your placement is not the reward for good work

It is hard to really embrace this thought, and even harder to convince your child about it, but there is no other path.
Hard work should ‘pay off’, but there are plenty of times when it doesn’t. There are lots of people who don’t deserve things that get them. Life isn’t fair. If you are expecting a pat on the head and a key to the city for going the extra mile, you will often be disappointed.

The only true thing is that hard work- the satisfaction, knowledge and character that comes from it, is its own reward. The prize is the knowledge that you accomplished something meaningful, that is actively making you a more informed, more skilled, better person. It is almost impossible not to wish for the glittering prize (the admiration, the acknowledgement, the envy), but in the end, it often disappoints.

If you hold out the carrot of a plum placement as reward for a job well done, there is plenty of reason for kids to stop trying at the first disappointment.

a couple things that are still relevant

I just scrolled down to the bottom of this page and found my own blog archive!!
I started blogging around this time, 8 years ago and boy did (do) I need an editor! The nice thing about blogging is that you can write whatever the hell you damn well please. I was tickled by a couple of pieces (cause I think that I am kinda funny, much to my family's chagrin) and I was interested in my own perspective as a parent of 14 year olds, all those many years ago. Here are three of my favorites, that are still relevant and mildly amusing (even my husband said so!). Don't read the other first blogs. They are awful.
A wistful ode to 'rubber pellet season'
a sweet reminiscence (and creepy reference to cancerous recycled tires)

New Urban Team Sport (NUTS)
how I did the parent teacher conference

Sing is sung
a New York high school institution and my review of the 2008 season. If you want to understand the difference between Murrow and Stuy as institutions - it is all here.

"top 10 things I learned in the college application process" by Anon.

"top 10 things I learned in the college application process" by Anon.

I don't take guest blogs, but I got this wonderful email from a parent whose child graduated from one of my favorite NYC public schools this spring (not Bard or Beacon or Stuy - keep guessing). She is a kid who squeezed the best out of her good old Brklyn high school experience and her hard work was rewarded by the kind of college placement you all dream of.  It is so right on the money that I though I would share it with you. Edited slightly for space. My comments in italics.

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leaving your old friends at middle school

"On top of all the stress of placement, isn't it hard for the kids to leave their old friends to go to a new middle school?" I get this a lot from the parents of young children, especially when those parents have loved their own experience growing up with the same people in each school. It is also often the case that their kids #1 requirement for their new middle school is that it is the one their friends are attending. What I find often is that there are unrecognized benefits to a shake up.
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college knowledge

We are almost done sending the freshmen off to school. I have gathered a couple handy sources that you may want to add to the college file.

  • 2 charming articles from the Motherlode about the send off: sending a son off, sending a daughter off
  • tax deductions: (I really had no idea!) this article from Prospect Heights Patch is Awesome!
  • I need this book: The iConnected Parent by Barbara K. Hofer and Abigail Sullivan Moore, I have gone to lengths (sometimes great) to not be a total helicopter parent, but the temptation to stay in contact electronically when they leave is too emotionally satisfying to be healthy - for me even more than for them
  • linens: after doing the round of BB&B, Marshall's, Target and Amazon we broke down and got the cheapest XL Twin dorm sheets from Residence Hall Linens, and they were good quality too, go figure.
  • computers Caroline at Ivan Expert told us what to get (Macbook Pro 13") plus the external hard drive and dropbox for backup. Then we all signed up for skype. I upgraded our homeowner's insurance so that when their roommate steps on the laptop they can get another one and they registered them with campus security. One college had the Microsoft Office for free download as long as she is a student, the other had a link for a cheaper version.
  • our favorite dorm room items: shower caddy (small, light, holds everything and the handles don't break off), most dorms don't let you have microwaves or coffee machines but we are hoping this super cute water kettle will pass, this cheap cute and useful drawer unit comes disasembled so it is easy to take in the car and put together on site, and finally the must have dorm poster of 2011

How is it going being a sudden double empty nester? I will tell you in two weeks when we return from the March Through the Arch at Northwestern to the shambles of our once gracious apartment. I do crave a little peace and quiet, no more skyrocketing emotions and last minute fire extinguishing, and the invitations for cocktails from our long lost friends seem to be sincere.

