Teachable Moments

It’s not lost on me that I just don’t update as much as I did when the girls were younger.  I could say time and commitments are the reason – and probably build a good case. But the reality is when my first post about bra shopping (more than seven years ago) this blog was about my day-to-day as  an only parent of two girls. While that hasn’t changed, my scope has.  We’ve changed from dad and two girls to a dad and two teens.  I do less parenting and spend more time looking for teachable moments.

To be clear, I’m still a parent.  I still get to say, “no.”  But I’m far more effective when I’m able to use a moment to convey a lesson.  It was just last week I realized I’ve come to embrace those teachable moments.

This all crystalized when 17.0 (I can’t believe that either) went to take her road test last week.  I just got a new car, and I had the temporary registration taped to the inside of the windshield.  Honestly, I had never looked at it.  I was just waiting for the regular registration to show up in the mail as it would in the course of business.

However, the road test day showed up before the regular registration – and it turns out the temp was not printed well and arguable the expiration date for the registration on my car was illegible.  Arguable because I was able to read it and the woman at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles office was able to read it – but the tester claimed he could not.

I could see the disappointment in 17.0’s face when the tester said he could not get in the car and take her for her road test due to the registration.  We headed for the nearest DMV office, waited on a relatively short line and got the sticker.  On the way back to the testing area, 17.0 asked me why I didn’t argue with the tester more.

THE TEACHABLE MOMENT

It’s time for 17.0 to understand that there are times it futile to argue with people who aren’t her father – there was no way I was changing the tester’s mind, so I went for solving the problem.

Both girls are traveling with international destinations this summer.  A couple of years ago when the girls were in camp there was a trip to Canada and it turns out their American Express debit cards did not work internationally.

And she passed her road test, wave if you see her drive by you.

This year, both girls are out in the world with credit cards.

THE TEACHABLE MOMENT

Now I’m trying to explain the importance of credit ratings to both girls, and get them to understand they’ll get a bill eventually.

We’ll see how that goes I suppose.

So instead of semi-pithy realities of being an only parent – I’ll try to document those teachable moments now – and a bit about how those lessons are received.

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Lost Luggage

lost-luggageThere are times life prepares you for a moment – sometimes you just have to wait 22 years for that moment.  For me, dealing with lost luggage was exactly that moment and I think I got the preparation for it 22 years ago.

Business took me to Amsterdam last week for the International Broadcast Conference (IBC).  Because of the way work goes, I had to change my plans a few days before I left – so my direct flight from NYC to Amsterdam became a connection through Washington, DC and a change in airlines from Delta to KLM.

The good news is I made it to JFK in plenty of time, an easy walk through Dulles followed and a pretty smooth overnight flight to Amsterdam got me on the ground at about 730AM – not well rested but ready for the day.  The plan was to grab my bag from the carousel, head to the hotel, hopefully shower, change and head to the RAI Center where IBC happens.

Problem is my bag did not have the simple transfer I had.  As best I could tell it never got out of Dulles.

Twenty-two or so years ago, when Risa and I took our first ever trip together – a cruise that left from Florida around Mexico and back our bags were lost too.  That is the last time until last week my bags got lost.  Not a bad track record.  Of course in that time I’ve become good at packing the carry on and limiting my chances for loss by flying direct.

For anyone who’s had to face this you know the drill.  Fill out some paperwork with the airline and hope for the best.

In this case though, I am on business travel.  All I have for clothing is a pair of Levi’s I’m wearing and a golf shirt I packed to pull on once the plane landed in Amsterdam.  I got lucky in that my hotel was built as part of a shopping mall – so before I headed to the RAI Center I headed to the mall and did some shopping.

This is where the flashback occurred.  Suddenly it was circa 1995 and Risa and I were busy looking for underwear in stores on Key West.  Back then I remember regretting the things I didn’t buy the first day – deodorant, a second t-shirt, a second pair of socks.  That training 22 years ago prepared me for the day.

It turns out my big issue with this battle of lost luggage was finding a pair of pants in downtown Amsterdam that would fit on my American hockey sized legs – since they were cut for Dutch men who ski.

I failed on the pants, got the extra things I needed – and was able to learn from that lost luggage lesson 22 years ago.  Call it a win and move on to the next.

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Balancing Time, Expectations and Reality

balancing expectationsIt’s about the mid-point in the part of the summer where he girls are away at camp – and my list of things I want to get done really has not done any shrinking.  It’s probably what I face each summer trying to balance time, expectations and reality to accomplish all my summer goals.

