My boys are applying to schools. Even though the local public school is award winningly awesome, and even though they are currently thriving at a competitive, wonderful, traditional private school that goes through high school… we’re applying to schools. Sometimes (most times) I think this is bonkers. However, it’s also the only conversation I keep having because everyone else also has kids applying to schools—mostly colleges, but still, it’s all very similar. We’ve bought into the expensive, privileged idea that the “right school” will coax our children into becoming contributing members of society rather than boomeranging back to our basements. And it won’t. Deep down we know this. Yet still… we’re applying to schools.

My first pass at the applications was to make fun of them. You know, just a little. It’s so ridiculous to ask teenagers to write essays about a life changing experience when they really only have a handful of sentient years to draw from. Or asking parents what our short- and long-range academic goals are for our kids. HOW DO YOU NOT MAKE FUN OF THAT PROMPT? Any parent a generation ago would have snort-laughed and groused that the goal was to get the kids outta the house and paying their own way. But I refrained, and Bernie and I gave the usual reasons for applying to their school: reputation, academic vigor, something about “good fit,” and a nod to whatever they bragged about during the tours. To date, I’ve seen 6 art rooms with pottery wheels. The pricier and more exclusive the education, the more likely a kid is to make urns.

Every school is desperate to be the most inclusive and diversity is a religion. Brodie wondered aloud how the white kids were answering all of these We Are the World prompts when he can just bring his mixed DNA into the conversation. And me and Bernie? We can play that up. That is, when they recognize that I’m the mom. Although DIVERSITY gets an entire page in all of the brochures, I was assumed to be the “handler” for Brodie at one school, and at another the interviewer looked right past my outstretched hand for the more likely mom. This happens lots anyway, and it’s fine… but when it happens right alongside a framed mission statement about how inclusive and safe and wonderful and kind and diverse everything is… just calm down, diversity cheerleaders.

I am sure my own college essay stunk worse than a hockey bag, but Brodie devoted three painful days to revising a statement of how he became a better person when something bad happened… to get into high school. And he didn’t even throw down the Cancer card. Tackling these prompts with Teddy was much more fun. He has quick, witty answers for everything. And when he wrote about going to Taiwan, meeting a now favorite uncle, and writing, “the saddest day was when Ah-Bei went back to Shanghai” with actual tears in his eyes… I fell in love with my own kid all over again and preemptively hate anyone who plans to reject him. Asked to provide any additional information, Teddy wrote only one sentence: “I am a skilled dancer and I love musicals.” Love that kid.

We’re nearing the end of this process and probably the most useful aspect is now we’re a bit more prepared for the hellish torture college applications will be. Hats off to you, parents who have suffered through Early Action stress. Because there are always smarter, more athletic, ability-to-build-a-new-library, legacy, politics, and other factors that go into curating a class at these incredible schools, we have no idea what outcome to expect. I keep returning to the only thing that is true: it doesn’t matter. Home schooled, public schooled, boarding schooled, or frankly left to their own devices, Brodie will still be this old soul with an impossibly gorgeous face spouting factoids (did you know there are more chickens in the US than people on the planet?) and Teddy will always know he’s the smartest kid and best dancer in any room (mostly true). Where they go to school and what they do will never be who they are. Never. I can only hope these (stupid) applications captured their zany differences, their deliciously voracious intellects, their uniqueness, their lovable Lee-ness.


These boys. Lee boys.



Failing September

What made it slightly more embarrassing that I wasn’t prepared for our Committee Meeting at my house was the fact that they showed up while I was still wearing teeny tiny pajamas.

I thought I had all morning to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting. Plenty of time to drain the coffee pot, type the agenda, send the reminder email, and make the muffins. Look at ALL OF THIS TIME! But first I’ll make the beds. It’s easier to be productive in a house with made beds.

Ding Dong. 

After a summer of carb-eschewing and spinning, my bits are higher and tighter. I’m sure our new interim director didn’t expect to see them, though. The remainder of the committee arrived after I found pants. And maybe they didn’t notice that hospital-corner bed-making after a breakfast of Tamoxifen and coffee meant I was legitimately feverish. Ding Dong, welcome to the Lee’s! Watch me glisten with hospitality.

I hate being busy. I’ll never be one of those moms tethered to her SUV and a slave to an impossible schedule of overlapping practice times at fields in different towns. It’s not that I refuse to let my boys drag me around because I prefer evenings on the couch. Like most moms, I’d give up all mid week drinking to shuttle them to sports. I’d spend my entire shoe budget on cleats and guards and pads and helmets. Lucky for me, we Lees aren’t traveling team material.

On any given school night, you’ll find us at home. Of course, there is some stuff on the calendar. Asian law requires piano lessons. And my boys are on a just-sign-up flag football team that plays for a handful of weekends in the fall. My days are plenty full with a part-timey job, oodles of volunteer meetings, and the usual mom stuff. And I take pride in my commitment to the mom stuff. Currently there is not a single item in any of the laundry bins. Can’t stop. Won’t stop. Sorting and separating.

But September’s calendar requires even the Lees to be busy. September heaps BACK TO SCHOOL and WELCOME BACK and FIRSTS OF THE YEAR functions onto doctor’s appointments, multiple trips to get vital sporting equipment for one season, and your 43rd party at the trampoline paint ball rock climbing venue because (better/annoying) moms insist on birthday parties for their kids. I still use a paper calendar, and this Thursday’s box is too small for all of the things I need to do but will probably forget because they are written too tiny and I KNOW, BERNIE, I KNOW THAT I NEED TO USE THE GOOGLE CALENDAR.

How’s your September going? Are you greeting the Chair of the Board of your nonprofit and its interim director wearing skivvies? Maybe you haven’t missed a single meeting, or shown up to one without pants and sweaty half moons of yesterday’s mascara heralding your competence. Me, I’m ready for this Sept-embarrassment of a month to be over.

Middle school dinner is tonight and I’m totally going to be on time, definitely not in jammies. It’s in my phone marked “don’t forget to go” with three alarms. I plan to be entirely un-embarrassing. Until at least tomorrow. (Tomorrow’s not on the Google calendar yet.)



I still use these. I’ve missed three meetings this month, but I still use these.