more time to go to the website and jump through the hoops getting the giftcard: the grad can use it for books, sweatshirts, stuff they actually want or need.
4)  Fleece throws, have them monogrammed for that personal touch, or buy them in the school's color.
5)  Timbuktu bag 
6)  Roller suitcase, flight attendant size so it doesn't have to be checked.
7)  Portable disc drive, so they can back up there computers (novel idea, I know) (fyi: be sure the disc drive you buy is correct: PC or Mac) or for a less expensive option, pen drives so they can easily transport/back up photos, papers.
8)  Digital camera (Canon powershot or Nikon Coolpix, both good options).
10)  Starbuck's gift card (who doesn't enjoy a little indulgence?) 

Graduation Day, No Tears

This past Sunday our youngest graduated from college. When our oldest child graduated ten years ago I confess to some tears as well as with subsequent graduations. Walking across the stage to receive a diploma is a moment of intense emotion, pride, anxiety, hopes and regrets for both parents and graduates. However after ten years and four graduations I think I have gained some perspective and Sunday was pure pleasure.
Watching our kids and our neighbors and family and friends it has become clearer that our kids will be fine. The pathways will be as different as the individuals, the variety is spectacular and thrilling: waiting tables, starting companies, graduate school, teaching school, traveling the world, moving home, changing jobs, losing jobs, creating jobs, getting married, having children, caring for grandparents, the list is infinite. The constant is that they are looking and trying and changing and growing and we all benefit from the process.
The Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Strout spoke at graduation, her message to the graduates was, 'you will be fine', the choices are yours, make them and move ahead. Sunday's New York Times echoed this theme in an article in the magazine, The Why Worry Generation, suggesting that the confidence and optimism of the Generation Y serves them well in these economic times.
Whether it is the times in which they have lived or our parenting Generation Y is moving boldly into our world. I find myself smiling and believing that indeed all will be well.

A summer internship, so far so good!

The internship has started! So far so good. Not only does our son A) have an internship, B) in his area of interest, geology... but he's also getting paid! WooHoo!
It's the summer between junior and senior year and the "pressure" these kids feel to get an internship is very real. They've been hearing from their older peers that getting an internship in an area of interest is a great way to test the waters, to see if this might be something they'd like to do after graduating, but we've all been reading the papers, and internships and jobs are hard to come by. Not impossible though.
He spent most of his junior year working on this. Depending on course load and lacrosse, the time spent, ebbed and flowed, but he kept at it. He started out making a list of people:
he knew
his parents knew
or his friends' parents in an area of interest.
Then he started contacting them: phone calls, emails and eventually some face to face informational interviews. He went to meetings organized on campus within his department where alumni were speaking...anytime someone mentioned that he should contact so and so, I have to hand it to him, he'd contact so and so! He admitted that initially this networking stuff was tough to do, but once he started and he realized people were genuinely interested in speaking with him, he found it easier to pick up the phone or write the email. And it paid off!
His first day was spent getting the lay of the land, doing some filing and shadowing, and by the end of the day, his boss invited him to go into the field. His first "business trip."
His phone call last night was filled with enthusiasm about the job, about the apartment in the city, about the summer and the potential! He and one of his roommates were scoping out work-out spots and trying to figure out where the nearest grocery store was. They both were talking on phones to their Moms, sharing their first days, laughing, sharing with each was a kick to hear about this new adventure. I could tell he was happy!

The Great Post College Room Purge

One week since graduation and our daughter is just finishing what I consider one of the great benefits of graduation. Before leaving for whatever adventures the summer holds, a new job, travel, more school we have asked each newly minted grad to deal with their life's accumulation of momentos, trophies, and STUFF!
Finishing college marks a line between life at home and moving into the world. Even if graduation doesn't mean moving out immediately it is still a time of sorting and setting aside. It is also a time to pause, appreciate and laugh at the pieces of their childhoods still lingering in drawers and the backs of closets:
a first pair of soccer cleats, yes they're going out, no we're not bronzing them
tie dyed t-shirts from a middle school sleep over, also going out
the letters you sent to camp, back before email, yes we're keeping those historic documents
And school notes, trophies, softballs and hockey pucks, stuffed animals and countless other treasures. What goes and what stays is often determined by how many boxes you can store. Very few things will be taken to their new apartments but your home will be viewed as a self storage facility with extremely good rates. So be clear on just how much gets boxed up because you will still have those boxes ten years from now.
 The room has been crammed full with the accumulation of 'growing up' and now that they have achieved the status of 'adult' with a diploma to prove it urge your son or daughter to sort through and move forward.
Then you can have the fun of a room to do with as you want.

