My Mother’s Face

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It actually took my breath away.  It made me cry.  It filled me with love.  It made me realize how precious life is.  It made time freeze.

Yesterday was day like so many others.  I sang with Voce Regales, a female vocal group formed about 4 years ago by our church’s music minister, Peter Smith.  I have been singing in choral groups since I was in 4th grade, so, that makes it…4 plus 5 minus 52…a really long time!

When I was a kid, my father used to clear his throat.  This way I knew he was there (never always sure about that – he worked a lot and had lots of things going on) and where he was sitting in case I could glance over and smile, wink or discreetly wave.

But my mother was always there having already dressed me in the appropriate outfit, baked the requisite item for the punch and goodies afterward and delivered me to the appropriate venue with minutes to spare after the boots were removed and choir chair found.

If Dad was the wild card, Mom was the Queen.  If Dad was the variable, Mom was the absolute.

Have you ever noticed how little we think about the absolute and how the wild card gets all of the attention.  Yesterday that thought was like a punch in the stomach for me.  My lovely lively mother sat at St. Peter’s Church staring at me with the most devoted face of love I have ever witnessed and all I could do was cry.

To gain composure I looked a little further in the distance, several rows behind me and saw the parents of one of my favored choir members.  What did I see?  I saw the look of absolute love for their daughter.

Most profound for me, however, was the reality that I still had the opportunity to see that look of love and how lucky I am to have at least one of my parents.  To have made it into middle age and still have a parent is a lovely thing.

If your parents are alive, give them a call today for no reason, only to ask about them and offer love.

Life is good!

Jude

Twitter: MidMajorMom

Twitter: JudeCaserta

AthleticBudgetCoach.com

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That One Flight Segment Home

While I know that today is the busiest travel day of the year and TSA rules are causing a political and practical stir, you cannot underestimate the power of one…one flight segment.

When we had the “college talk” years ago we instituted very few rules about schools.  The one I was very firm about was the “one flight segment” rule.  This was the one where we wanted him to select a school no further than one airport you can get to without a plane change.  From Buffalo that did not limit him very much.  It only took California off of the radar. 

He can get to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Baltimore/DC in one easy flight.  Ironically, Fairfield (50 miles from NYC) takes almost as long to drive as it does to fly when you consider getting to the airport, parking and pat down.

When our son was a freshman we made his Thanksgiving flight before school even started.  It seemed like a good idea at the time but we ended up giving up his return flight because he needed to get back for swim practice.  Still, I do not regret that because it was far less expensive in August than it would have been in the fall.

When his roommate from Sacramento, CA became ill several years ago it brought the distance issue much closer.  His mother needed to make arrangements to fly to Connecticut and could not get there for almost 24 hours.  They think we’re crazy until something like that happens.

Here’s to those freshman parents who are welcoming their children home for the first time since their college adventure began…and to the rest of us who are happy to have a full house, even if it is only for a few days!

Life is good!

Jude

Twitter: MidMajorMom

Twitter: JudeCaserta

AthleticBudgetCoach.com

15 Hour Drive for 2 Minutes and 10 Seconds

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It’s true. We are THOSE parents and darn proud of it!

I have always been fascinated by the parents of student athletes and now that I am one of them I understand so much more. Many of the coaches I work with tell me about the wonderful things their parents do for the program and believe me, most of them are not sexy…just a great way for them to save money and to save time.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a Canisius College Women’s Soccer game on the campus of Fairfield University. We arrived on campus Friday evening to attend his swim meet at the University of Connecticut the next day. This was the first time a Canisius event occurred on campus while I was there for a swim meet since my son started there in 2008.

Decked out in my Canisius College Athletics jacket, I found the visitors section by listening for the cheers from their hale hearty fans. I would venture a guess that the entirety of the visitors section had some sort of DNA match with someone on the field.

I introduced myself as a member of the Canisius athletic staff and enjoyed meeting nice folks who share the student athlete parent bond. We talked about the competition in the conference and the frequency of the games. We compared notes on distance traveled and they commended me for traveling so far each week for our son’s meets.

My favorite conversation was with a mom who wanted to let me know how much easier it was to be the parent of a swimmer rather than one of an outdoor sport. She supposed it was much easier to sit in a natatorium than to battle the elements. She thought it more comfortable to be indoors and while she is mostly correct she does not understand how oppressive the heat can be in a pool. When you are cold you can add layers but when you are in the pool and sweating from the high heat and humidity you cannot take off your skin.

