Thursday, March 31, 2011

limoncellos all around! (m)

Limoncello could be one of the strongest liquors I've ever had.  The alcohol content is quite high.

Harrison's coach celebrates his birthday while we are in Italy.  I buy him a cake and everyone sings Happy Birthday.

After dinner, he asks me to join him in the bar.  You know I don't drink but it's the guy's birthday, so I say all right.

We arrive in the bar and who do we find there but the Italian coaches and the President of the Italian Skating Federation?

Needless to say, that is an instant "party starter."

Four rounds of limoncello later, I head to my room.  My head is spinning.  I must have consumed 10 points of alcohol.

I wake up in the middle of the night and remember something about promising to host some skaters at my home this summer.

This is why I don't drink.

petaluma's (lyn)

15 days after my birthday and we are still celebrating.  Tonight, Valerie, Abbey, Adam, Jason, Jason’s girlfriend Amanda, Alexander and I go out to dinner.  Jason was able to find a great corner table for seven at Petaluma’s, hard to find in New York City (the table for seven, not the restaurant).  Six is easy.  I hadn’t expected another family celebration after Valerie had pulled together such a memorable surprise on my actual birthday.

As “a little something,” Valerie hands Alexander a big pizza box stamped, “custom made pizza.”  He opens it, and sees a pretzel pizza with chocolate bars for Wash U, Cornell, and Vandy.  We joke that Valerie must have eaten the ones for Penn and Duke on the ride over.

This is a family that likes to sample many different dishes.  We all order salads.  The house chef salad with chopped lettuce, hearts of palm, roasted peppers, celery, avocado and tomatoes is great.  Since seeing the calorie count for Caesar, it’s been easy to avoid ordering it.

Then the boys take over and order one pizza margherita for the table, followed by two orders of pasta (one with rabbit ragout and the other with meatballs).  Most people would be done by then, but we have entrees.  I get a roasted veal dish with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts.  Three desserts for the table, and coffee follow.  

But the best part of the night, as always, are the many laughs and shared stories that are sandwiched between courses.  I think we order so much just to prolong the evening.

it's a small world (m)

I met a woman in NYC last September when Harrison was competing at the Mid-Atlantic championships held at Chelsea Piers. 

She is here in Italy with her daughter who is representing Norway as the girls' father is Norwegian (an Olympic skier).

The Italians who train at our rink every summer also are here (naturally).

The Swedish kids have bonded with the Americans and eat dinner with us every night.

There is a Russian girl in our group who now represents the US as well as a US guy who represents the Phillippines. 

The only ones we have been missing are the Japanese.  Given what's going on in their country, it's understandable that they wouldn't show for this event.

I am walking to lunch with Harrison's coach and all of sudden, we see a group of people. Harrison's coach exclaims, "Oh, my God.  They are here!" 

A group of Japanese skaters has arrived.  Our coach stayed with them in Nagano a while back.  They made it.  We greet each other and everyone is crying.  We tell them we are very sorry for their troubles.  They are so gracious for our well wishes.

I understand why global sports such as the Olympic games will endure forever.  It is a wonderful way to bring people together, bridging politics, cultures and languages.

Here is a photo of Harrison's coach with his Japanese friends. 

living in the mountains (m)

The Dolomites are spectacular.  No camera can capture the three-dimensionality and depth of the mountain range.  Forward. Back. Left. Right.  Every where you look is breathtaking.

The air is thin and I am breathless.  Even the athletes notice a big difference. 

Also, being in the mountains means there is limited flat terrain.  You either are walking up or down a hill.  My knees are killing me.  I feel the way I felt when I had all the weight on me again.  Breathless, sore.

I settle into my room and decide to explore the town.  It is a picturesque little village from out of a storybook.  The coffee shop is called The Mozart Cafe.  Lots of hot chocolate and croissants and tartes and other pastries.  I avoid that and head to the bath shop where I buy a bar of Rance soap in a floral sent.  I decide to use it everyday to feel good.  It's a tiny splurge but keeps me from eating a chocolate croissant.

I walk back to my room.  I have to cross the lobby, walk down a long hallway, walk up a half flight of stairs and then up three sets of stairs to get to my room.

I get in my room and I'm exhausted.  I flop onto my bed and fall asleep before dinner.

No wonder these people look so good here.  Between the mountain air and the exercise, they are fit and healthy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the bus ride to Italy (m)

Three hours of superhighway and super views.  We cross Germany and parts of Austria en route to this little slice of Heaven in the mountains of Italy.  We are headed to the Dolomites.  I've always wanted to go to this part of the world.

There are 18 of us in the group.  I sit alone in my own "row" in the bus.  I am happy until the  California coach in front of me leans her chair back to sleep.  My tray table is now in my stomach.  I fold it up. 

Then the sun comes out.  Very strong.  I'm sweating.  Is anyone else hot?  Or is this an extended hot flash?  I ask our team leader to ask the bus driver to turn down the heat and/or turn on the Air Conditioning.  Or, are there any windows that open?

The answer: No. 

I take off my jacket.  Now I'm hungry, sweaty and a little nauseous.  How long has it been since I've last eaten?  Maybe 9 hours.

I take a bite of the pretzel.  Hard as a rock.  Tasteless.  I put it back in the bag.

I switch to the orange chocolate bar.  It's melted.  The good news is that I know I'm not the only one who is overheated unless the Lindt bar is going through menopause, too.  The bad news is that the one little piece I surreptiously peeled off melted all over my hand leaving tell-tale signs.  I try to wipe it off before Harrison's coach (the ultrafit Swede) catches me.

I settle for a banana and 32 oz of Evian water.

Great.  Now I have to pee.

I ask the Team Leader if we are going to make a pit stop.  She asks the bus driver.  He looks at me as if to say "you high-maintenance American."

This wish, however, he grants.

Thirty minutes later, we stop in Austria in some cute little chalet-style rest stop.

One hour and thirty minutes to go.  I feel rejuvenated by the banana and water.  I breathe in the crisp mountain air.  I feel like I'm in The Sound of Music.

I re-board the bus, excited.

And then we enter the mountain range.