For some reason though this year it seems to be going a little slower.  I’ve had a bit more travel at the start of the summer, and I’ve had more work deadlines that usual – but still the list is not getting any shorter.

I think I realized my conundrum today when it took me more than 10 hours to go from making sauce to putting a lasagna in the oven.  Granted, not everyone starts a lasagna by making sauce first – but I do.  So, if you start there (it’s about a three-hour process), that 10 and a half hours is a little exorbitant.

Granted, in between I did two product demos, four calls and helped trouble shoot a compatibility issue.  But still, it’s the perfect metaphor for simply being way behind where I should be in the summer.

I go through both girls’ rooms in the summer – get rid of a lot of crap and give them at least for a day when they get home from camp a clean start.  It doesn’t stay that way long, but I can say I did what I could.  On top of that, I have a few home projects I am trying to get done – which are barely at the scratch the surface level.

There are three weeks to go – so free time will be the medium I use to get things done as I try balancing time, expectations and reality – or simply get some shit done.

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The Dog Days of Summer

dog days of summerSince so much of my formative education comes from knowledge I learned playing and watching baseball – my understanding of the “dog days of summer” comes from baseball as well.  In ball terms, it’s the 40 day stretch from July 3 to August 11 that represent the hottest and most humid part of the baseball season.  These dates pretty much coincide with the time my girls are away at camp, so once again baseball logic prevails and thus we are in the dog days of (my) summer as well.

Unlike the Mets (and all the other teams that I really don’t care all that much about), my dog days of summer bring with it a nice respite from the other 45 weeks of the year.  That change of pace has become important to all of us in the house – and despite the forecast highs in the 90’s and the air quality warnings, it is a breath of fresh air.

During these days I am not on the go trying to coordinate three schedules, keep my career afloat, manage the house and this year plan a bat mitzvah.  The summer brings with it a chance for me (and the girls) to take a break from that pace – and do our own things.

For the girls it’s camp – where they are now for a fifth summer.

For me, I get a chance to do some travel – both work and sometimes even pleasure.  I can slow down and enjoy sitting on the beach at sunset without having to worry where anyone is, or sleeping past six in the morning without worrying someone won’t make it to school on time.

Granted, there are always those things that come up – this year its an unexpected (and slightly extended) visit from my brother which has slowed down the house stuff.  But it will get done.

Dog days of summer were probably conceptualized by the ancient Romans.  While their thought the the bright star Sirius (The Big Dog) rises and sets with the sun and helps generate extra heat.  But they did have it right during this time the stars (Sirius and the sun) are aligned – giving rise to the dog days.

In recent year’s I’ve had to contend with knee rehab, a travel schedule that had me on the road weekly, and last summer’s silence.

It’s still not set in stone what this summer will hold for me, or just how much I will have to say about it – because as ball players do in the dog days of summer, I too shall conserve some energy and be ready for the stretch run of 2015.

Just as I hope the dog days of summer for the Mets bring on important games in September – once our dog days end, we have a sprint to the end of the year.  It’s back to school in September, a bat mitzvah in October and the launch of the holiday season in November and December.  All of that before flipping the calendar to 2016 – but none of it before we celebrate the dog days of summer.

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My Plan to Stop Planning

stop making plansAnyone that knows me, knows that planning is not my strong suit.  I tend to be a little last-minute and not anxious to commit way ahead of time.  So you would think those rare times I take the time to plan things should be smooth.  After this week, its my plan to stop planning – it just doesn’t work for me.

The plan for the week was a relatively quick business trip to Indianapolis and then home to get the girls and head to Vermont for the weekend to ski.  On paper it would have all worked out.  We missed out on skiing over Christmas break because it was so warm and the friends I knew who went skiing all came home early.

I found a place in Killington that was fairly cheap, booked discount lift tickets – and the plan was set.  Ferry after school, trip up to VT, get a good night’s sleep and hit the slopes for two full days.

Then 12.0 started feeling a cold coming on.  Nothing serious, but enough to make me think.  The same night of the onset of symptoms, 14.5 told me she was feeling really tired.  She is not one to complain about something like that, and she’s been doing track and some other after school stuff – so I could understand that.  With one chasing a cold and the other feeling wiped out maybe a quiet three-day weekend at home would be a better option than a long trip and two days of skiing.  So with input from the girls, I decided to cancel.

Not nearly as simple as it should be though.  The room is guaranteed, so I have to hope they re-sell it before I can get my money back on that.  The lift tickets they refunded, but I lost out on the booking and handling fees I paid.  So, assuming I get a refund on the room, not skiing this weekend ended up costing me more than $150.