My answer was simple. I gave her the weather issue and agreed we have it easier to be indoors. But I left her with a thought. If their child was a starter or even a top layer substitute they watched them play for 1-1 ½ hours in a game that lasts about 2 hours total start to finish. But with swimming you could attend a meet which lasts 3-4 hours (including diving but that’s another blog) and your child could potentially compete less than a minute if they are a sprinter. Whoosh, they are done!

If this seems like complaining, I’m not. Actually I’m honored to be able to attend so many meets and grateful for the time and means to do it.

This week it will be at least 20 hours…but he may swim a longer event so maybe it will be 4 ½ minutes!

Life is good!

Jude

Twitter: @JudeTheFoodie

Facebook: Jude TheFoodie

JudeTheFoodie.com

We Survived the Teen Years!

My baby is 20 years old today.  We made it!  The teen years are now in the rearview mirror…where did they go?

It was just 2003 when he was in 8th grade at St. Peter’s School in Lewiston.  They were fundraising for their class trip to Splash Mountain in Erie, PA.  There were only 16 kids in his class at that point and they seemed to have passed that petty junior high nonsense. 

Age 14, as a freshman at Canisius High School, he endured one of the biggest disappointments of his life: getting cut from the swim team.  It was a hugely humbling experience which he ultimately turned around by working out, eating better and swimming more with his club.  By senior year he was voted a captain and contributed to another championship.

Age 15 was frustrating for him because his high school friends were largely located 45 minutes from home with the reliance of parents to get them together.  This was the year where all he did was wish away time…I wish I could drive…I wish I could just go out with my friends without it being a huge production…I wish I were older…I wish…I wish…I wish…

Age 16 – oh, how I remember this day!  Anthony, being Anthony, had done all the research and knew what pieces of ID we needed to get his learners permit.  He probably lined them all up in a folder, clearly marked.  I had the folder with me when I dropped him off at school with the understanding I would pick him up immediately following school and bring him to the DMV.  I picked him up but realized when were nearly on the Grand Island bridge that I forgot the neat folder of ID in my office.  We had to go back, delaying us about 35 minutes.  We got to the DMV at 3:55pm and the woman at the window would not process the paperwork and let him take the test.  You see, there was a clearly marked sign explaining that right next to the window…in four languages so it would be understood by all parents and guardians from all walks of life and continents.  Needless to say, he was not a happy camper.  Bad mother.  I did bring him to the Power Vista parking lot near Niagara University and let him drive around there.  If I was busted, I didn’t care.  Arrest me for letting my “undocumented minor” drive around a parking lot!

Age 17 – college applications were nearly done and waiting for guidance to complete the process.  Little did I know, that was when the true teen angst (his and mine) would begin.  My angst: him driving at night.  His angst: where to go to college.

Age 18 and 19 – freshman and sophomore year at Fairfield University, accounting major and swim team…

We had dinner with him on Friday, saw him swim at UConn Saturday and took him to breakfast this morning.  Zoom zoom…he’s 20!

The older I get, the faster time goes!

Life is good!

Jude

Twitter: MidMajorMom

Twitter: JudeCaserta

AthleticBudgetCoach.com

Please Don’t Come to My Swim Meets – You’ll Embarrass Me!

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From June 2008 until October 2008 there was a not so silent argument going on in our house.  Our son decided to attend Fairfield University and “walk-on” to the varsity swim team.  His coach explained that if you go to practice and work hard you will be in the line-up.  You may be swimming “off events” but you will be in the line-up.  What an incredible opportunity for a kid who earned full tuition – a chance to be on a team!  But, no, he did not want us there.  He didn’t know what to expect and did not want the extra pressure of having us in the stands in case he did not actually get to swim.

For those of you who are not familiar with a competitive swim team please see my next blog “My Child is Enrollment Management?”  As I describe, mid-major swim teams traditionally are used more as enrollment management, with few scholarship dollars, than responsible for generating revenue in ticket sales.

If you know me, you know my husband and I try to attend most of our son’s swim meets.  Last year we only missed one and it was one that was rescheduled due to an equipment malfunction.  Remember, every meet is an away meet when your child goes to school seven hours from home.  So, how did we get to this point when two years ago he didn’t even want us in the humid cavern known as a natatorium?

The first meet was at Holy Cross, another wonderful Jesuit institution of higher learning in Worcester, MA.  My husband and I insisted we would attend his first NCAA Division I sporting event – you would have needed an act of Congress to keep us away.  We would respect his wishes the rest of the season, but the first meet? Of course we were going to be there!