great allegheny passage and c & o canal bike trek

GAP trestle.jpg

If I was going to design the perfect 340 mile bike trek, it would be two completely flat, car free, shaded stretches, separated by a 20 mile downhill coast through beautiful farmland, with charming trail towns conveniently placed for lodging, food and homemade ice cream. When I was told that there were no up hills, I just didn't believe it, but it was not misrepresented and I did not disgrace my family. This is two combined trails; the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage - a Rail to Trail) and the C & O Canal Tow Path. The direction you take makes a difference - definitely go from Pittsburg to DC and not the other way round (and don't just do half starting at Cumberland like many people do, because you just miss the best stretch of road!) We did it all in 10 days (approx. 34 miles a day). We were two families (4 parents and 3 high school grads). We stayed in hotels, hostels and B & B's for the first 5 nights and then alternated camping in the free sights provided with hotels for the second week. These paths do go over the eastern continental divide but the grade is so low on the way up that it is truly not noticeable (believe me, I would be complaining if I had noticed). Our friends first did this trip with their son when he was 8 years old, but I think that it is the perfect trip for 12 years and up (you need some endurance). There were a lot of father/son duos and college roommates (both young and old) on the trail. The trail on the Pennsylvania GAP portion was very well maintained cinders. The C&O varied wildly in maintenance from newly packed clay to stone chips and muddy ruts, but aside from sore bums we had no injuries. You don't feel the heat on a bike because there is always a breeze.

Here is a brief list from the trip:

  • 3 high former train trestles (the photo is taken from the first one - there are railings)
  • 3 lonnnng dark tunnels (super fun and very disorienting)
  • 75 antique C & O canal locks
  • 1 continental divide
  • 1 twenty mile coast downhill (worth mentioning twice)
  • 4 rivers (Ohio, Youghiogeny, Casselman, Potomac)
  • 1 beautiful 6 mile detour that did have some hills (not part of the official trail)
  • 1 almost disastrous hotel reservation in Harpers Ferry (on a 4 lane highway)
  • 1 round of drinks at the bar, courtesy of the hotel in Harpers Ferry
  • 4 soaks in a river (Youghiogeny - cold and Potomac - warm)
  • 1 Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece (Falling Water)
  • 3 nights camping
  • 1 raccoon, 6 fauns, 5 woodchucks, 7 turtles, 2 herons, 1 buzzard, 3 bright green caterpillars, countless songbirds and butterflies
  • 1 spider museum (women's bathroom)
  • many, many trains
  • 0 cars (except in the first 13 miles leaving Pittsburg)
  • 2 very brief rain storms (just enough to cool us off)
  • 5 blown tire tubes, 2 repaired luggage racks, 1 cracked axel, 1 cracked rim
  • 2 panniers bounced off mid ride
  • 1 lost bathing suit by the side of the trail
  • 3 Ruben sandwiches, 5 crab cakes, many Caesar salads and a coconut cream pie
  • 2 root beer floats
  • 1 one match campfire
  • 7 happy campers

If you are interested in other interesting trails that we haven't yet tried. check these out.

that's right! i am traveling 334.5 miles on a bike this summer with all my camping gear

So what does a middle aged, soon to be empty nester do on her summer vacation? She ships her bike to Pittsburgh and travels under her own steam with the camaraderie and encouragement of her super fit family and their adventurous childhood friends to Washington DC. It is called the Great Allegheny Passage and connects to the C&O Canal tow path - motorized vehicle free! (I guess that means no ambulances or Enterprise Rent-a-Car pick ups)

We will do 10 days of biking (I have been assured that it is flat, flat, flat, but I grew up in the shadow of the Skyline Drive so I am skeptical) with stop overs to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water and see the grandparents in northern VA. What will you see when you book a consult with me in August? Tanned, toned and ready for the Albany to Montreal trek or beaten limp noodle? Kind of exciting isn't it?! We will be camping a bit and staying in the little towns along the way a bit. I will be out of the office from July 16 to July 31. I am not sure that I will be able to update on our progress along the way, but I will eventually give you a full report.

teens on the train

Overheard on the F train heading northbound, crossing through the sunlight at Smith and 9th.

Girl 1 (stylishly urban, approximately 16 years):
"Everybody at Beacon lives in Park Slope."