The last time I tried to make plans for a school vacation was two years ago for winter break in February.  That was also the school year Hurricane Sandy swept through the Northeast.  The girls lost a week of school for that, and then more time in the early part of that winter to blizzards.

The school district announced it was taking away the winter break to make up for lost time.  That was also the year I booked travel plans to Florida.  So I promptly canceled the plans and broke it to the girls they would be going to school.  About two weeks later, the school district announced they would make up time a different way and winter break was on.

By that time I had already canceled the trip – and not going to Florida cost me nearly $500.

What all of this tells me is planning is not my strong suit.  So, lets see how it goes as I plan not to stop making plans.  It certainly wouldn’t cost me as much.

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Regrouping – Again

reset-buttonWith my brother mostly settled into our basement and a new sitter on the books – it looked like things would start to fall into a routine. That is until the new sitter quit with less than 24-hours notice.  Now things are back to a little challenging.

The upside is as any single parent will tell you, juggling is an art form.

Generally, I do not want my brother in a sitter’s role for my kids.  There are a lot of reasons, the biggest being I want his focus to be 100% on moving out of my basement.

I have friends who would happily pitch in, and I may take them up on it.  And my mom is very willing to help out as well – and next week while I am on the road, I am taking her up on that.

But still, I find myself regrouping again.

I’ll post an ad for a sitter next week before I make a trip west – and hopefully while I am away the applicants will roll in and I’ll be able spend time at our local Starbucks and meet some new sitter candidates – and find one to bring in.

Regrouping again – keep the balls in the air and get through tomorrow.  That’s all we can do, right?

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My Summer Vacation

My Summer VacationAs the saying goes, all good things must come to an end – and so too does my summer vacation.

While there has been a lack of updates here, there has not been a lack of things going on.  In some ways, along with the physical resting and recharging done on a summer hiatus, my summer vacation was a bit of a mental break as well.

Flashback to June – when I traded in my 4.5 year old Subaru for a Jeep on a Thursday, and took the girls to the camp bus on Saturday.  From there, my summer vacation was a series of plane rides with a few doctors visits, some painting and even some straight up down time mixed in.  All in all, for seven weeks while the girls were enjoying swimming, softball and color war – I did my best to simply turn off as much as I could while still keeping things afloat.

Somewhere between Memorial Day and the middle of June I managed to pinch a nerve in my neck – which kind of set me back some. At first I thought it was a shoulder injury which I dreaded.  Instead, it was not nearly as dreadful, but more annoying (I think) and still demanded scans, tests and twice weekly PT.  (And yes mom, I am doing fine).

Mixed around that schedule was work, which demanded quality plane time.  It wasn’t until the final week the girls were at camp that I had a week that did not involve a flight.  When not at JFK I was in the city at meetings.

Finally there was the time eeked out at the start or end of trips – which would constitute the PTO (personal time off for those not in corporate American) portion of my summer.  A great drive up the California coast from Santa Monica to Monterrey (through Big Sur).  A great few days relaxing in Nappa, quality time without rushing to meetings in San Francisco – even time to ride a bike over the Golden Gate Bridge, through Sausalito and out to Tiburon.

And somehow in the middle of all that, I managed to paint two bathrooms in the house and reorganize the kitchen.

So yeah – I didn’t update things here, but there was a lot of updating going on.

Yeah, it was a bit fleeting, but all-in-all my summer vacation was not so bad.

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The Home Stretch of Hectic

Home Stretch of HecticAs the spring that really kind of never was weather wise winds down – so does the season of hectic.  Looking at the calendar, and for us we are in the home stretch of hectic season.  What I’ve realized this year is that the tasks and demands change but the volume of hectic stays pretty steady.  Obviously this is nothing new, I’ve written about how hectic the spring is several times like here and here.  A few more weeks, the girls get on the bus for camp and we can finish the home stretch of hectic.

Back this year is softball for 11.5.  New this year is the travel team she is playing on, so we are managing two softball schedules.  Gone by now is Hebrew school, but that was in the mix until just a few weeks ago.

For 13.5 we add the looming specter of the New York State Regents testing.  She has two this year – and because she’s lucky she is in the first ever Integrated Algebra Regents class.  So for her two Regents track classes, she has three tests to take.

In the mix this year is 11.5’s first foray into finals at middle school, packing for camp, the rest of the school  year and all the regular day-to-day tasks to accomplish.

