Sunday, June 29, 2008

The new breed of Helicopter Moms

I just finished reading an absolutely horrifying article in the July issue of Oprah. It's called "Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ... Supermom!" Sadly, it is not online so I can't give you the link. But trust me, it's thought-provoking.

The story talks about how Helicopter Moms, ones who hover, who are always on alert, are more common than one would think and waaaaay past the sandbox stage where it's borderline acceptable to do so.

It gives examples of moms who are still excrutiatingly involved in their children's lives after the kids leave the nest. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Lynn Yale, 55, a special ed teacher in Santa Clarita, California, drives 1.5 hours to do her sons' laundry at college. She says that doing this is a small way she can help her sons, who each take 15-18 credits a semester.

  • Robyn Lewis, 56, a college recruiter in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, mother of two sons aged 24 and 22, has access to their college email accounts so she knows what grades they're getting and if a teacher has emailed them because they missed a class. She emails them a to do list each day and once a month, drives 2.5 hours each way to clean the eldest's dorm room, do his laundry and buy his groceries. She justifies this by saying, "I get a sense of control ... You can't change politics. You can't change the environment. But you can create something really terrific with your own children." She also emails the 24-year-old's girlfriend when she hasn't heard from her son in a few days.

A recruiter at a Fortune 500 company reports that over the last four years parents call wanting to discuss their children's offer letters and benefits, and ask questions about work-life balance. One mom called to let them know that it was little Ginny's birthday and asked if the firm could have a cake delivered to her and sing Happy Birthday. The recruiter's answer? "This is Wall Street. We don't do that around here."

Patricia Somers, PhD, an associate professor of higher education at The University of Texas at Austin, specializes in researching helicopter parents. In a study she conducted at 60 public universities, she found that 40 to 60% of parents engage in this kind of activity, including helping with academic assignments and as many as 10% actually write their children's papers for them.

Thirty percent of parents talk or email with their university-age children every day, according to a survey of 4,800 parents across the US conducted by College Parents of America, an advocacy group.

To help alleviate parental separation anxiety, some colleges have installed Mommy Cams. The University of Rochester has three of these and Cornell University's webcam page gets 60,000 hits a month. UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara created special web pages devoted to help mothers and fathers with campus issues.

But it's not just colleges who are responding to this. Ernst & Young, which hires about 5,500 college graduates each year, gives prospective hires a flash drive with information about the company, its employee benefits, and possible bonuses to give to their parents.

Here's my favorite story. A Florida State University assistant dean of students received a call from the parent of a prospective student asking about how laundry is done on campus, since it had not been covered on the campus tour. The assistant dean responded that there were washers and dryers in the dorms. The mother persisted, "But how is it done? Who picks it up and delivers it? Or do the students have to drop it off somewhere? What is the service?"

The dean explained, "There is no service. The students do their own laundry." The woman was appalled. She said that her son didn't know how to do his own laundry. The dean told the woman it was a good thing that she called when she did because school didn't start for more than a month and she had time to teach him.

Let me go on record here. I love our kids. They are the center of my universe, right now, while they're minors living in our home. They will to go to college unless they have some G/d given talent along the lines of Tiger Woods'. But do their laundry once they've flown the nest? Check their email? Restock their fridges other than on parents' weekends? I don't think so.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ode to Alex

Once upon a time I was young and hip and lived in the city. I went out with my friends every night and worked at a cool magazine publishing job making barely enough to pay the bills. Life was good. During this time I discovered the Yosh Salon on Maiden Lane. And for five or so years I got great haircuts there. Every one was better than the next no matter which stylist I went to. I looked goooood! Eventually I stopped working and living in the city and got my tresses tamed elsewhere.

Some time after that Yosh retired and sold to Gina Khan, who took over his fabulous salon and managed to keep it that way.

