College Tours: A new chapter in parenting.

  • 5 Colleges
  • 3 Hotel Nights
  • 2 Nights in Extended Family Guest Rooms
  • Too many meals out
  • 3 Meals at College Cafeterias
  • 800 Miles
  • 1 Urgent Care Visit
  • 2 Sets of Antibiotics and Meds

I have entered a new chapter in parenting called The College Search and Application Process (C-SAP?). Some college search and application information and many skills can be passed from family to family and taught by agencies and organizations. Still, each child and parent/child relationship is different therefore each journey is individual. For me this is going to be a journey of learning to back off.

For instance, on the one hand, a young adult might be able to eloquently ask questions in a tour and talk to students easily but when faced with an admission counselor behind a desk that same young adult might only give one word answers. This could be difficult for the parent who knows that a more in depth answer would show what a marvelous, committed, unique and talented individual that young adult is. (All hypothetical. Of course. But you bet your a** I jumped in and started asking more specific leading questions.)

Here’s the thing, a child of 15 or 16 is almost ready, wanting to be ready, to make big decisions about his/her life and they are also, and at the same time, a parent’s baby. Nothing illustrates this dichotomy more clearly than the sick young adult. In the weeks leading up to this trip the snot had been flowing. We’d gone through miles of facial tissues and plenty of antihistamines. I’d been hoping that the crud would magically disappear when their vacation started. Instead, it multiplied and I had two sick kids. Nothing doing. They’d sleep in the car and finally get some rest away from constant homework, play and music rehearsals. We’d soldier on and do the tours anyway although I was apprehensive about how son #1’s sample voice lesson would go.

We were fine until that moment at college #3. There we were in a standard double dorm room. Two desks, two bureaus, two dressers, two beds and about twenty five parents and their children. That’s when I looked over at son #2 and saw that although he was in a winter hat and coat, he was shivering and had turned a shade somewhere between mauve and mint. We had already visited the urgent care office at the behest of my cousin who, after hearing both boys blow their noses and hack up a lung for two days convinced me that one could never be too careful. That’s how we found out that son #1 had sinusitis and that son #2 probably just had a bad cold. That hadn’t stopped the Drive-thru Doc from prescribing both kids a cocktail of antibiotics (just in case), allergy meds (?), and steroids to help with the inflammation. The group and son #1 continued the tour while I took son #2 back to the admissions office, wrapped him in a blanket and started him on the antibiotics. Good thing I did because the lab result for strep came back positive.

Once the antibiotics kicked in, both sons were leap frogging from one hotel bed to the next and having pillow fights but I was left wondering, how are these children (for whom I fill the bathroom with steam and rub their chest with vaporub and make sure they take their meds and give family medical history) going to be okay without me? They just are, and I know it. I know it from letting them go every other week as I share custody with their father. I know it as we leave each other for travel to camps and schools and conferences. I know it in the eyes of the accomplished and sensitive young men they are becoming.

My ability to back off, however, is less assured.


The Photo Journalism Continues- Monhegan Island

Yesterday, I posted some pictures of my journey to NYC in hopes that I’d make up for the huge lag in written posts that I’ve made this summer. Today, I’m taking you on a virtual tour of Monhegan Island and Midcoast Maine.

I bid on the ferry ride and stay at the “Trailing Yew” inn through the Maine Women’s Lobby auction. MWL is doing amazing things to support women and families in Maine and I thank them!

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First stop: Mt. Batte in Camden. Think… Down to the Sea With Mr. McGee.

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My cairn from the rocky mountain top at the end of a lovely hike. My husband and I were pleased to find wild blueberries nestled amongst the rocks and nibbled just like SAl. Or were they tremendous mouthfuls like Little Bear?!?

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In Rockland… a fabulous dinner at FOG Bar and Cafe. BBQ Tofu topped with tempura pickle strips on a bed of cilantro pesto cauliflower.


Followed by breakfast at the Atlantic Baking Company…

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On the ferry to Monhegan from Port Clyde.

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The view from our room at The Trailing Yew. Fabulous food, a great group of artist visitors, and oil lamps. So fun!

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The island was all abloom with flowers– the air full of sea roses and balsam scent. These climbing roses caught my eye.

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Me on “Pebble Beach.” The “pebbles” were more like boulders or as we said, dinosaur eggs.

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So majestic and magical! We hiked the trails all around the island and let me tell you… it was some strenuous hiking.

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A wonderful sunset on a VERY hot day. Good-by Monhegan. We’ll be back!

Get your head in the game.

It is the Wednesday after vacation, and I’m having a hard time getting my head in the game. I haven’t written in a while due to work I’ve been doing for Creative Bookings but each day I don’t write feels like a tiny puzzle piece of me gets shoved under the couch by mistake– lost until someone discovers it in a mound of dust bunnies, dog toys, and lone sweaty boy socks.  Luckily, NESCBWI is coming up. I know I can count on the conference for 1 part inspiration, 2 parts love and support, and 1 part alone time.