Sixty minutes of spine-tingling tight turns with deep drop-offs and insufficient guard rails.  We wind and wind and wind our way up the mountains.  I stop looking and grab the handles on the seat in front of me.  I check on Harrison.  He is white as a sheet.

One hour later, we all are sick.  Some of the people have thrown up on the bus.

Welcome to Italy.

and good news ends the day (lyn)

At five pm we sit down at my computer together.   (Alexander decides to nix our original plan).  First we open Cornell’s link and his likely letter is confirmed.  He’s in.  Seeing it again doesn’t lessen the thrill.  Then we open Dartmouth.  “I regret to inform you.”  Next is U Penn.  Another no.  Alexander is sad.  At six Alexander tries to get on the Duke site.  It is overloaded and he can’t.  He tries  for 40 minutes and then he has to leave for a rare dinner with his father.  “Call me the minute you hear,” he says as he walks out the door.  I finally get through a little after seven, and this one begins, “It is with the greatest regret…”  I call and tell him, and he says, “OK, thanks.”  His dreams for Duke gone.

I eat a solitary dinner of salmon and worry about my baby.

Around nine he comes home; I’m in my bedroom and call out to him to come in.  “In a minute,” he shouts back.  “I first want to go in my room for a second and cry a little.”  I understand.  He knows his options are good, but his #1 and #2 choices (Duke and Penn) are no longer possibilities.  He deserves a good cry, but my heart breaks for him.

A few minutes later he comes flying into my room.  Not with tears (he was kidding about those) but with a huge smile, wearing the Cornell t-shirt I bought him last fall but that he wouldn’t wear.  He is so happy.  “Finally,” he says, “I can wear the Cornell shirt.  I know I’m going to love it there.”  I remind him of the fact that we still need to hear about aid, and he smiles broadly and says, “I know.  I know.  But I’d love Vanderbilt too.” 

Later I hear him on the phone screaming (literally) when he learns of a good friend’s acceptance to Harvard.  His excitement for his friend seems no less exuberant than his own joy when he first got a likely letter from Cornell.

I see my son handle his first major disappointment with dignity and grace.  I am so proud of Alexander.  So while the day doesn't end with the good news we'd hoped for, it ends with very good news indeed.

good news starts the day (lyn)

I’ve been eating a ton, or so it seems.  Seven big dinners in 20 days:

  • Mar 10: Italian dinner with James at Alloro
  • Mar 12: Birthday dinner with Jill at Duane Park
  • Mar 15: Birthday dinner at Parlor Steak House with girlfriends
  • March 16: Birthday dinner at Union Square Café with sisters and Boston friends
  • March 24: Steak dinner with John at Morton’s
  • March 28: Steak dinner and fries with Alexander at Rare
  • March 29: Lobster dinner with David at The Palm

So I am not expecting particularly good news this morning.  I get on the Weight Watchers scale and my weight is 121.2, only .6 points higher than my last weigh-in on March 9.  I am happy.  Nice way to start this big day.

I hope the news at the end of the day is also good.  Alexander hears from his three top schools….he’d be thrilled to get in to even one of them…but he’s prepared if he doesn’t.  He still has amazing options. 

Less than five hours to go.  After a year of waiting, it’s almost over.  We are both so nervous.

arriving in munich (m)

I do not like groups.  They slow you down.

We arrive in Munich, H is wearing his team jacket.  We are to look for the other Team USA members and their coaches, parents and our team leader. 

I am hungry, tired, cranky.

We have to wait 90 minutes until the last people in our group arrive.

I exchange dollars for euros (There's a bummer.  How is our dollar so weak?)

The team leader, Kitty, tells us to get food on our own before we board the bus for Italy.  I go shopping in the market and get bananas, water and a Lindt orange chocolate bar (for Harrison.  Okay, I'll probably have "a piece") .  There's a pastry shop next to the little variety store.  I want a German pretzel so I get one.  It's huge.  I can't wait to eat it.  My stomach is growling.

I exercise discipline by saving the pretzel for the bus ride.

sleeping and eating on a plane (m)

Lufthansa.  German efficiency.  The plane takes off on time (of course).  Our hostess/airline attendant is an Uber German.  Extremely tall.  Big boned, but slim.  I'm intimidated.

We are in Business Class.  It cost alot more but I could not imagine an 8 hour flight in steerage.  Yes, I'm spoiled from having flown business class all those years while working.  It's my drug.  I am addicted.

Some sadist planned the menu.  The beef option is deer.  The fish is salmon.  The vegetarian is gnocci which the German attendant pronounces as "Know- Key".  Have you ever had fish on a plane?  Imagine low tide taking on a tangible form.   The deer is a non-starter.  I get the Know-Key. The attendant says they are "fabulous."  They are dreadful.  Like dense potato latkes with a red sauce on them.  I have two bites and leave the rest.  The attendant asks if I don't like them.  I don't want to insult her by saying they are like hockey pucks with an overly acidic but tasteless sauce, so I tell her I am on Weight Watchers and can't eat too many carbs.  Because of my carbs lie, I have to skip the roll.  I just have salad and the fresh fruit for dessert.

I console myself by saying I can make up for this deficit by eating real food in Italy.

Because it is an evening flight, they shut off all the lights.  I decide to kill time by sleeping.  I can't work the chair.  Too many buttons and, by the way, who knows the chair has to go up two feet before it goes down.  Does that make sense to anyone?  I kept thinking I hit the wrong button.  I look around.  Everyone else, including Harrison, is sound asleep, their chairs converted into proper beds.  Meanwhile, I look like I'm an inch from the ceiling, sitting upright.  I try again with the buttons and wake up Harrison by spilling a full glass of water on his back.  He jumps up and thinks he's peed himself.

"You're a mess!" he says.

I ask him for help but he punishes me for soaking him.  I sleep sitting up....way up...for 6 hours.  Armed with two ivy league degrees and I'm the only one on the plane who can't figure out my airplane chair!