Fast forward to March 2005. I'm now a suburban mother of three and in the city for a client meeting. My hair's looking a little less than chic these days and my meeting breaks early. So I head to the Gina Khan Salon and ask if anyone has a cancellation. Sure enough, a stylist has a no show and Alex gives me an amazing cut. I'm screwed. I now live 40 miles from the city and this cut is such a work of art that I'll be stuck going back into the city to get cuts again.

Six weeks later I call for an appointment. Alex has taken a leave of absence. I'm sad. I have my hair cut elsewhere. Three months later I call again. Still out. Three more months go by and I phone again. No Alex. I give up.

It's now 2008. Gina Khan opens a second salon 15 minutes from my house. I phone for an appointment and surprisingly, I've remained in their computer system. The reservationist says the words that make my day, possibly my month: You had Alex last time. Did you want him again?

Yes, I'm back with Alex. If you go, tell him that I referred you.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sonoma Sunday

We spent today in Sonoma with our eldest daughter's g/dfather, Tom, and "Aunt" Esty. They live in the city and spend many weekends at their wine country home. It's paradise to the Three Pinks -- acres of gardens, olive trees, fruit orchards and a large pool. It's paradise to us, too, actually. An easy hour from our house but a world apart. A jack rabbit greeted us as we turned into the driveway and when he reappeared later, Thing 2 chased him around the apple trees. We had lunch on the patio then the kids hopped into the pool.

I asked Tom about the work he and Esty had done to the house since they bought it and if he knew anything about its previous owners. Much to my surprise, he said that they bought it from an actress, Mare Winningham, who raised her four children there. A few years back Mare's now-adult kids stopped by and gave him even more scoop on the house. Kinda fun! Mare is best known for her role in St. Elmo's Fire and in recent years, played Meredith Grey's stepmother in one of my favorite shows, Grey's Anatomy.

They don't have children and we like to think ours are theirs. I'm hopeful one of the pinks will actually get married on their property. (Esty offered this up already. I'm not being obscenely presumptuous.) Wine country weddings -- a family tradition! If not, I will beg them to see if Dave and I can throw ourselves a 25th anniversary party there. Fifteen years down, ten to go.

Their olive trees produced enough olives this season to turn into oil and we were happy to take a bottle of liquid gold home with us. In exchange, I showed them how to create custom labels for their bottles using My Own Labels. Clearly we got the better end of the deal. Olive oil is a staple of our diet.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Solstice

The summer solstice holds special meaning for me. This all started during the Alaska years. (Backstory: my family lived in Anchorage from when I was 15-20.) The year before Dave and I married I even took him to Alaska with me, so he could experience the magic of the longest day of the year. We had dinner that night at Anchorage's famed Simon and Seafort's restaurant. Dave fondly recalls the King Crab legs he ordered, which extended six inches off both sides of the platter they were served on, and John Elway, dining at the next table.

Last year we spent June 21 in Paris in an apartment overlooking the Seine. When we came in from dinner around midnight, the streets were filled with celebratory festivities. I woke up about 4am and discovered the party still going on just as strong. The next morning we learned that in major cities throughout Europe, the summer solstice calls for a serious fete.

Tonight was a little less cosmopolitan although quite fun in its own right -- we had our neighbors and their adorable children for dinner, and enjoyed some "it's the Mojitos" moments. Sadly, when cleaning up the kitchen tonight, I discovered the uneaten strawberry pie that they'd brought for dessert. We forgot all about it! We may eat it for breakfast ...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Nice to meat you

Had a low-key Father's Day. Watched bits and pieces of the US Open. Napped. (See previous post.) Feted Dave. Don't think we feted him enough, though, considering how fabulous a father he is. Do over in the works.

The big event was dinner at my folks' house, about 30 minutes from ours, with my brother and his family. My contribution was three different tri tip steaks, which foodie me insisted on a tasting of.

1. Ikeda's. Ikeda's Country Market in Auburn is an institution. Bay Area families do povisioning there en route to the mountains and it's known for its hamburgers, pies and farm-fresh produce.

2. Draeger's Frank's. Draeger's is a high-end Bay Area grocery store chain and the first one opened in our 'burb this year.