The change in weather has been especially difficult. Driving home on the east coast I went from summer and palm trees in Florida, to beautiful wild flowers in South Carolina, to dogwood trees in Virginia, to redbud trees in Maryland, to new leaves and flowering fruit trees in New York City…


Look at how beautiful Central Park was!

to forsythia in Connecticut, to um… tree limbs that barely have buds in Maine. It’s been cold and crappy here. Anyway. As my father says. Buck up, Sport!



Everybody wants something in New York City. This squirrel was totally hamming it up for us. I missed the picture when s/he stood up on her/his hind legs, but you get the eagerness here, right?



Oh, Lego engineers. You are full of awesome. By the way, Liberty Island is closed until July 4th and Ellis Island is closed indefinitely due to Hurricane Sandy.

Fantastic Friday!


I’m off to Italy. Creative Chaos will return in late August. In honor of the Olympics, a poem from the Poetry Foundation archives.


The sudden thuck of landing
The arrow made in the mark
Of the center lifted and
Loosened his skin. And so he
Stood, hearing it like many
Thrusting breaths driven to ground.
He abandoned the long light
Flight of arrows and the slow
Parabolas bows dream of
For the swifter song beyond
Flesh. Song of moments. The earth
Turned its molten balance.
He stood hearing it again:
The precise shudder the arrow
Sought and returned to, flaming.

Vicki Hearne, “The Archer” from Tricks of the Light: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2007 by Vicki Hearne.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Source: Tricks of the Light: New and Selected Poems (The University of Chicago Press, 2007)

On the road to the NESCBWI conference: Part 3: Friendships

If you’ve been following my April break journey here, and here you’ll know that I was in New Jersey yesterday. I had a lovely time visiting Meg Wiviott, talking writing with my VCFA friends, and lunching with a friend from my DC days.

The drive to Springfield from NJ was bearable because he gave me CD’s from hilarious comedians. I listened for as long as they lasted– sadly not the entire three hour drive but they got me through a traffic jam when everyone was rubber necking at a non-accident.

The rest of the way, I was able to contemplate friendship and aging and other existential concepts. My friends are far flung. I’ve met them in summer camp and college, through volunteering and in Vermont. Some I’ve kept from the old DC neighborhood. My book club and writing friends have been in my life the longest.

Social networking sites have certainly helped me reconnect with many and  stay in touch with most but I often close out a session on Facebook feeling more lonely then I when I started checking everyone’s status. In my current situation, with hubby deployed, it is difficult to make the time to see people in person. This week I took the time to refuel with friends face to face. I laughed and hugged, and sipped tea with people who stimulate my mind, reflect my emotions, and give me the kick in the butt I need to keep going.

Today, I’ll be swamped with hugs and handshakes. There will be over 500 attendees at the Annual Spring NESCBWI Conference. To each, I extend the following challenge– meet five new people each day. You never know, that person sitting next to you at the keynote speech, may just be a new friend.

Hello, Springfield, Mass. We’ll be here all weekend!

The road to the NESCBWI Conference: Part 2: Moving on

If you are a parent, you may remember the exhaustion that accompanied those first months with a new born. However, as with the pain of childbirth, dirty diapers, and ear infections, you may have forcibly siphoned those excess memories (ala Harry Potter and the Pensieve) to make room for other more important thoughts. I had. Or thought I had.

For the last two days I watched my sister-in-law exist in the zombie state that is the milk machine, sleep deprived way of a woman with a child under two and a new born. She is my hero. Despite her situation, she was grace and kindness and patience in a way that I don’t remember ever exhibiting.

She is willing to embrace toddler time in a way I never could. You remember toddler time right? We will eventually get to that-there playground 20 yards away but only after we pick each dandelion along the way. No, I  hoisted the kiddo and off we went. This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate toddler time, the magic of discovery, or the pleasure of the teachable moment– I’m just not practiced in its workings at present. That is, in some ways, what this vacation is about. Trying to slow down long enough to pick the dandelions along the way.

Nevertheless, it was time to move on and leave the Cutie Cutes and their wonderful mother and father behind. Time to get behind the wheel and drive to the next stop.

Meg Wiviott is the author of Benno and the Night of Broken Glass (SLJ best picture books 2010, Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Gold Medal for Multicultural Books, CCBC 2011 Best Choice List , and the Gelette Burgess Children’s Book Award for Multicultural Picture Book) AND lucky for me she is a dear friend. Today and tomorrow we get to catch up a bit in her home state of New Jersey. We will talk about books and writing and friends. I will nap. I will read. I may even go for a run. All in my own good time.

