Hurry Up And Wait

Hurry-Up-and-WaitBack in my TV days I used to tell people the key to succeeding in the industry is adopting a, “Hurry up and wait” mentality.  Meaning you need to be in place and ready to go, and then wait for something to happen.  Perhaps that helped me years later when Risa and I were in and out of hospitals for treatments, tests and other ailments.  The hospital setting has perfected the, “Hurry up and wait” philosophy, “I’ll be right back,” a nurse would say before returning more than an hour later.  Clearly that experience was to prepare me for vacationing with two teen-aged girls.  Hurry up and wait gets to a whole new level.

Last week was winter break for the schools here so the girls had no school for the week.  What kicked off our southern California plan was I was supposed to be out there for two days of mandatory meetings.

Instead, I decided the time was right to change jobs (probably another blog post somewhere along the line) and no longer “had” to be in CA for meetings.  But the girls were locked into going.

So, we packed our bags and headed to Kennedy Airport here in New York.

Traveling with teen-aged girls is no easy sport.  Forget the non-stop need for Starbucks frappes and an unending need to wander through high-end clothing stores – you can never get them to be ready to go anywhere at the same time.

15.5 needed extra time to shower after the gym.  13.0 wanted more time to eat breakfast. Both needed three reminders to pack the last night we were there.

But they are young ladies now and I hope I treated them as such.  When they were kids I would wander around the hotel room and pack for them – but I figure if they want to be treated as adults (or at least not young kids) they should act like it as well.

And I guess for me its a continuation of the art of hurry up and wait – learned long ago and perfected over the years in many settings.

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The Washington Buses Roll – Again

Washington TripIn the school district where we live, it’s that time of year.  No, not Halloween stuff.  The Washington buses roll again.  This year 13.0 will be on board the buses this year, as her sister was two years ago.

As was the case two years ago, there’s a fine line to walk between parenting and letting my girl enjoy her three days away with the school.

From a safety perspective – the school has done just about all they can to assure parents (and kids) that the trip will be fun, educational and everyone will come home.  But I think every parent has that little trepidation, right down to the rain in the forecast tomorrow as the buses pull out of the school parking lot just after 530 in the morning.

This rite of passage starts tonight with luggage drop off.  Once that’s done, we’ll get up bright and early tomorrow morning and head to the school.  13.0 will have breakfast, lunch and snacks at the ready – and I’ll watched the Washington buses roll again.  In the end, it’s a great experience for all of us (even 15.5).

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The Camp Call (Again)

Camp CallFor the fifth summer both girls are away at camp.  It’s never super easy to put them on the bus, over the years its become a right of summer.  One of the “features” of camp is a weekly call home that I schedule about a month before they leave.  This week was the first for the summer, and the camp call again is a moment I can relax.

Sure, I get letters from the girls.  Or at least this year a few empty envelopes from 15.0 – who is “too lazy” to actually write a letter.  At least I know she’s doing alright.

But the call has that element of interaction in it, combined with just hearing from them that things are going OK.  There is the list of things needed – sheets, liquid soap, a pillow pet to name a few.  Plus the checking in on what’s going on at home.

But it’s also my chance to hear in their voices the pleasure they having at camp.  Find out first had the fun they’re having with their friends, and the trips they are going on.

In her first letter home 15.0 mentioned her knee that was a little cranky last fall during the soccer season was bothering her again.  I got to hear from her it was not a problem – just getting used to running on the trails she was thinking.

12.5 was telling me about the other girls in her bunk preparing for autumn bat mitzvahs and how they go to lessons together.  It’s something she was reluctant to do at camp – but now is a moment she shares with her friends, and enjoys.

The camp call again is that weekly insight that can’t be read in a letter that gives me the knowledge that everything is OK.  I can still hear 15.0 talking about her lifeguard lessons and 12.5 talking about Ace of Cakes evening activities as I head home from a week of work in California and it’s actually comforting.

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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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The Ski Trip

Jimminy PeakAs we head into the winter months in the Northeast – my girls and I are about to embark upon what has become one of our family rituals since it became the three of us.  The ski trip.  This is something we’ve done three of the last four years – the only year we missed was when I had both knees operated on, and not surprisingly they match exactly against our lives in a one parent home.

Although it was four years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday – Risa had passed away and the girls went back to school.  The next week I went back to work.  The next week was Christmas vacation, and there was no way I was staying in the house for more than a week with all that we had been through.  I looked at Florida, I looked at Jamaica, I looked at California.  None of them as a last minute trip in December made sense.  But skiing did.

I had talked about skiing with my kids the year before – but because of the state of flux we were living in then, we couldn’t go.  I had skied for years before 14.5 was born.  But at that time, had not skied in 10 years  The girls were into it though.

With an invite from my cousin – we rented skis on Black Friday in 2010 and that Saturday set off for skiing.

I put the girls in lessons with their cousins.  I set out to recapture any level of skiing I could and we had a great weekend.