I can't wait to get out of this plane and sleep in a real bed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

lobster and laughs (lyn)

When David generously suggests going to the Palm before out date tonight to see The Book of Mormon, I say, “Great, when should we meet?” Then I hang up and immediately think, “What will I order?”  Last night Alexander and I went out to Rare Bar and Grill, an amazing (I’m told) hamburger place that also serves steak.  We ordered steak and the glaring difference between aged prime and choice was apparent.  So I won’t be ordering steak tonight, not two nights in a row, even if tonight's steak would have been prime.  

I’m meeting David at 5, since the play starts at 7.  I dress in a black Thakoon skirt, black boots (it’s about 30 degrees out, still), and a pink cashmere V-neck.  Then I think, “What did I wear last time I saw him in mid-February.”  I’m sure he would never remember (I don’t think men think like that), but I checked the blog and saw that I had worn another black skirt, but the same pink sweater.  I’m so glad I checked, and immediately feel like I’m sixteen.  I switch to a black cashmere little top and leave.

The President is in town so getting crosstown is impossible.  The bus I’m on needs to detour and the trip up Madison is agonizingly slow.  I switch over to the subway and end up being only five minutes late.

This menu, like Capital Grill, shows the calorie count of every item.  Surprisingly, the things I want have very low numbers next to them.  We split a half dozen oysters, then splurge on a mozzarella and tomato salad and another salad with shrimp and string beans.  I’m happy when David chooses the 4-pound lobster for us to split.  The menu says it’s only 120 calories per pound (without the melted butter).  That’s pretty good for one of my favorite foods.

David is an easy conversationalist and the talk stays light.  College is so much on my mind but I try hard to not dominate the conversation with my anxiety about tomorrow.  David orders a cheesecake for us to split for dessert, and despite my thinking I’ll only have a bite or two, I end up eating half.

I don’t let tomorrow’s weigh-in at Weight Watchers deter my eating tonight.

I’m not a big musical theater fan, but tonight’s play is an exception.  The Book of Mormon, written by the creators of the TV show South Park, is hilarious.  It’s clever, funny, and will, I suspect, be on Broadway for a very long time.  As Ben Brantley of The New York Times said in his review last week of the dance numbers, “They are witty, ridiculous, impeccably executed, genuinely stirring and-contrary to expectation-free of snark or satirical malice.” 

A near perfect way to spend five hours.  Perfect would have been no cheesecake!

body scan at the airport (m)

The terrorists won.  That's all I can conclude after going through the rigamarole at the airports.  Shoes off, every object in a plastic bin.  Long lines.  Pat downs and now this: body scans.

I've read about the controversial body scans--the invasion of privacy issues, radiation harm, etc.   I thought I'd have the option of a pat down vs. the body scan, but the joyless clerks at Logan International Airport in Boston never present me with the option.

Harrison and I go through the body scan, him first.  He goes through, faces the machine and, in what seemed like seconds, he is done.  I don't even notice the pat-down.  He's through the line.

I'm up.  "Ma'am, please turn and face the machine, put your feet on the spots indicated and arms out."  I am standing there for what seems like hours.  What the hell is taking so long?  I realized then that there are people inside the box I am facing (like a guard shed) who are scanning me and seeing everything.  Every thing.  I start to imagine the conversation inside the shed:

Person 1 : Jesus.  She's a big one. 
Person 2: Wait, stay on the stomach a little longer.  That would be a good place to hide drugs in the "folds" of her flesh
Person 1: I'm on it.  I don't see drugs.  I see a Spanx label, though.  What's that all about?
Person 2 (female): It's an undergarment brand to help you look slimmer. 
Person 1 (male): Well, it works...she looks better in clothes.

The worst part of the whole thing (other than the scenario I imagine) is worrying if anyone in the box is  related to me.  I have 40 first cousins and some of them work "in the airport business" as they say.  You think I'm kidding?  I once went through a toll on the Mass Pike on Christmas Day and the tolltaker leans in the window and says "M! Oh My God! Is that you? Merry Christmas!"  Beautiful.  My upper middle class WASP husband almost fainted with Wheezy (Louise) sticking her head in his window to talk to me.

H and I get through that ordeal and wait to board Lufthansa.  Harrison eats at one of the concession stands.  I have a banana (free on the Points Plus program) and a bottle of water.

Good to go.

leaving on a jet plane (m)

The day is finally here.  We're going to Italy.  I'm very excited.

I've packed just the right amount of clothes and lots of Weight Watchers Points Plus calculator, my eating out guide, my one-point candies (chocolate mints).

I am ready for an adventure!

Monday, March 28, 2011

two days to go (lyn)

So here’s the plan.

Alexander is superstitious.  Most of the great college news he’s gotten has happened when (a) he hasn’t been at home, and (b) he has been with at least one classmate from Horace Mann.

I will check the websites for Penn and Dartmouth at 5pm on Wednesday, and at 6pm for Duke.  And then I will call him.  If there are no acceptances, I will tell him.  If there is any good news among the three, I will tell him to come home, and let him check the sites himself, as seeing the word Congratulations pop up is far more exciting than my telling him. 

Today we hear from Georgetown.  The news is not good; it’s a flat out rejection. Is this a harbinger for what we’ll learn on Wednesday?  We speculate on everything.  Alexander and I are both anxious for this week to be over so we can begin making decisions.

I’ve been so consumed with college-stuff that I’ve forgotten to think about my weight.  This morning, with some trepidation, I step on the scale.  119.4.  Anxiety (or is it excitement) seems to be obliterating calories. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

prepping for Italy (m)

I got the Rosetta Stone for Christmas.  Each day, I try to practice some Italian.  My dream is to live in Italy, at least for 6 months of the year.  I picture a nice villa in a village where the people will adopt me as one of their own.  I will bake my own bread, have a tomato garden, and hang my laundry on a clothes line where the clothes will dry under the Tuscan sun.

Visitors will come and are welcome to stay awhile.  We will have guest rooms and perhaps a pool.   There will be day trips to the museums and shopping at the little boutiques (okay, Prada, Gucci, Fendi).

I am excited about this trip to Italy this week for Harrison's skating competition.

His Team USA jacket arrived on Friday.  It is very official-looking.  I'm so happy for him as he has worked for years towards this goal.  It's so rewarding when you actually earn something on your own.