Girl 2 (working her own unique style, the same age):
"Or it just seems like they do, they spend so many nights there"

"I heard that it used to be that nobody from Manhattan ever came to Brooklyn!"


"I love Boerum Hill. It is sooo pretty. Dumbo too."

"Yeah, good restaurants. Brooklyn Heights is kind of just houses. I love Red Hook."

"Have you eaten at The Good Fork? It is awesome."

"My dad is totally into Ocean Parkway. He bikes there."

"My mom wants to retire to the Upper West Side!"

"Big dreams!" (all of us laughing)



prom dresses

Picture this: Two 17 year old girls, size 2 skinny jeans, Forever 21 t-shirts, urban attitude, nerdy aspirations, who hate to shop - in the Macy's Prom Dress Section on the 4th floor.

Girl 1: "This is my worst nightmare!"
Girl 2: "Let's find the ugliest one"

I get a call from Silfath Pinto, a fashion stylist (with a lilting French accent) who has agreed to tackle the prom dress gauntlet.
"I am in the dressing room by Tahari. Just call my name and I will get you."

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Parents of NY Teens

I follow the neighborhood yahoo groups of parents of young children to answer questions about nursery and elementary school, but I occasionally yearn for a group of older parents. I need friends who will talk to me about tutors and teen break ups and how to handle the coed sleepover. I have been an avid member of the yahoo group, parentsofnyteens. It is smallish and chocked full of great parents that I actually know, who are funny and generous and very, very supportive.

Just two days ago, Rachel, the moderator, did us all a wonderful service and started the Parents of NY Teens blog where she is compiling information and resources that the yahoo group members have been supplying.

Now a place for us to go! - to find about the emotions and college tours and ...(a couple of months ago there was a lively discussion on the yahoo group about how to inform your son that it was time to take a shower). I recommend that you sign up for the group, and use the information on the blog early and often!

Teen Treks

My teens are all over the map this summer.
They got back from a great Teen Treks bike trip across Mass. from Albany to Provincetown on the Cape. This is the second trip for one of them and it didn't disappoint. The rain and the Berkshires didn't deter them (although now when we are sitting in a car and they see a slight incline they exclaim "oh no, a hill!") It was a fantastic small group this year and they did everything from Tanglewood to Great Adventure, lots of beaches and two days in Boston. I highly recommend this trip for giving them a real sense of accomplishment and adventure.

We hardly had time to scrape the bike grease off before we headed to the family reunion in Chicago. Chicago is a great town for kids with amazing free summer concerts and programs all over the city (and a great bike path along the lake and its own beaches). It is a little early, but we decided to tour Northwestern as long as we were in the neighborhood. There is plenty to love there and I highly recommend their tour which was "awesome!" We had a very excited tour guide who also happened to be extremely knowledgeable (good job Northwestern, my kids are now looking further west than they were a week ago).

I have to give a shout out to Daniel, junior at Stuy, who I happen to know, follows this blog religiously. He is doing a summer debate program at Northwestern that sounds interesting. It seems that I have a few fans at Stuy, Hi J.! which keeps me from writing anything really interesting about my kids.


The words every mom of a teen is fearful to see in a text, "I got the baby!" These were not so ominous because she only had it for 24 hours, so I texted back, "awesome!" and waited for Robobaby to arrive.

My daughter, as a sophomore, has had "Health" this year instead of gym. It has been a terrific class, which the teacher gleefully describes as having one goal - making sure that none of them gets pregnant. It is much more than that. This class has been so enlightening that I think of it akin to the salad making scene in "To Sir, With Love". Ms. B. is getting them ready for the real world; they rolled the dice to get a job or career (so far, so good), they planned their weddings, wrote vows, made a yearly budget ("why do I have to pay for my husband's deodorant?!"), watched videos of real births ("like, 15 times! disgusting!") assembled their layettes, and finally she brought Robobaby home for a sleepover.