3. Draeger's Garlic.

So the six adults and four kids who can talk all voted and of course, the tri tip most difficult to procure, Ikeda's, won in terms of taste. Frank's was a more tender cut of meat (but not as good as Fred's at Schaub's, at the Stanford Shopping Center) and the garlic one was not so good. We fed the leftovers of that to my folks' Golden Retriever.

Speaking of having dinner at my parents' house, my mom is a really good cook. I had no idea how good she was in the kitchen until I went away to college and started going home for weekends with my roommates. This picture is of my mom and my sister-in-law, Kristin, taken at my house last Thanksgiving. I have no shame now; when we have dinner at my parents' I bring my own Gladware and pack up the leftovers when I think my dad is not looking.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mountain high

Sadly, we're back from Tahoe.

Mission successful on the shopping. I'm the proud owner of a new pair of demo skis and purple Lange boots. Color-coordinated on the slopes I will not be -- my helmet is pink, the skis are brown and my jacket is green -- but it won't much matter because I'll be such a blur passing you on the hill! In reality, I just hope to keep up with Thing 2 this season. The kid has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with on the mountain.

We did the usual Tahoe stuff -- walked around the Village at Squaw to see what had opened and what had closed. The much-anticipated Mexican restaurant seems no closer to serving margaritas than it did in November, when its sign went up. We ate. We swam. We went to Starbucks and I bought the kids frou-frou drinks with nineteen syllables that I'd never cave to at home. We ran into random people from our Bay Area suburb. At left is a picture from the Village looking back up at the mountain. The picture below is Thing 2, playing on one of the original chair lift cable wheels at Squaw. It was in use from 1949 - 1977.

It was just me and the kids for this quick trip -- Dave played in a golf tourney in Sonoma. He had a blast with his cousin Tom, our eldest daughter's g/dfather, and I'm glad. After all, this was a man who gave up spectator tickets to the US Open to do so.

Our trip was cut a bit short when, Sunday morning at 1a, Thing 2 awoke to croup. This is a big deal because Thing 2 is the healthiest child on the planet. She's run a fever all of three times in her six years.

After an hour she was breathing normally again but I was never going to fall back to sleep after such an adrenaline-filled incident. So I packed up entourage and at 2:15a we were on the road back to the 'burbs. For those of you who know me, this was no small feat. I am not a night person. But the thought of driving home in the morning, sleep deprived, was worse that just pushing through and fleeing the mountains. At 5a we were all back in our beds, sleeping like babies.

And so Father's Day begins ...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

School's out!

Today was my children's last day day of school. I am both sad and elated.

My kindergarteners are now first graders and my fourth grader is now a fifth grader. Having a child in the last year of elementary school I can handle; not having children that in any way resemble little kids is a tough pill to swallow.

Slowly I've been getting used to the idea. For example, my kindergarteners both began reading mid-year. Thing 2 lost six teeth, an entire year before her older sister did. The poor thing adores corn on the cob and has no way to actually eat it on the cob in the short-term. (I knew we should have vacationed in France this year. The French do not eat corn; they believe it's what animals are fed.) I felt a sense of camaraderie when Thing 2's teacher barely got through the day, so unsettled was she by releasing another flock of children to the next grade. And this was a woman who has been teaching 20 years! That made me feel better.

There is a huge upside to this school's-out-for-the-summer thing. I have a two-month break from enforcing strict bedtimes and pulling sleepy children out of bed in the morning, coercing them into eating breakfast and and pouring them into the car. Without school there's no scramble to do homework after school, after-school activities, the bath ritual and our daily dose of Wii Fit. This I will enjoy.

Tomorrow we're heading to Tahoe. I need the smell of pine trees. I also need a new pair of skis and boots and everyone says the best place to get fitted for them is Granite Chief in Truckee. Let's hope they have some inventory left as it's June after all ...

So, welcome to my blog. Silly that I'm late jumping on this bandwagon as I make my living as a writer!!!