I am earning my new body.  It feels much lighter than the old one and each pound is a huge accomplishment for me.

The only thing I'm nervous about on this trip is the food.  That's all I hear about from people who've been at this competition before is that the food is incredible.

Even the coaches, who subsist on Tic Tacs, tell me the food is not to be believed.

I picture an angel on my shoulder saying, "No, M, don't do it.  Count your points.  There will be other times.  Remember your dream.  You'll be back here.  You will be thin, then.  You can eat some other time."

On the other shoulder is a little guy with a pitchfork saying, "When in Rome..."

round two: I win (m)

After a spectacular start with Weight Watchers--8 pounds the first week--my husband went to Florida with me.

While there, we were good.  I went to a grocery store and bought clementines, bottled water, zero calorie iced tea and part skim cheese sticks to put in the refrigerator in our room.  We counted points at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The only tough night was the night we hosted the team dinner.  40 people at Outback Steakhouse.  By the time we all got seated ( a total crock given our 8 p.m. call ahead reservation), I was famished and cranky.  I ordered the strongest drink they had and ate 1/3rd of a flippin' Bloomin' Onion. 

We get back home and weigh in Saturday morning. 

T is down 0.2 pounds.  I'm down 2.4 pounds.

He's astonished.

I remind him that this is a marathon, not a quick race.  

Losing weight is not easy.

promise me you'll put a pillow over my head (m)

While I was away, Aunt Y was taken to the hospital for congestive heart failure.  Once there, she developed a urinary tract infection, quite common in the elderly.  The UTIs tend to make the elderly confused, so they couldn't send her home from the hospital until they were convinced she is fine to resume independent living.  So, they put her in a rehab facility.

I got home from Florida and went straight to the rehab place.  She was calling for me for two days.  "M's the only one I can talk to," she told her sister, Aunt X. 

I know why that is.  You see, Aunt Y is living between two worlds.  The world of the living and the world of the dead.  She "sees" her husband (who died in 2007) and has long conversations with him.   She insists he is there as surely as I am in front of her when I visit her.  Aunt X loses patience with her and tries to argue that he cannot possibly be there.  I told her I believe her.

So, I am her co-conspirator. 

She was worked up the other night and could not sleep.  By the time I got there, she was quite agitated.  Her husband was "out all night.  I was worried sick.  I didn't know if he drowned, or what."  I quieted her down by saying it was she who was not at home and that Uncle H was probably at her house, looking for her.  I reminded her that she was in a rehab facility and that he might not be aware of that.  She considered this, calmed down and said, "I hadn't thought of that.  That might explain the situation."

My cousins are appalled by how much Aunt Y has slipped these past few weeks.  None of them wants to get old.  I hear them making pacts with each other.  It goes like this:

Steven to Diane--"If I ever get like that, put a pillow over my head."
Butchie to Debbie--"I don't want to get old.  Seriously, shoot me if I get old and lose my mind."
Phillip to me--"Pass the saltshaker.  I don't care about living long if that's what happens to you."
Marie to Kay Kay--"I'm saving all my drugs and taking a bunch at one time when I need it so I go fast."

And then, there's Cousin Patty.  Her method involves food, of course:

"I'm making banana bread laced with big-time barbituates. You won't know what hit you."

three things (m)

I had a boss who always prefaced his remarks with "There are three things..."  It didn't matter what the subject was, he had three observations to make.  Not four, not two.  Three.

Went to Florida last week for Sam's baseball games with his college.  Two days of doubleheaders bookended by two days of sun/fun at the pool.

I noticed three things:

1. I was not the biggest person at the pool by a longshot.
2. My bathing suit definitely is too big.
3. I look much, much better with a tan.

play nice? (lyn)

Alexander arrives home last night from “the best time of my life.”  He is tan, happy and brimming with news.  “I had pizza and a coke every night for dinner so I could save money for the partying later.”  (The drinking age is 18 in the Bahamas).  “But don’t worry, I drank responsibly.  Unlike some of the others, no one ever had to take care of me.”  And I should be proud of this news?

Alexander gets up late and asks for eggs.  I love making scrambled eggs.  I don’t know if it’s because they are easy to make and hard to screw up, or if I like watching the eggs quickly transform from a liquid-y mass to something more solid.  I like making them much more than eating them.  While Alexander is having eggs, I make the perfect salad with portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, and burrata cheese.

Alexander is not happy that I’ve gotten tickets for an off-Broadway play called Play Nice.  But he agrees to come.  Really, he has no choice.  Within ten minutes of this 90-minute play we both know it’s going to be dreadful.  It is so bad that despite the very small theater and the exit door near the stage, three people get up and walk out.  I whisper to Alexander, “Don’t ever do that.  If you are ever at a play and want to leave, wait for intermission.  It’s disrespectful to the actors not to.”  He whispers back, “Don’t worry.  I’m never going to another play again.”  The play drags on.  It’s laughably bad and some in the theater are doing just that.  And then five minutes before the play ends, an elderly couple (the wife with a cane) slowly and loudly make their way gingerly down the stairs, across the stage, and out the door.  It’s an amazing display of rudeness.

As we are walking home, we pass a street vendor selling pretzels.  “You owe me,” my son says.  I buy him a pretzel and have some of it.  I feel liberated that I am not tracking points, though I know I’ve been careless this past week.  One more week of liberation and then I promise to pay more attention.

Play Nice?  More like Play Horrible.  But I do enjoy the company.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

flying (lyn)

On December 10, Alexander and I sit in front of my computer and read of U Penn’s decision to defer him.  It is sad for both of us.  A few weeks ago, while he’s at school, Alexander asks me to logon to a site that has announced their decisions and the result is positive.  He then says, “Okay, from now on, you can see the decisions first.”  Well, so far that strategy has worked beautifully.

I have become addicted to a site called College Confidential.  Other anxious moms write.  I feel I’m not alone.  All the what if’s….so many of them.

The last two weeks of March is traditionally the time when most colleges release their regular decisions. This is what March Madness is really about, not the NCAA.  So today I am going to boast, because I cannot contain my excitement.  I am so ecstatically happy. 