Slipping through my fingers...

While watching Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia I was taken aback about how emotional I got when she sang "Slipping through my fingers." Jeez!
I've been reading friends' posts on Facebook all week stating things like: "It's wonderful to have them all home from school" or "He's back...and it's great to have him" or "I love hearing all of the sibs squabbling over the bathroom, now that our eldest is home" or "It's great to have all of the sisters under one roof"...
And as I read them I can totally relate, I've blogged about how great it is to have everyone under one roof together at the same time.  But this summer is proving to be a bit different and I know this is indicative of what is to become our experience as parents, most of the time. When our twenty somethings (Gen Y) come home to visit, it's one at a time. Sometimes there are some cross overs of schedules and there are two sibs or maybe even three at a time, but what's been happening thus far, is one at a time.
It's nice! Different...but nice. It's really a treat getting to know these young people as their own person as they've been growing and experiencing new things, their excitement over what they've been learning (either in the classroom or in their lives), their observations about life, about their relationships and the changes they're experiencing with's great.
But I've got to be honest, it makes me a wee bit melancholy...maybe it's because we've got two weddings this weekend, both of dear friends' kids, our kids' is a-changin'.
They really are...
"slipping through my fingers all the time,
I try to capture every minute, the feeling in it....
sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture and save it from the funny tricks of time.
Do I really see what's in her mind
Each time I think I'm close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time!"
"I'm glad whenever I can share her laughter!"

Traveling with Kids: Really Big Kids

We've always traveled with our kids even when that meant carrying diaper bags. This spring we reached a milestone in our travels. Not only did we take our four kids but also a new spouse and a significant other. This was a learning experience for everyone. Wonderful trip filled with compromise, adjustments, wine and laughter.
We learned a lot on this trip:
*Find a location near an airport so people can arrive and leave independently. We created a time frame, invited our kids and let them fit their times and travel into their jobs and lives. The thought of moving through an airport with all eight of us gives me nightmares.
*Rent a house if possible for at least part of the trip. Having a house with lots of separate bedrooms, and really important, lots of bathrooms is a wonderful stress eliminator. Again it gives freedom of movement, ease of access to a kitchen-early breakfast for some-midnight snacks for others. The addition of a pool was a real bonus.
*Cars. We rented two, again we're all about flexibility. Also we did mixing and matching as to who rode with who depending on mood and departure times.
*Driving. This was one of the trips biggest transitions. We handed over the keys!!!  We let the kids have the fun and stress of driving a standard transmission on European roads, of getting lost, trucks honking and drivers gesticulating. The back seat was remarkably comfortable.
*Money. Talk with everyone BEFORE the trip and be very clear about what you are and are not paying for. Avoiding this discussion in a restaurant, hotel lobby or sandal store is priceless.
*Location. If possible find a place which suits your family, for us it was history and beaches, great food and nightlife, sunshine in an exotic locale. Options keep everyone happy.
*Relax. Flights will get changed, irritations will occur, someone will get sunburned, someone will get a stomach bug but with enough latitude built into the trip the minor problems won't dominate because not everyone needs to be in the same place at the same time dealing with the same problem.  
Now we've done this, had a wonderful trip which included everyone and we hope to do it again. 
However our next trip may be just the two of us. I think my husband wants the car keys back. ~Jean