First the school had us sign a paper saying that if anything happens to Robobaby we are responsible for the cost, $350. (I imagine my husband at 2am going at Robobaby with a phillips-head, trying to disarm its crying mechanism.) The kids get the baby for a day (no raw eggs or bags of flour for Murrow!) They have a key that is attached to their wrists with the kind of unbreakable tag that you get at amusement parks so that you can't hand responsibility over to someone else. The key disarms the crying mechanism. The baby records how many times you neglect it or don't support its head. My daughter had to get special permission to delay her baby because she was in a play. For a split second she could tell, Ms. B was thinking, "well, what are you going to do if you had a REAL baby?" and she thought better of it. (Nobody crosses the Murrow Drama Dept.)

So, yesterday afternoon she arrived and was promptly placed in the darling hand painted cradle that held the stuffies and cowbaby. Of course as a new mother, my daughter checked her every 10 minutes because the baby wasn't doing anything. (She had been told it was programed "colicky"). I said, "just wait", and yes, at midnight Robobaby started to cry at irregular intervals until the three of us made my daughter and her progeny sleep on the sofa where we couldn't hear them scream. I am sure that she will get a good grade. She is a very attentive mother. Mostly, I am thankful that she can now stick to a budget, that she knows how much her cell phone costs, that she is thinking about her 401K and that she will make her husband buy his own deodorant.

13 is the new 18

My friend, Beth Harpaz has just written a great new book called, "13 is the new 18, and other things my children taught me while I was having a nervous breakdown being their mother".
She is doing a reading at Barnes and Noble in Park Slope on Feb. 5 at 7:30. It is sure to be very funny, judging from her youtube videos.

Parents and kids at my house gathered around the computer laughing at how funny (and true) her commentary was. It did bring up an issue for us. I friended my kids when they got their Facebook pages. We are not unhappy with the things that we occasionally see, but the unintended complication comes from their looking at OUR pages. Our friends' status shows up on our kids' homepages. Beth, the fact that you are addicted to cheese is the funniest thing that my kids extended network has heard in a long time. Apparently, it is SO "park slope mom" - I am addicted to cheese as well. The fact that Beth - someone we know - could youtube a song about her teen's behavior sent a chill around the neighborhood. Don't push your mom too far or she could go public. Good job Beth!

Teen Treks #5

She's back from Montreal. It was great. She wants to do it again. The rain coat was shredded but other than that everything came home, including the large unread book. She talked a mile a minute about every detail until she hit the couch and instantly fell asleep. She woke up long enough to whisper "pizza" and "pedicure" and then back into dreamland.

We are happy to have our darling girl home again. She can't wait to see her sister. It always amazes us that they have so much to talk to each other about even when they are with each other every minute. So up to Rhode Island this weekend to retrieve the mildewy sleeping bag and soggy twin A.

Check out for my guest blog in support of summer boredom.

Teen Treks #4

Twin B was sighted in Burlington Vt. (by a pre-approved, non-stalkerish friend of the family). She is tan, happy and ready to kick our lazy, non bike riding butts when she returns home in 5 days.

No word from Twin B (known as the "good phone contact twin") unlike her sister, "the good house key remembering twin". Together they make one perfect child. The first year at camp all we received were envelops full of stationary that all said, "" Needless to say, we were more than a little put off by the lack of substantive news and declined to order the $40. brownies online. So far there is no word from Rhode Island. Silence is golden and so are the candid photos from

Teen Treks #3

Got the call. Got the rain. But it wasn't as bad as I had imagined. It was a scheduled call, and even though hearing our voices made my daughter emotional, she did squeak out that it was fun before we lost the connection. The postcards are a different story. Because of the snail mail time lag, they were written in the first couple exhausting days, when their tent was flooded out. "...low blood sugar sucks..." I have been on google maps looking at terrain and I am quite jealous of the beautiful scenery they will be traveling through. We are quite proud of her. She said that after the first day she was going to call us to pick her up, but she pushed through it.

We just dropped off "twin A" at sleep away camp and all we had to contend with were memories of "Shark Week" and how to smuggle the rice crispy treats past the counselors.

Teen Treks #2

Day 2, no rain, no call.
After checking the itinerary and studying my online maps I realize that while we visit my uncle on July 4th, we will be 10 miles from my daughter's campground. I cook up several schemes including leaving mystery cookies at the Ranger's Station. My husband suggests that we just drive by and wave, but don't stop. My other daughter wisely convinces us that this is all too "stalkerish".
Disaster averted, dignity maintained, just barely managing to be a good parent.