The decisions of top schools can really go either way.  It feels almost random.  Because each school receives so many more qualified kids than they have spaces for, it is more common than not for a qualified student to get waitlisted or rejected.  Some even refer to the selection process of the very top schools as a lottery.  So luck, without doubt, plays a role.

But when nine top schools say yes, they want Alexander, can anyone have that much luck?  Perhaps they see what I see that my son has never seen:  a terrific kid with that little bit of something special.

Here’s a recap, with some details.

U Michigan: ACCEPTED
This comes via email on December 17. 

U-Wisconsin: ACCEPTED
I just happen to logon to their website one night in December, and there it is, the magical word, Congratulations.

Washington University in St. Louis, College of Arts and Sciences: ACCEPTED
Unexpectedly, an email arrives on March 11, inviting Alexander to log on to their site.  The news is good; I text Alexander who is at school to call me.  He is beyond thrilled when he hears the news. The official letter he later receives says, This year we received a record number of nearly 29,000 applications for our freshman class of 1,500.”  This is one of Alexander’s top choice schools; he even considered applying early but decided instead to go for a high-reach school.  

Cornell, College of Arts and Sciences: ACCEPTED
Like the other ivies, Cornell officially releases their results at 5pm on March 30.  So we are taken totally by surprise when Cornell sends an email on March 14, which we expect to say, “We will be posting results on March 14.”  Instead it reads, Your application to Cornell University has been reviewed by the admissions selection committee, and I am writing to tell you that you will be offered admission to Cornell.  Although the Ivy League schools won’t officially notify students of their admission decisions until later this month, we wanted to share this good news with you know."  Cornell is also a school Alexander considered applying to early.  He ‘s been invited (at their cost) to visit for a weekend.  He’s planning to go up on April 17-18, and is so excited.

Northwestern, College of Arts and Sciences: ACCEPTED
This comes as an email on March 14, totally ahead of the schedule we were told. 

University of Rochester:  ACCEPTED
This big envelope arrives on Friday, March 25.

This big envelope also arrives on Friday, March 25.  All letters that begin Congratulations are fantastic letters.  But this one is particularly special as the Director of Admissions handwrites a little note.  He quotes something from the teacher recs, which Alexander has never seen.  So on his acceptance letter the dean writes, “Someone who knows you well told us, 'he has a voracious appetite for knowledge and a strong will to grow as a human being.'  After receiving your application we can see why, Alexander!"  The letter also states, “The admission process this year was highly competitive.  We have received applications from more than 7,700 talented students for 760 places in the class.”  It is disappointing, though, to also receive in the packet a letter from the Financial Aid office saying we don’t qualify for need-based aid.

Hamilton: ACCEPTED
At 8pm on Friday, March 25, I click on the site and read in big bold letters, “Congratulations on your acceptance!”  The financial aid package is just okay.  It is interesting how different schools interpret "meet 100% demonstrated need."

Vanderbilt: ACCEPTED
I’m walking out the door Friday night around 8:45 to go to a party at Penny’s.  I’m in the lobby and my doorman says, “Oh, you got an envelope.”  I look at this big envelope from Vanderbilt that says on the outside, Congratulations, and it’s as if I’ve never seen a Congratulations letter before.  Each one is truly thrilling and feels like a first.  I later read on this school’s website, “Vanderbilt received a total of 24,756 applications for the class of 2015, a 14 percent increase from last year. As of the mailing day, 15.45 percent of those applicants were offered admission.”  This morning, I go through the package and find a financial aid folder.  (Hamilton and Colgate are the only other schools that have included a decision on financial aid at the same time as the decision).  I need to re-read and re-check what I’ve read several times.  It is a staggering amount.  Vanderbilt has moved to the top of Alexander’s list.  He is falling in love. 

We are so thrilled.  I have never seen Alexander more happy.  We are counting the days until Wednesday, when he hears from his top three schools, Duke, Penn and Dartmouth.  These are among the true lottery schools.  Decisions are released at 5pm for the Ivies, and 6pm for Duke.  We are both nervous, but as I tell him and he agrees, “Whatever the outcome, no one is going to feel sorry for you.”

I wake up smiling and get up early, smiling.  I am flying without wings. 

(I know this post has nothing to do with dieting.  It's just that sometimes the news is so good it overwhelms everything else.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

a night out with john (lyn)

John, whom I haven’t seen since last February, is picking me up at 6:30.  I am 10 pounds lighter than when I last saw him, and have chosen my going-out staple, the black Wolford pencil skirt.  He arrives on time, and we give each other a big hug.  It feels good.

 “So where do you want to go?” he asks.  He remembers that I love lobster and steak and suggests a few restaurants.  We decide on Morton’s, a fabulous midtown steakhouse.  We even find a parking space, so that has to portend a great night ahead.

He takes my hand as we are walking the couple of blocks to the restaurant and comments, “Even your hands feel smaller.”  I can’t believe that’s true but I think it’s cute that he thinks that.  It amuses me how different men and women are about their weights.  If a woman gains three pounds, she agonizes over what to wear and hopes no one will notice.  Men don’t think that way.  “I’ve gained weight since the last time you saw me.  Don’t I look bigger?” John announces shamelessly.  “I’m 230; look, doesn’t my face look rounder?”  At 5’10, I suppose he could loose a little, but he has such a nice style I don’t notice.  He looks the same to me.  Attractive.  Well dressed.  With an open and welcoming face.

The meal is, as expected, wonderful.  The large warm onion bread with butter is soft and scrumptious.  We start with that, and I know I am not going to be paying attention to points, even when I see the astronomical calorie count next to the steaks.  We split a tuna tartare and avocado appetizer.  I get the gigantic medium rare signature cut New York strip (wet-aged) and take home half; it is perfectly prepared.  John lets me chose the vegetable and though I want the creamed spinach, I order the jumbo asparagus with a balsamic glaze because it's only 130 calories, as if that will compensate for the rest of the dinner.  We split the key lime pie for dessert, and I have two of the best Cosmopolitans I’ve ever had.  

But it’s not the food that makes the evening.  Being with John is easy.  There are no pretenses. I am comfortable with him, and can say whatever I want.  I like his good manners.  He is very much a gentleman, and I like that.  He sometimes surprises me with interests I don’t know he has.  Like photography, or the magic of illusions.  Or that he cooks.