Sure enough, when he climbed on the block, pushing his goggles on his eyes with the palms of his hand like I had seen him do 100’s of times before, I could see the smile on his face when they introduced him.  In lane one, swimming for Fairfield University, Anthony Caserta!  I could see my husband’s chest expand – nothing can describe the feeling of having your child compete in intercollegiate athletics – absolutely nothing.  I can safely say it is right up there with marriage and birthing babies – seriously, it is!  It is the validation that all of their time and effort in training and academics was worth it.  It is also validation that all of your parental sacrifice of time and treasure helped them achieve a dream.

So, how did I end up here, at a Courtyard Marriott in Worcester, MA following his second meet, two years later, at Holy Cross?  Turns out, he glanced up to the stands while he climbed up on the block and saw his blubbering parents standing there cheering him on.  As a freshman, he still did not know any other parents so, if we were not there, who would cheer for him?  He came up to the stands later to thank us.

The next meet was the following Friday against MAAC rival St. Peter’s College at their home pool on campus.  My husband and I must have gotten ten texts a piece from him telling us about his swims and complaining that no one knows him and is not cheering for him.  I am sure that is not true as we cheer for all of the kids but to a lonely freshman it was his reality.  It was those texts that made us change our plans and decide to travel to as many meets as possible and we haven’t looked back.

To this day, I still do not remember how he did his first race.  How could I see it through my tears of pride?

Life is good!

Jude

Twitter: @JudeTheFoodie

Facebook: JudeTheFoodie.com

Don’t You Dare Say “It’s Only Division III”

Being a college athlete is a big deal.  There are only about 400,000 NCAA student athletes out of nearly 8,000,000 college students across the country.

I just read a very interesting press release http://bit.ly/c7SRyv posted on the website of the National Federation of State High School Associations titled “High School Sports Participation Tops 7.6 Million, Sets Record.”  Think about this: 55.1% of high school students participated in athletics last year – more than 1 in 2 students had a coach, had to juggle academics and athletics and had to learn what it was like to lose.

What struck me, though, is that when you look at these raw numbers still fewer than 5% of these student athletes participate in college sports in one of the three NCAA (www.ncaa.com) divisions.  Even if you assume that half of them participate in two sports and one quarter of them participate in three sports that percentage only goes up to 8%.

Not every student athlete wants to compete at the BCS Division I level.  Many of them know they need to concentrate on their studies to get them into graduate school or into the workforce.  Athletics, to them, is a way to round out their college experience.  My son is a Division I student athlete who gets no money to compete in the pool – his scholarship money (full tuition) comes from academic sources.

Parents, as you help your high school student athlete look for colleges, keep mid-major schools on their radar.  They have the greatest percentage opportunity to combine academics and athletics for a fantastic college experience.

Life is good!

Jude

Twitter: @JudeTheFoodie

Facebook: Jude The Foodie

JudeTheFoodie.com

Evolution of a Student Athlete

In the beginning…

There was a parent teaching a child.

 

They learned to read.

Later the teacher was called a coach.

They studied.

They tried lots of different sports.  

 They studied more.

Teams became more organized.

 They continued studying.

They had to choose one specialty sport.

 They took standardized tests.

They had to practice at all hours of the day.

 They applied to college.

They selected their college. 

 They made a team!

Easy Peezy Lemon Squeezy!

Life is good!

Jude

Twitter: @JudeTheFoodie

Town House –Independent Living with Training Wheels

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Oh joy, he “made” it into an on campus town house this year.  Yipee! Absent in all of the anticipation of this glorious assignment was that the cost of the town house alone is equal to room and board in the dorms.  Ooopsie!

Good news is that we got the old sectional out of the garage where it has been since the new one arrived during March Madness.  Oh yeah, I can’t say March Madness…silly me…since the NCAA basketball championships in March.  Between the truck rental, the ginormous amount of tolls on the New York State Thruway and the gas we decided it may have been cheaper to go to a discount store and buy a new one.  Ah, but this one has a sofa bed in it.  I don’t know but I’m thinking we may have just contributed to the near occasion of sin.

Anthony could not wait for the independent life of a town house.  Little does he realize, he is now sharing with four other guys rather than just one room mate.  Most of all, he is sharing FOOD with these guys.  How long will it take before there is a fight over who ate the last yogurt (ok, drank the last beer but let me live the dream for just a little longer)?

Not to throw Fairfield University under the bus here but the town house was filthy.  The kitchen was really dirty…not a good way to start.  My husband cleaned the cupboards, counters and walls.  Really?  They clean the dorms, don’t they? But, not wanting to be a helicopter mom, I know it is not my place to complain. 