Fourth of July and Gen Yers

The wonderful long weekend is just about here and it's interesting to note how our Gen Yers are approaching it. Of course the invitations have been extended that whatever we (the parents) are doing, our kids are welcome to join us. But did they really need or expect an invitation? Nah, it's their assumption that they're included and of course they are! But as they weigh their various options and other invitations, thinking about what seems to be their "best offer"... Mom and Dad get dumped. Ok, maybe not totally dumped (I know they'll read this) but they prefer to hang with their cronies. Who doesn't?
What's interesting is that they still are thinking about holiday rituals and creating their own, or replicating some of what we've done as a family over the years. For example: "Mom, what's the recipe for that flag cake, with the blueberries, raspberries, or sometimes strawberries?" or "Mom, will you pick up sparklers for me?" (They're legal here). Then off they go to the lake or someone's house with a pool. But not all Gen Yers. They seem to reach an age in their later 20somethings when they decide that hanging with the parents isn't so bad and as a matter of fact is fun. Or is it that it's free? hmmmmmm........
Then there are those 20somethings that get invited to their girlfriend's (or boyfriend's) family home for the weekend. I've got a friend that says that any significant other that is invited to Cohasset for the Fourth of July's serious... and that sig other is being "checked out and evaluated by all family members."   :)
It was Sunday night dinner for me.
We've got a "tradition" of getting together with several families, some that we see all year long, others that we see only during the summer, and others we see only on the fourth...and we BBQ, long walks, go for swims, for boat rides, play volley ball, and watch the fireworks over the water. Ain't we lucky!   :)
For years it would include all of our kids, and as they hit college age it would be one or two of them, joined by friends or significant others and for the last couple of years, now that two are college age and two are in the "real world" it's none, or could it be that we have three sons? Interesting. I suspect it'll change and you know what? It's OK. I love the debrief after the weekend to hear what they did and how they spent their Fourth.
I guess what I love most is the creating of ritual, the interest in continuing the traditions, but also adding new ones, the ebb and flow of new people to the BBQ, sig others or friends, catching up with the kids of our friends that have been off to college, grad school, new jobs, new marriages, hearing their stories, their tales of the last year....the fourth!  Have a good one!

HPV vaccine for Males too!

Have you noticed the handful of ads that Gardasil has had, advocating that our boys/young men (ages 9-26) get vaccinated for HPV (human papillomavirus)? Well, I have. Dr. Nancy Snyderman from the Today Showspoke about the importance for our tween girls / our Gen Y girls (9-26 year old girls) having the HPV vaccineand she also spoke about how our boys should be vaccinated as well. The FDA approved the HPV vaccine for boys/young men in October of 2009.
Why do I bring this up? Because this is important! Dartmouth College did a study about the correlation of how Mom's influence played a direct role in whether or not young women/girls had the HPV vaccine. Well ladies, you need to influence your boys/young men too!
Since my children are millennials, Gen Y, 20-somethings, young adults, this post is targeted to parents of this age group. BUT if you're reading this and you have younger kids 9-12, read on! The ideal is vaccination young, before any sexual activity....I know, that's a whole other conversation and I'm not going there. 
My son came home from college briefly at the beginning of the summer and he ran around going to his various appointments: dentist, doctor, hair.... I spoke to him prior to his doctor's appointment and asked that he bring up with his Internist the HPV vaccine. We had a great conversation, very open, discussed our family's values (which we've done all along the way) and he agreed that he'd ask and pursue the vaccine. He made some very thoughtful comments about getting the vaccine and how important he thought it was and preventative it could be. To him (age 20) it seemed the right thing to do. Well, he called from the doctor's office and said that his internist was happy to provide it, but honestly this was his first male patient to request it?!? Yikes! And he'd better check to be sure insurance would cover it. Double yikes! I told him I'd check, but frankly with or without insurance, we'd cover it, he said "Mom, I will." he said when he got home, that the nurses gave him a standing ovation for doing this! Imagine!
Well, that was a month ago and guess what, insurance isn't covering it....yet. I'm working on it! In the meantime, one vaccine down, two to go. This is a series of three shots. The timing is important so as you discuss this with your boys (or girls) know that they need to be around their doctor at various intervals. (According to the Gardasil website, the vaccine does not have to be administered all three times from the same doctor, just let them know what round you're on.)
There has been controversy in the news about the vaccine: youth and sex, sexual activity, side effects, all of which are things to think about, but in our household, it's clear, this is the right thing to do for all of our kids and mine are 20-26, male and female. And this vaccine was FDA approved when my eldest was older. (This vaccine was FDA approved for girls in June 2006, boys, October 2009....interesting, eh?).
Come on Moms, talk to your Gen Yers, influence your boys (/girls), this is an anti-cancer vaccine, get the information and do what's best for your family!