I know he will read this, but there is nothing I would want to write and don’t.  I hope we see each other again soon.  Thirteen months between dates is just too long. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

rain (lyn)

Lots to do today besides obsess over the remaining college decisions that are expected this week and next.

It’s a miserable, cold and rainy, sleety, slushy day so I skip Weight Watchers.  That, and the fact that this past week has been a major eating week, and the same is expected for the next  ten days or so.

I’m happy to leave the house after spending all morning getting more anxious by reading College Confidential…a helpful website that is custom-made for mothers like me.  It seems near miraculous to get into any top school today, given how fierce and qualified the competition is.  When did so many kids get so smart? 

I meet Meredith for a pleasant afternoon concert.  I’d gotten us $4 tickets for a Broadway play called Rain.  It’s basically a concert of 30 or so Beatle songs, sung by four excellent impersonators.  We rock away the afternoon with a group of other like-people.  Emotions are evoked as I listen to the music and watch the accompanying slide show.  Music is so embedded into the culture of the 60's and early 70's that separating the two is impossible.  We sit next to a well-dressed,  attractive age-appropriate single guy.  Meredith turns to me and says, “You should ask him out.”  I think about how I can give him my card.  But then he begins to talk.  I mean really talk, as in, "Please, I have so much to tell.  Can you listen?  Maybe you can help me?"  He of course doesn't say this, but it is implied.  We quickly learn that his ex-girlfriend's mother died within 15 minutes of being bitten by killer ants.  That this same ex-girlfriend has a son who is a sociopath and lives in Buffalo.  And that before his current girlfriend, he was divorced but still living with his wife.  As the concert progresses, he talks more.  He takes out his Blackberry and shows us an email that begins Dear Jon(athan).  It's a break up email from his ex of two years who cannot give him the many "hugs and kisses" she knows he needs.  He loses his attractiveness quickly and I drop out of the conversation.   Meredith is kind and offers him  the advice he is seeking.  Then he tells us his son is a senior in high school.  I jump back into the conversation and ask, “Where’s your son thinking of going next year?”  And he says his son has some issues and probably will live at home, and, “Besides, it's so different with kids today.  When I was graduating from high school, everyone was going to college to avoid the draft.  Kids today don’t seem that motivated to go to college.”  Okay, now I know he’s not for me.  We clearly live on different planets. Some people are better off just not speaking.

I’m meeting Corinne at six for a BAFTA reception at HBO followed by a screening for Mildred Pierce, so I decide to hang out in midtown rather than go home.  I pop into a favorite lunch place that I used to go to when I was working called Pret A Manger.  I peruse the sandwiches, all of which list the calorie count.  Most are between 450-600.  But then I see the Wrap section, described as “ fresh natural ingredients wrapped in low calorie, all natural tortillas.”  I chose the Spicy Shrimp and Cilantro Wrap based solely on its 290 calorie count.

The reception turns out to be much better that the expected cheese and grapes.  No, this one includes an open bar, mini shepherd’s pies, shrimp in a curry sauce, lamb in a pastry dough, exotic cheeses with truffles, and other high-end delicious-looking passed appetizers.  I say no to all of them and drink only seltzer water.

While I don’t measure and weigh and track food any more, the weight-watchers lifestyle has become an integral part of my life.  And most importantly, it’s not all that difficult to live this way.  18 months after starting, and I'm still amazed by the results.

Monday, March 21, 2011

stocking up on basics (lyn)

It’s raining.  Alexander is gone until Saturday.  I am restless.  Every twenty minutes I’m checking my emails to see if any schools have written to say they have posted their results.  I’m nervous and obsessed. 

I clean Alexander’s drawers.  Take out the winter sweaters, make a separate pile of clothes he hasn’t worn in more than a year and probably never will (some still have tags on them).  Then I come to his college T-shirts.  I cannot escape reminders of the impending decisions.  At Horace Mann, seniors are not allowed to wear any college shirts until May 1st, which is a fair rule.  So his fourteen T's get divided into three piles: Schools he has applied to and still hasn’t heard from (Alexander will not allow these shirts in his drawer for fear of jinxing the outcome).  Schools he visited but did not apply to (these can go in his drawer and he’ll wear them, for now, at home:  Tufts, University of Chicago and Emory).   Two schools he’s gotten into and can now wear (though not at school).  I wonder if he'll keep the shirt of a school that rejects him?  I hope he doesn't have to ponder this ridiculous question.  See, I am obsessed.
I write some emails.  Look at job postings.  Answer a couple.  And then I go grocery shopping to divert my attention.  I spend $83 and am pretty much set for the week on basics. 
Low calorie staples
  • Pringle Light potato chips (3 cans)
  • Laughing Cow (creamy Swiss) wedge cheese (great on a sandwich with the roasted tomatoes)
  • Thomas Bagel Thins
  • Weight Watchers Whipped Cream
  • Mixed berries-cut up strawberries, blueberries and raspberries; perfect in yogurt
  • Baby arugula
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Fage 0% yogurt
  • Grilled portobello mushrooms (love these in my arugula salad)
  • Roasted mixed vegetables (great for lunch or a snack)
  • Roasted brussel sprouts
  • Italian semi-dried tomatoes (perfect in a salad or on cheese in a sandwich)

  • Soy sauce
  • Agata’s homemade balsamic dressing

  • Burrata Cheese ($13 and worth it)

It’s expensive to eat well and not gain weight.  But then, it’s expensive to eat well and gain weight too.  Haven't yet discovered the option for eating cheaply and well.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

pre-trip prep (lyn)

From a New York Times article in 2006:

Almost as entrenched as SAT tutors or senior prom, spring break has become a tradition for seniors at Manhattan’s private schools and a few affluent public schools in the New York suburbs. It involves gathering with several hundred other overachievers for a week or more in the Bahamas or Mexico, unsupervised but for the presence of their fellow travelers in calculus or advanced bio. In other words, not supervised at all.