With the exception of the year I was recovering from surgery to both knees – we’ve skied every year since.  So, this year, with more than a foot falling as I type in the Berkshires at Jimminy Peak we’ll head out tomorrow afternoon to ski for the weekend.

This year will be a little different though.  14.5 is going to snowboard. So I have to put her back into lessons.  12.0 is bringing a friend.  So my hope is she and the friend will ski together, 14.5 will work on her snowboarding and I can ski for fun.  We’ll have a lot of together time as we spend the weekend at the mountain.

The ski trip is on.  First of the season.  More to follow.  See you on the mountain.

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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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The Washington Trip

Washington DCIt’s a big week here for 13.5.  She and her friends are getting ready for the Washington trip at school.  It’s a three-day excursion with lot’s of rules for safety, a packed schedule to wear out the kids  – and I’ll admit it, a week’s worth of strategizing for the single dad.

The first phase of strategy for the Washington trip occurs now, a full 72-hours before I drop 13.5 off at 5:30AM at the school.  This is where I want her to feel in control about what she takes, but at the same time make sure she’s ready for rain, cool to cold weather and a lot of walking.  In the grand scheme of things this is not a huge deal.  She’s a trooper and will be with her friends so she’ll get through.

The next strategy is about planning.  13.5 is a little challenged in this area.  Perhaps using me as a role model isn’t great, but she should be ready for all possibilities so this will include a trip to the pharmacy before the Washington trip rolls out of the school parking lot.

Finally, there is the strategy I’ll have to employ to contain myself and let her have this adventure.  Yeah, we go through this in the summer with camp, but that feels different.  Maybe it’s because her sister isn’t with her – I’m not really sure.  She’ll have her phone and I am sure (because I’ll tell her) she’ll text a few times a day.  But still, I have to let her experience the Washington trip her way.

So, Tuesday night she and I will drop the bags at the school.  Wednesday morning bright and early we’ll head out – I know she’ll have a great time.  And I’ll look forward to hearing all about it on Friday night.

Until then, a lot of strategy will be applied to the Washington trip.

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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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Parental Sacrifice

Any parent-this is not something unique to single parents-will tell you there are times when you have to make a sacrifice.  During our three-day ski trip, one of 11.5’s friends was at the same place with her family skiing, and our family made a couple of sacrifices to let the friends ski together and spend time off the slopes together too.

Now, the skiing together part was pretty easy.  We met at the bottom of the hill and then skied a bunch.  It took a little patience but it worked out well.

Then came dinner.

11.5’s friend’s family was with their family-so there were about 12 of them and apparently a visit to the Old Country Buffet is part of a Massachusetts get away.  This is the parental sacrifice part.

Old Country Buffet is exactly what it sounds like.  A buffet place where you keep piling mostly bland, over-salted, mediocre at best food onto your plate-and keep going back for more.

It’s safe to say without 11.5’s friend being there-we would have skipped the experience.

Both my kids call me a food snob, and truth be told I can be.  When I go out to eat I expect good food.  I’m willing to pay for it, but it has to be good.  Old Country Buffet falls well short.

(Disclosure: the picture is 9.0’s desert plate of which she had one bite of everything and one cookie)

But it was important for 11.5 to see her friend and share the full on skiing experience with her-so as a family we made the sacrifice and made it work.


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Deja Vu All Over Again

After three days away with the girls and a friend skiing (and limited/different TV) it dawned on me that I am living through what my mother lived through with me-just on different channels.

Around the time I discovered TV and the “beauty” of the medium (I spent a long and successful career in TV and still work in video) I took to what were called reruns at the time of “I Dream of Jeanie,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “F-Troop,” and in later years “The Honeymooners,” and “The Odd Couple.”  Later in life I learned I was watching these in syndication-but to this day I will still watch any of the above at any time, can pretty much do the scripts off the top of my head and do well at random trivia about any of the shows.

As anyone who grew up in the 70’s and early 80’s in and around New York City can tell you, predominantly you watched these shows on channels 5 or 11.  There was the occasional channel 9 dropped in.  Yes, the channels were numbers-as in on the dial-back then.  They certainly were not named.

Flash forward to 2012 and you can catch my kids eagerly watching TV “classics” like “Friends,” “The Nanny,” “That 70’s Show,” Futurama,” “George Lopez,” or “My Wife and Kids” in “reruns” over and over-so they know the scripts and can answer random trivia questions.

And much like my mother did when I was somewhere between 8 and 13 there is the occasional question about how can you watch this? Or the comment that the show was awful the first time it was on-but it doesn’t deter the viewing.

The major difference quite honestly now is gone are the channels from the dial, and replacing them is a near non-stop feed from Nick and Nite, TV Land and Netflix.  No more waiting for 5:30 or access from 7-8.  It’s basically on-demand and nearly always available.

11.5 wondered about that today as we were talking about this on a ski lift what shows from her life will her kids watch?  I kind of wonder too.  It will be interesting to see what TV is like 30 years (and it better be 30 years) from now.

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