It appears Anthony may be in charge of grocery shopping.  He does have experience and I have had him shop at home for the family.  The only difference is, shopping at home is with my debit card and shopping at school is with pooled money.  Good luck with that.

He called me the other day and told me each of the guys gave him $20 and he was on his way to Sam’s Club to stock up.  Stock up with $100?  Good luck with that!  He told me what his basic list was and I just chuckled.  He would need double what he had.  I made the tragic error of telling so.  Bad mother! 

I got the next call just after check-out at Sam’s. $67 included chicken (you know Mom, if you buy chicken with the skin on it’s cheaper!), ground beef (we can make our own hamburgers), center cut pork chops and chips (two for one, gotta love BOGO).  He bought bread and buns, a huge bag of frozen broccoli and bananas, cereal and milk and a big bag of charcoal.  He was then off to the Stop-and-Shop for fruit and condiments.  Total spent: $105. 

I am very proud of him and realize he is going to learn way more than how to center a beer pong table on top of Ikea side tables.  He is going to review all of his kindergarten skills only the town house is in place of the sandbox.

Oh, and when I texted him yesterday he said he couldn’t talk…they were having a barbeque!

Life is good!

Jude

Twitter: MidMajorMom

Twitter: JudeCaserta

AthleticBudgetCoach.com

First Day of School but No Picture

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When Anthony was a little boy we used to always take videos and pictures.  As doting parents, it was our responsibility to record every moment in his life.  Actually, I’m not that good.  I am the person filled with good intentions.  I am the one who starts a journal then leaves the pen on the page for days.  I try to catch up but write babble (likely much like this!) and set pen down again in frustration.  Months later I re-read what I wrote and feel wholly inadequate.

Much was the same with Anthony.  At the beginning we took lots and lots of pictures.  As time went on the camera was saved for birthday parties, holiday dinners and Christmas.  We have at least always been dedicated to taking pictures on vacations.  Phew…at least that went well.

Unintentionally, at first, we created my favorite video of Anthony.  When he started Kindergarten we taped him packing up his backpack (filling it with all of those glue sticks I talk about in a previous blog).  We walk down the street to the bus stop and film the big bus gobbling him up.  That year we did a post school interview.  Low and behold, we did not pick up that tape again until the beginning of 1st grade.  It was then I had the idea of filming about five minutes a year during the preparation and beginning of school.  The tradition caught on quickly and became one of the most enjoyable parts of school preparation.

First we would go school shopping with the irritating list of school supplies.  Then we would come home and watch the video from previous years.  By 7th grade it was pretty long and there was resistance from Anthony but I didn’t care.  I was bound and determined to get these clips!  And, I did!  The tape is not only a review of how much he grew each year he began doing commentary about current events.  There was even a short clip about my brother’s passing in 2001.  It is one of my most prized possessions.  I think I’m going to go watch it right now!

Life is good!

Jude

Twitter: MidMajorMom

Twitter: JudeCaserta

AthleticBudgetCoach.com

Twas the night before move in…

I sit here on the bed of the Shelton, CT Courtyard Marriott typing my first school year blog.  The summer was gone in a flash with four family graduations and all of the parties and going away dinners.  The kids are starting their first year at Geneseo, Canisius and Harvard.  There were lots of scholarships and proud parents.

Freshman drop off is hard.  I don’t care how prepared you are, we have so much invested in our kid’s lives…it’s so hard to let go of the day to day process.  I even missed car pool…actually, that’s a lie.  I never missed car pool.  I had 10 minutes of the most intense crying of my life (and, that’s saying a lot considering…).  He adjusted well and we got to see him during the semester at swim meets, even if it was for 10-15 minutes.

Sophomore year was a breeze.  My son asked if I was going to cry and all I could say was “come on, move it, Dad and I want to listen to the Bills game on the way home!”  Well, I wasn’t that bad but it certainly was not the same.

This year seems different, yet again.  This year we know he will spend most of next summer doing an internship in New York City.  So…let’s just say, this year is very emotional.

Thing is, though…I couldn’t be happier for him!  He will be working at a CPA firm in Stamford during the school year and for Price Waterhouse Coopers in NYC in 2011.  He has been working out all summer and hopes to have a great swim year…January in Hawaii and championships at home in Buffalo.

Life is good!

Jude Caserta

Twitter: MidMajorMom

Twitter: JudeCaserta

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