Tomorrow at 9am Alexander is leaving for Paradise Island.  His passport is up-to-date.  I got him an American Express card, his first.  The reservations are all made.  His airplane seat is assigned.  His room, with two other classmates, is confirmed.  I’ve even made him a rough list of what to pack. 

I go to the Farmer’s Market and splurge on cinnamon Danish twists.  I come home and wake Alexander around ten, then remind him of the few things he still has to do.  “You need to go buy sneakers.  And don’t forget to get suntan lotion, a small tube of toothpaste and shampoo.  Oh, and you should probably pack soon.”  The response is expected but unwelcome:  “Why do you always have to nag?  It’s so annoying?”

Although the to do list is short, it takes Alexander until six to complete it.  And now he’s running late.  He is spending the night with a friend in Riverdale, whose father will drive them to the airport in the morning.  Before leaving, I run through the rules one last time:

  • Never go any where alone
  • Do not take drugs
  • Do not buy drugs (you don’t want to be arrested in a foreign country)
  • Do not over drink (being drunk is unattractive and dangerous)
  • Do not sleep until 1 and miss out on your trip
  • Do not go to the casino with any more money than what you can lose
  • Do not take any gypsy cabs
  • Do not take or receive cell phone calls (each is over $2.00 per minute)
  • Do not forget to text me every morning so I know you’re okay
  • Have fun
I hope he listens.

Friday, March 18, 2011

a birthday poem (lyn)

Alexander writes me a poem for my birthday.  The references are personal and reflect both his warmth and his humor.  I love it:

Dear Mom,

This past year was rather stressful but also fun,
Your input in tough situations made me happy to be your son.
Our times together were great,
From college trips to the Cape.
When Gracie passed, our hearts were filled with pain,
However, she was soon replaced by a cat that’s insane.
Gracie helped design the robot Watson—an incredible feat,
Ellie isn’t as smart, but she is very sweet.
Every night at 10, she turns into a cat that’s possessed,
When she walks on her hind legs I become distressed,
Can you believe she treats me like that when I am a guest?
Remember our trip South that included the Duke tour,
Things got complicated when you tried that detour.
We drove in circles forever around a plantation,
Until we were helped by a nice man at the gas station.
We came to a mudslide that made driving no fun,
And got stuck in a town but could buy a blowgun.
When we crossed the mountain, it seemed like we were in Cannes,
Little did we know, we’d be sleeping at the Inn of the Seven Clans.
It’s so rare to hear you talking about the weight that you’ve lost,
Sometimes I wish you’d have pride for this milestone that you’ve crossed.
Our old picture books are flooded with photos of me,
I wonder if this year there will be pictures of things other than your body.
Dinners with you are nice—we watch “Modern Family” and you bake,
They would be even better if you didn’t try to mix clementines with steak.
I understand you want to stay skinny but I have taste buds too,
Sometimes I worry that you’ll replace my pizza bagels with a box of tofu.
I know you were sad when Becky and Sam returned to their country,
Please realize how much it meant to them when you took them to “Toy Story 3.”
I love spending time with you any time during the day,
You are generous, thoughtful, and smart in many ways.
If you weren’t my mom, I would probably throw a fit,
So have a great 60th, you really deserve it.
My love for you is deep and absolutely not petty,
I just pray that you will never again make squash and call it spaghetti.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

a girly afternoon (lyn)

Valerie is spending the day in the city so we decide to meet.  First stop is Intermix, which describes itself as “a fashion boutique for trendsetters.”  It’s the perfect store for my sister who is a walking ad for all things chic.  I had planned to stay home, relax, and do nothing, so I now need to reorient my day, and think about what to wear and can I go one more day without washing and blow drying my hair?  I decide, yes.  Before leaving the house, I even put on mascara, remembering Valerie’s comment once that “No one our age can look good without it,” or something like that.

We meet at the store around 11, and start looking around.  I see something and ask Val what she thinks.  “Now that you have a nice body you should buy clothes that show it off.”  I pick out a little striped elastic skirt.  “That’s too short.  It’s for someone much younger.”  I gravitate to the solid colors while she is more adventurous.  Valerie has exquisite taste and always looks, as my mother would say, “Put together.”  All my clothes tend to look the same.  I experiment and try on a multi-colored form-fitting jersey dress that only looks good on the hanger. Next, I try on a grey and white cotton dress, also tight.  When I ask for Val’s opinion she gives it.  “It might look good now but it won’t after one washing.  It’s not that special.  I wouldn’t get it.”  I wish she could be my personal fashion consultant.  I happily leave the store empty-handed.

It’s a gorgeous spring day and we decide to go to T-Bar.  It’s filled with women having a leisurely lunch.  I’m still full from last night’s dinner, and have only a beet and pear salad.  I am relieved when Valerie doesn’t want to split an order of fries.

It’s a nice afternoon.  Perfect weather.  Shopping without buying.  Eating well without guilt. And hanging out with my sister.  A beautiful start to this new decade.

lyn's birthday (m)

When my boys were little, someone gave them a book called "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" which is a parody of the familiar tale, told from the wolf's point of view.

Here is my version of Lyn's birthday party last evening.

Planning began weeks ago when her sister, Jeannie, called to suggest we drive down to New York to celebrate Lyn's birthday on her actual birthday.  I agreed to drive us down.  That part was easy.

Next, we enlisted her sister, Valerie, who has an apartment in the city.  Valerie agreed to call Lyn and invite her out to dinner.  Just the two of them.   I mentioned our friend, V, would probably like to join us.  She accepted.

So far so good.

Then came the agonizing over which restaurant to select.  V made suggestions which I passed to Jeannie who forwarded them to Valerie who nixed them. ("I hate that place," she declared when asked about V's suggestion).  Jeannie wanted something "hip and happening."  I nixed that.  I asked Lyn for suggestions for the skating coaches who would be coming to NYC for dinner (not true, but I thought it was a good way to find out what she liked).  Lyn suggested a steak house.  Jeannie went online and saw photos of it and said it looked like a brothel.  Back and forth.  Back and forth went the emails.  After two weeks of this, I would have gone to McDonald's.  We settled on Union Square Cafe.  I can't remember how.

We had a plan (the only thing that would have pre-empted this is if Abby needed me, which she did not).