So, we’ll get ready for Regents and finals as best we can.  We’ll make the softball games and practices and pack the bags for camp.  The day is in sight when it all slows down.  For now though, we’re in the home stretch of hectic.

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Single Point of Failure

Single Point of FailureIt’s been two-weeks since I updated here, which is not unprecedented but is unusual.  As is usually the case life kind of takes up time and things get pushed to the back burner.  One of those “life” moments was a three-week process I was involved in at work, where the term single point of failure was used often.

In the use-case of work, the single point of failure was something to be avoided.  This is where one breakdown somewhere in a daisy chain of events could cause the whole project to come to a halt – and in this case impact paying customers.  The single point of failure must be avoided.

Across the last couple of weeks, that paradigm persists.  We had 13.5’s Washington Trip to get through.  While that was not a huge impact, it did require making sure she was packed, had some healthy snacks to add to the assortment of Oreos and candy that made the trip with her class.

Then 11.0 talked me into signing her up for a second travel softball team.  So now we are deep into a pair of concurrent softball seasons.  The schedules start next week and the practices are already underway.  This gets mixed in with school, Hebrew school and all of her friends.

Add to that I had a week in Santa Monica for work where I managed to come down with a cold.  That cold has slowed me down since getting home Friday night.

Then there was the two-plus weeks my sitter didn’t have a car which really did not give me the peace of mind I try to maintain when I am not home.

All those items above are not earth-shaking.  Cars break, I’ve been sick before, travel isn’t new, the girls do spend time away from home and work has pressures.  But all together, with one parent, there is a single point of failure.

11.0 had back-to-back practices yesterday.  About four hours of softball.  During that time I saw a mix of parents and siblings coming in and out of the ball field – switching up and getting things done.  With only one parent, there is a single path for accomplishment.  So, I was checking in with 13.5 via text (the preferred communication medium) to see if she need a ride somewhere and that she ate.

So, at work I learned the importance of avoiding the single point of failure.  At home I realized a sitter without a car is a single point of failure.  And the reality is, I can be my own single point of failure too.

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Surviving Travel With Teens and Tweens

ski tripAs the annual winter break comes to an end for the girls, and we get ready to get back on schedule and do the long stretch (relatively long stretch) to the spring break – I look back at how surviving travel with teens and tweens this week.

There were five days off from school (Monday to Friday), add two weekends and it’s nine straight days off.  We spend three night’s in hotels in two cities and five days on the road.  This is not the first time I’ve traveled with my girls, but I realized during our ski trip to Lake Placid there are things I do in the name of surviving travel withe teens and tweens.

Normally, I don’t do lists and top fives etc, but if you are a single dad, traveling with girls in the teen and tween years – I feel your pain.  So, here is the official Dad the Single Guy survival guide:

  1. It goes almost without say, but bring your patience.  Just because you are on the road doesn’t change anything.  Chances are as far as your kids are concerned you are still wrong.
  2. I’m not ready (financially or practically) to give the girls their own hotel room.  So get two keys and set expectations.  Respect privacy as best as possible and try to stay above the sibling fray.
  3. Make as many decisions as possible. Don’t open everything from timing of events to meal choices up to a debate.  It will only give you the chance to be a referee and you’ll never enjoy your time away.
  4. When you decide to cede a decision be ready to support several choices. Try to allow creative decision-making.  For breakfast before skiing I sent the girls into a store and told them to make a choice, knowing what the options were there were no bad choices, and they did not have to choose the same thing (although they did).
  5. These kids are from the digital era, headphones go in and phones are always present. It’s not a slight, its part of life today.  Accept it, and when you need attention ask them to disconnect.  We have a rule in the house, if you are not making money with you phone there is no texting during meals.  I enforce it equally.
  6. Share as much time as you can.  Remember this is still a family vacation, treat it as such and share the time and experiences.
  7. Teens and tweens are very different.  Where you can allow for those differences and respect them.  Let the teen be a teen while allowing the tween her space as well.
  8. Set expectations and keep your goals in reason.  It’s their vacation too, let them relax and feel like they are getting away too.
  9. Pay attention to what they pack.  We were in Lake Placid and neither of my girls had the right boots to walk through snow and slush.  And we had one emergency trip to a Rite Aid for a forgotten item.
  10. Expect help.  Don’t play servant.  My kids have chores at home, on the road they have responsibilities to make sure we all enjoy.

I have no idea if the above works with boys, and no thoughts on if having two parents present makes a difference (my guess is probably not).

And remember, these are official for Dad the Single Guy only – your results may differ.  It would kind of interesting to find out how you go about surviving travel with teens and tweens.

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