Saying Thank You

Summertime and our kids are coming and going, often with friends along to enjoy our summer home, beaches, boats and sunshine. We love having everyone here, especially the long conversations around the table, some serious, others very silly. We talk about the world, the World Cup, politics, jobs, who knows how to row a boat and who doesn't, college, graduate school, and who is going to clean the kitchen. 
All of these GenYers are full of life, ideas and energy. Sometimes a quieter conversation with one or two people will focus on job aspirations, suggestions of people to connect with and requests to please put them in touch with so and so. When we do make a contact and send an introduction on someone's behalf we, like other Baby Boomers have expectations. Like wise when we welcome people into our home for a dinner or a weekend there are expectations. Following through on introductions and sending thank you's for hospitality are expected. 
In fairness to the GenYers there may sometimes be confusion or awkwardness about how to thank someone who is older and perhaps your friend's parent. Saying thank you will never be the wrong choice, saying nothing is far riskier. 
Consider sending this along to your son or daughter, it is a simple sentiment from a recent ad for Tiffany & Co.
"A Good Guest
Arrives slightly late. And leaves on time.
A good guest brings energy and charm and a small present.
All good guests write thank you notes."
Remind them of the thank you notes you had them write to their grandparents for their birthday gifts. Whether with email or paper those rules still apply. Someone does something nice for you, let them know you appreciate it.

We're invited! A "pot luck" vacation!

The second year in a row!
There's a timeframe when we parents are either asked or we suggest that our kids invite a friend along when we go somewhere. Quite frankly, it can make life easier if your child has a friend with them, right? Then there's a time when your kid, mostly the college age crowd, wants to take vacation with their friends and NO parents, think Spring Break or the backpacking sojourn through Europe after graduation.... Well, when our Gen Yer takes her valuable vacation time and actually invites us to join her and her friends?!.....bonus! 
And this isn't with expectations of providing anything other than company. OK, maybe pitch-in-help in the kitchen, but after last year's experience, not much. It's great to be included!
These kids actually love the togetherness of preparing meals as a group, cleaning up as a group, playing games as a group....corn holebeirut (beer pong), croquet, bocce ball...just spending time together. Love the "everybody pitch in and help mode." It's a great way to vacation. Everyone has fun! 
These Gen Yers also bring food, beverages, sports equipment..they've got this nailed. There are emails with lists generated as to who's bringing what, carpooling, time of departure and it's wayyyy in's very organized, very impressive. It's a "pot luck" vacation!
Where did they learn this stuff?   :)
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so maybe next "family" vacation, I'll take a page from my 20something's book!

They're baaaack...not exactly...