Jeannie arrives at 12 noon sharp on Wednesday.  It's pouring out.  She's wearing tight black jeans tucked into high black boots with the pointiest toes and a black leather jacket and a black Stetson-style hat.  What is it with this family?  They are always farputst (non-Yiddish translation: all dolled up).

The drive takes 3 hours and 36 minutes to get from my house to 42nd street.  It takes 24 minutes to get from 42nd Street to 43rd Street.  We kill the time talking about such intriguing things as, "Why is it that when you order steak medium, it's served rare?  Did they change the classifications?  Maybe it's like dress sizes.  I was always a size 2, now I'm a size zero!  How can anyone be a zero?" My thoughts exactly.

We arrive at the Westin Hotel in Times Square.  We have an hour to kill.  We decide to go to Saks (I have to pick up Lyn's gift).  Jeannie has a brainstorm.  "Let's save time and have our make-up done by the professionals." Brilliant.  We belly-up to the stools at the Chanel counter.  Someone named Gigi does my make-up.  I tell her not to make me look like The Painted Whore of Babylon.  I can tell she's disappointed she didn't get a customer with high cheekbones.  She does her best.

We finish early (Gigi plays up my eyes and plays down my lips).  We run back to the hotel.  I'm in a sweat  by the time I get to my room.  My face is beet red.  My make-up is running.  I wipe my face a bit and the towel looks like The Shroud of Turin.  Crikey.

I wrap Lyn's gift.  We get in a taxi.  We have to cross town and the traffic is bad.  Valerie calls Jeannie and tells her we will be late.  Jeannie is stressed.  But not too stressed to notice the ribbon on my gift is too long.  Jeannie whips out a Swiss Army knife with a scissors and cuts the ribbon.  She tells the cab to speed up.  He is going too fast.  I decide to put on a seat belt.  The seat belt is already belted behind me.  I pry it loose and clip it on.

We finally get to Valerie's.  Jeannie pays the cabdriver.  I can't get the seatbelt undone.  We look up.  Lyn and Alexander are getting out of a cab and headed to Valerie's apartment.  I can't get the seatbelt undone.  I ask Jeannie to help.  She can't get it undone.  We tell the cabdriver.  He looks at us with dead eyes and says nothing.  I am claustrophobic and starting to panic.  I remember the Swiss Army knife and say, "JEANNIE--CUT THIS OFF ME!" She does.  The cabdriver looks at us with dead eyes. 

We arrive at Valerie's apartment.  You know the rest.  Lyn is shocked.  We have drinks and give Lyn her presents. The Prada bag is exquisite.  I'm thinking of giving my Birkin bag to Susan ahead of schedule and getting the Prada for myself.

We go to the restaurant.  V is there.  The waitress almost blows the surprise that V is there.  Lyn starts to think about why the waitress says, "One" guest is here when there should be "two."  I can't take it anymore.  I push Lyn ahead to the table before she figures it out.

It is great seeing Lyn see V.  We sit down, and have a wonderful two hours.

I get back to the hotel and flop down in the bed.

Party-planning is exhausting, but seeing a friend be so happy is rewarding.

Before I fall asleep, I wonder who is the next friend to turn 60 and realize I have a few years.

I sleep soundly.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

becoming 60 (lyn)

It’s 4pm (no exaggeration) before I eat a thing.

Between phone calls, and emails, and Facebook well-wishers, I find myself smiling all day.  It’s nice to be remembered by so many.  I am glad I made no plans for the day. 

Meredith sent me flowers yesterday.  Gorgeous white roses with daisies. 

And today, an arrangement of hydrangeas and roses arrives from Vivien.  Also in white.  It's as if these two good friends who don’t know each other had coordinated their orders.  Even my apartment looks happy.

At 4:30, I finally sit down and open my cards.  A generous gift from my parents.  An Apple gift card from Hazel.  And many kind words and creative photos.  I think 60 must really sound bad, as I don’t think I’ve gotten this much attention and kindness for any birthday, ever.

Alexander surprises me and comes home from school saying he’ll be able to join Valerie and me for dinner. He has a big math test tomorrow but decides he probably won’t do well, so, “I may as well go out and not do well versus stay at home and still not do well.”

At 6:45, we meet Valerie at her apartment in the city.  A few minutes later her doorbell rings and she opens the door saying, “Oh, we have a couple of guests.” In walk Jean and M.  I am speechless.  I had absolutely no idea that this was even a possibility.  In fact, earlier in the day I speak to both of them, and nothing in either conversation even remotely reveals they are in a car on their way to NY.  It is a wonderful feeling to be caught off guard for a surprise of such friendship and love.  Their coming is gift enough, but they don’t think so.

Jean and her family surprise me with the newest Kindle, something I’ve been coveting for a while.  M gets me a Mia, my favorite new beauty toy.  I had to give Robyn’s back to her since her face heeled.  She also hands me a very generous gift certificate to Saks.  And then Valerie gives me a gorgeous structured tote from Prada saying, “You need a grown up bag.”  It’s timeless and stunning. 

We split into two cabs; M, Jean and I in one cab, Valerie and Alexander in another.  We head downtown to Union Square Café, a popular and wonderful restaurant.  We arrive and the hostess says, “Oh, someone from your party is already here.”  I correct her and say, “Oh, you mean two people,” and she fires back, “No, one (even holding up a single finger to make her point).”  M grabs my arm and pushes me forward before I have any time to wonder what happened to either Valerie or Alexander.  We get to our table and there’s my friend V, also from Boston.  A cascade of surprises over two days.  I am again dumbstruck.

V brings little cookies for everyone from Momofuku, and hands me a gift certificate to my favorite casual clothiers, All Saints.  I hardly notice the fabulous food we eat, as it is just so much fun to be among my family and friends.

I know my mom would come if she could have.  But my dad needs her now more than I do, as he recovers from his knee surgery.

It’s hard for me to be articulate when I am so touched.  The generosity and love of my family and friends touches me deeply.  So much planning has gone into my two very special celebrations.   Really, if everyone could experience their 60th birthdays in the way that I have, starting at age 40, they’d be counting down the days.