Home Again Friday: Puerto Rico in Pictures and Poems

The last little piggie may have cried, “wee-wee” all the way home, but on our way home from Rincón, Puerto Rico my boys and I just cried. After an amazing week of surf, sand, sun, snorkel, and scuba, the last thing we wanted was to come back to the bare winter of Maine. There are no palm trees in Maine. More important, in Maine, we don’t have the attentive care of my parents who lavished us with food and fun.

Today, a slide show and two intimate-moment-Mama poems.

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Our Son
by Anna J. Boll

gentle eyes,
easy smile,
gorilla arms,
fuzz on upper lip

in him
i see you,
frozen in photos,
boy to man

he catches me
shakes his head,
a crazy mother,
full of pride

by Anna J. Boll

House lights twinkle
on dark island hills.
like maracas,
shakes palm fronds,
and chills the air

Long ago,
I wrapped two hands
around my big belly.
I wrap a blanket
around us both.

Coqui peep,
roosters crow,
dogs bark,
we wait.

We expect
and orange
to tint the clouds.

But the light
The sky
No show stopping

Just you,
and me,
and a moment

Monday Thoughts

Sometimes when I think I have nothing to say, I actually have so much to say that I don’t know where to start. 

My sons have had very little writing in their new school. Everything seems very test driven and rote. They seem to scratch the surface of topics without diving in long enough to really swim in the information or let it soak in their hair. You need this soaking so that the new knowledge can leak out of you drip by drip by drip into assignments certainly, but into your everyday life. The new knowledge needs to be secured to other pieces of information that you already have at your retrieval to stick for good (or at least a good long time).

Writing about what you know requires us to look the information square on and realize what we do NOT know. Where the questions and holes in our information lie. Then, an assignment needs to provide time to fill in those holes. My eldest is dealing with a good writing assignment that has come with little support writing support and even less time spent on research skills. Had I given this assignment, it would take a good month to complete in a classroom and it would include numerous exemplars, group writing time, peer and adult conferences. Maybe I should go back to teaching.

Conference registration goes live online on January 24th. Will we be ready. I sure hope so. The site was in testing phase last week and all the Regional Advisors weighed in with their comments. There is much to work on. I’m a little nervous but know everything will work out fine.

The family is headed to Maine this weekend. I won’t be able to see everyone but hope to see a few people. The kids want to see friends. We are gathering all our bundling clothes and snow pants and the kids are so excited to make snow angels. Me too!
My parents are off to sunshine and warmth in their annual pilgrimage to Puerto Rico. "Glub-glub Mom!" That’s "Have fun, Mom!" in scuba. (That’s Mom on the left.)

Cows. I’ve been thinking in cow for the last couple of months and now I’m busy drawing them. I wake up thinking of cows. Now it is time to leave the computer and go draw. 

School Tomorrow

You may have noticed that I have been absent from the blogosphere for the last two weeks. Or you may not have missed me at all. (Read: shameless plug for pity and love.) 

I have been writing diligently. Unfortunately, I’ve not been writing for my work in progress. I’ve been working on my freelance writing. This is fine because it brings me money, (must complete timesheet and turn it in) and experience writing to deadline, but it does not fulfill me in the way that working on my novel manuscript does. I’ve also been noticing an itchy feeling that starts where my neck and shoulder meet and tingles down my arms into my fingers. It is a feeling between longing and stress and usually happens when I think about how many months have past (4) since the Scholastic editor told me she wanted to see the completed manuscript. She was very kind and told me 6 mos to a year was fine and that she’d remember me and the manuscript but I fear that she will not remember me at all. Or that she will get a similar, better manuscript in that time. Or that she’ll come to her senses and realize that my manuscript sucks. (Read: shameless plug for pity and love.) 

My kiddos go back to school tomorrow after a shortened vacation. They kind of got jipped when we moved from Maine to Maryland. (A late end date and an early start date.) So we will cut the summer short when it is still 90 degrees, they will return to the grind, NESCBWI Conference planning will ramp up (Call For Proposals anyone? They are due on September 15th.), and I will get my writing time back.

Moving has it’s ups and downs.  While everyone is very kind in our development, I’m not really a development kind of girl. We have a year lease here and then I think we’ll make some other decision. I’m trying to keep an open mind.  There are a lot of positives about being in this area, the most important is that I’m close to family and have been able to take advantage of this while hubby goes away on business, etc. Also, we took a spontaneous camping trip to Shenandoah National Park this past weekend which was just amazing. The mountain scenery made me think of Kerry Madden

 and her lovely Gentle’s Holler series . Books  2 and 3 are on my TBR pile. I’m excited about getting back to that as well. Right now I have two kids itching for us to finish Chamber of Secrets and take them to meet their new teachers. I promise I won’t be a stranger.