The kids may not actually be in the nest, but their stuff is!
Did any of you actually say to your kids: "when you move out and into the 'real world,' any of the furniture, books, rugs, pots and pans you take with you, can't come back." If you did, wow, I'm impressed. How did it go? Is it still gone?
Not at my house. I guess I didn't say that or I didn't express my expectations.
I've told our kids as they get closer to that point, college graduation and then the real world, that they can take their bedroom stuff: the bed, bureau, bookshelf, desk, chair, etc. And if there are some other items that we have, that we've acquired along the way, ie., chairs or a coffee table.  One of our kids took the bed and nothing else, the other took their entire room of contents...two years later: the "entire-room-of-contents kid" brought it all back! OK, he moved across country, but really? Clearly, we're much cheaper than a storage unit. But what are we supposed to do with it? Good thing we've got other kids.
Sure, they have to weigh the cost of shipping or renting a U-Haul and moving and see what makes the most sense. Maybe they can buy the bed from the previous tenant? 
I must confess that I've been guilty of holding onto things for years, thinking in the back of my mind that one of our kids may "need" this or want this. I guess the problem is that I haven't done a good job of communicating that. I remember what my first apartment was furnished with, a very eclectic early garage sale, scattered with lots of orange crates. My roommate and I loved it! I can't help but wonder when our Gen Yer goes to buy some of these items, they may say to themselves, "man, beds are expensive, I wish I would have taken my bed from home." Maybe part of the fun of setting up "house" for the first time is Craig's List (the now version of garage sale)? But I do NOT recommend buying beds on Craig's List. Have you read all of the articles on bed bugs? Yikes!
I've got a girlfriend that sent out an email to her four grown kids (Gen Y): "Now hear this, Dad and I are down sizing. The moving van is coming tomorrow and taking two loads: one load to our new smaller town house and the other to a storage unit in town. You have one year from tomorrow to come and take any of the items in the storage unit. (No in-and-out penalties, total access to the unit). Memories galore will be there! Your past trophies, high school banners, yearbooks, CD's, posters, furniture, your twin beds....If, after one year you have not claimed it, the blue dumpster from BFI arrives and the truck from Good Will and off it goes!"
Guess what? Worked brilliantly!
Less is more, right? Now entering into this next phase of MY life, that empty nest phase, I just may be interested in a little more minimalist thinking! For the time being and due to family planning, there's no posting on Craig's List for us....not yet. One of our kids may decide the price is right and they'll seize the opportunity to take some of this stuff to furnish their new place?!  Who knows?

Freshman Send Off

Tonight we hosted the Freshman Send Off Party for my alma mater,Stanford. What a kick!
I just love meeting these kids that are about to embark on their college years. They are so enthusiastic; excited about what's coming; yet apprehensive.
It takes me back. I remember being put on the airplane at JFK, my parents waving goodbye and I was scared to death. I wasn't going to see them until Christmas, 3000 miles away! No one brought me to college, helped me unpack, took me shopping for plastic bins to store sweatshirts under the bed...truth be known, I called home week 2, begging my Mom to let me come home and go to school nearby. I was soooo homesick. My mother's comment, "we've made a commitment and in this family we stick to them, so buck up. If you feel the same way come June we'll talk about it, but until then, make the most of it. Love you. Good bye."  Ouch. I don't think I called home nor wrote a letter for two weeks, maybe three, I was so mad and I couldn't believe the answer was "no." Well, best thing that ever happened. Now I am totally Ray-Rah (have been for years)!
Fast forward...our youngest is headed into his junior year, then a son soon to be a senior and two kids all graduated. What was great about tonight was the sharing of ideas and answering questions by kids already at Stanford, alumni and by family members that had been to college (it didn't matter which college)...the soon to be freshman were eagerly listening, asking more and more questions as the evening wore on and they grew more comfortable. This was a "safe place." A small intimate group, no judgements and happy to provide answers or suggestions that might be helpful.
Some of the questions and answers:
How do I get all of my stuff across country?
  1. Pack everything into two giant duffle bags. Not the ones with rollers, those are tough to store, take up too much room and make the load too heavy and you'll be charged.
  2. Less is more. So if you're from the east coast and you're headed to California for college, no snow gear! More shorts.
  3. Leave the good bike at home and buy a clunker or an inexpensive bike when you get there. Order on online from Target or Walmart and pick it up when you get there. Much cheaper than shipping. My son's had TWO bikes stolen! Was he bummed! Now he's on foot.
  4. Carry your electronics on your back (backpack). Just in case.
  5. If you have to ship, it's worth shopping around: this site may help:
                       Do I leave the polos behind?
1. Bring one or two, "but those are for dinners out when the parents come to visit or church." People wear T shirts.
Parent: Is it a problem that I'm not going out with my kid right away? Should I go later this fall or wait until spring?
  1. Not a problem if you don't go, (but know that an awful lot of us parents of Gen Y DO go) but that's a good thing because your GenYer can ask the roommate's Mom if they can go along for the Target run.
  2. Think about going for Parents' Weekend. Stanford's is in February, but most schools have theirs in October.
For the most part, the kids shared their dorm assignments, talked about the class Facebook page and how they check it multiple times a day, the readings that have been assigned and how much they've actually gotten read or plan to read. Why they chose Stanford over X,Y, or Z...
It was a really nice evening! 
If you haven't read this NYTimes' article, (Students, Welcome to College, Parents Go Home) it's worth a read by parents of freshmen.
sidebar:  A girlfriend of mine said: "The one thing that irritates me about colleges actually having a plan on how to get us parents to leave, is that there is a room full of people our age, with kids our age, talking about us for a year, planning on how to get rid of us!"    :)      I smiled.

Semester Abroad

He's off! Our youngest just headed off to Europe! 
I know I've said this before, "we want to come back as one of our kids."   :)
Each of our kids have enjoyed "experiential learning" abroad in several different ways, programs and places. They've come back truly enriched. This may sound cliche, but I mean it.
What sorts of programs? Each of them incredibly different from one another, just as our kids are:
The Island School: a wonderful high school semester program, that truly takes them out of the traditional high school setting and curriculum and immerses them in a culture and experience that they've never had before. This has influenced their education decisions, their college selection, their choice of major and their decisions about careers. 
Semester at Sea: a study abroad program around the world! My siblings went on this many moons ago and I always had SAS envy, so when the opportunity presented itself to our eldest, she seized it. I don't think a week goes by that she doesn't refer to some aspect of the program, and she was Spring '05 to boot. (You Tube it). She's incredibly grateful that she's traveled to all of the places in the world that she's been to and had the experiences she's had. I think travel and adventure are now embedded in her.
London School of Economics and Political Science Summer Schools: This son couldn't figure out a way to leave college during the year so he "T'd" up summer school, and this turned out to be a very valuable experience. It enhanced his college experience in a fundamental way, forcing him to take a serious look at the world of business with a financial eye. Now that he's been out of school for awhile, I think he'd say it broadened his horizon for the working world.
Brown in Italy: A full immersion program that requires a 300 level of Italian or better, B average and the opportunity to live and take final exams with Italian peers. It's great!
As for logistics and packing pointers:
Luggage, the Osprey Sojourn has been the "go to" bag for three out of four kids! The goal is to pack lightly. Not any easy feat when you're going from summer to winter or vice versa.  More and more airlines are charging for luggage and because your student has to carry all of their belongings on the other end, less is more. A Sojourn-type bag, a back pack (their "book/laptop" type they've been carrying for years in school). (Note: Be sure their laptop is in a protective sleeve)  and a small "overnighter," slung over the shoulder. This last one is important for those weekend excursions they'll be going on.
Pack by rolling items/use the packing organizers, Eagle Creek makes some good ones.
Be sure to pack the hostel "sleeping bags/liner", these are really sacks made of sheets, either cotton or silk. A good idea in general, this bed bug thing is a problem. Converters for charging their laptop, phone, hairdryer, etc. A travel clock (these 20somethings are used to their cell phone being their alarm).
As for phones, this is well worth research and a conversation. Don't assume that they can take their current cell phone, unless you're willing to float a loan! In most European airports you can buy a prepaid phone that can be used or you can get a sim card that will work in your existing phone. One of my kids has had good luck with PicCell Wireless.. He set it all up well before he left.
Drill home, keeping their passport on them, separating their money, using that money belt, making a copy of their passport and keeping it separately, all of those things that you were told, still applies.
Strongly suggest that they take care of as much as possible here in the U.S. ie., international student card (this has cost savings advantages for them as they travel). An international driver's license if that's a comfort level, purchasing the Eurail pass, AAA makes this easy.
Each of these semester programs have pretty good websites that have packing lists and suggestions. Some programs are more "hands on" than others regarding visas that they'll need. Visas require time, so be sure that's one of the first things they figure out, once they've been accepted into the program. 
Money: The various programs have suggested amounts and thoughts about spending money. Have conversations about this. A credit card or Debit/Visa card is a must. ATMs are plentiful but so are fees, talk about that, research the bank to find out, but know that your Gen Yer can have access to cash (in the local currency) if they have a debit card.
Shots: Be sure this is looked into with plenty of time. Your kid may or may not require them for their travel.
Toiletries: Yes, there are stores abroad, but there are also some "favorites" so pack them.
semester abroad: Such a terrific opportunity for our kids in this global community we live in! Have fun! (cuz they sure will.)
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