A parent’s survival guide for when your college kid comes home for the holidays

A parent’s survival guide for when your college kid comes home for the holidays

college students visiting home - mom at airportRecently both of our daughters came home for the holiday break. Their return brought us a new set of parenting concerns. When kids go off to college, they suddenly consider themselves adults. They feel the old kids’ rules from their high school years no longer apply. So it can be stressful to know how to parent your almost-adult child now that they’ve concluded they no longer need to listen to a word you say. That’s why, in the most loving way possible, you should periodically remind them – roughly every two hours – about who is paying for their college and how you’d be delighted to spend that money on a Mediterranean cruise for yourself if they don’t clean up their act during their brief time home.

I would like to share my best parenting advice for how to get your kids to cooperate when they come home from college. I really would. But I can no more decipher the code for how to parent college-age kids than I can explain why some people pay $200 more for a cell phone custom-colorized to match their purse. But I will try to impart some wisdom just the same.

Challenge #1: The pit stop. Many parents experience the short-lived joy of welcoming their kids home for winter break only to become annoyed as their child vanishes seconds after their arrival, shouting, “Hi, Dad. Gotta go. Meeting Bridget to go shopping.”  It’s easy to feel like your kids are only using your house as a place to crash at night, but that’s not true. They are also using your house for the free food, free laundry service, and free use of your Lexus. Oh, and just in case you were wondering whether your child might be heading off to shop for a Christmas present for you – they’re not. They’re going shopping to swap out the color pattern on their swaggy new cell phone so that it can perfectly match their – well, you get the picture.

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Famous Americans share Thanksgiving messages of gratitude

Famous Americans share Thanksgiving messages of gratitude

View from the Bleachers interviewed famous Americans this past week, asking them “What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season?” Here is a holiday gift basket of inspirational messages from some of our nation’s most illustrious, America-loving Americans.

Ann Romney, wife of presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney: “I was very disappointed that Mitt lost the election, due to that fluke late October hurricane and the minor fact that Mitt’s not very good at relating to people with net worths under $25 million. But we still have so much to be grateful for. Mitt’s hair still looks amazing. We just bought Monaco. Precious. And, frankly, the thought of having to downsize our lifestyle to fit into that cramped White House was something I really was not looking forward to anyway. Besides, six luxury houses is plenty. We know some families who can’t even afford four.”

Tim Tebow, backup NFL quarterback: “I thank my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for giving me the opportunity to play this sport I love so much. And someday, the good Lord willing, I hope to have the chance to play on a professional NFL team. Until then, I am content to play for the New York Jets.”

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A letter to our wives: What we dads really want for Father’s Day this year

A letter to our wives: What we dads really want for Father’s Day this year

From all of us loving husbands,

Dear Sweetie, Honey, Darling, Angel, Punkin, Cutie Pie, Snuggle Bunny, Sweet Cakes, or in the case of Mrs. Eunice McCutchen of Big Butte, South Dakota, You Old Ball & Chain,

We guys just wanted to take this opportunity to give you  ladies some helpful suggestions for what to get us this Father’s Day. It’s not too late to surprise us on our special day with something that would truly show us how much you love us.

You want to know what we guys really want for Father’s Day? It’s very little. We just want to spend a day with our whole family, taking a leisurely hike in the woods, holding hands with our lovely wife, telling her how much we love her, and later on, snuggling together, taking a nice long nap on the couch.

Ah, we’re just messing with you. That’s not even remotely close to what we want for Father’s Day – although the part about a long nap on the couch sounds good – so long as you leave us alone.

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Our summer vacation – only more interesting

Our summer vacation – only more interesting

For families everywhere the arrival of September means “welcome back to reality” time. School starts this week for most American teenagers, and summer is rapidly vanishing in the rear view mirror. If your summer was like mine, it won’t make for an enthralling Holiday letter come December – which is why when it comes to retelling the highlights of your summer vacation, if you weren’t able to afford an exotic, envy-inducing summer vacation, then at least make sure you have an exotic, envy-inducing story about your summer vacation.

When it comes to summer breaks, our family’s summers are consistently quite lame. Take this past summer, for instance. It consisted mainly of listening to our girls whine “there’s nothing to do” and “I’m boooooooooored” – God knows, life is boring when you live in the scenic Pacific Northwest with all its mountains and lakes. Heaven forbid your kids actually go outdoors, ride a bike, swim in the lake or clean their room.

As any loving parent would do, in an effort to insulate ourselves from their constant whining and badgering to “take me to the mall” or otherwise entertain them, we loaded up our kids’ summer with a series of week-long summer leadership / character-building camps and a couple of obligatory annual pilgrimages to visit elderly relatives. That’ll teach ‘em to whine about being bored.

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Niagara Falls’ Latest Thrill Ride – The Quality Hotel and Suites

Niagara Falls’ Latest Thrill Ride – The Quality Hotel and Suites

At the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY, the hotel even provided us with pets to keep us company – at no extra charge. Meet Buster. Of the hundreds of ants in our hotel bedroom, this guy was my favorite.

At the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY, the hotel even provided us with pets to keep us company – at no extra charge. Meet Buster. Of the hundreds of ants in our hotel bedroom, this guy was my favorite.

Recently, my daughter Rachel and I took a vacation to visit friends and family in the Eastern USA. As part of our holiday adventure, we spent a night in world-famous Niagara Falls, NY. This short visit was a high point of our vacation – except for one small disappointment – our accommodations at the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY. (Yes, it’s a real hotel.)

If you would like a relaxing, restful, clean hotel room for an evening, might I propose an alternate place of lodging? But if unexpected surprises are what you look for in your vacation destination, then the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY may be just the thrill ride for you.

Below is a copy of my actual thank-you letter to the hotel after our recent stay. (Disclaimer: the photos below are not actual photos from the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY and were not included in the letter I sent. I include them here to give you a sense of the adventure we experienced. – tj)

July 5th,

To the staff and management of the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY

I just had to write to thank you and your staff for a most memorable stay last week at your hotel. It surely is one that neither my daughter nor I will ever forget. Rest assured, we will be telling all our friends about our unforgettable one-night stay at the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY.

It is so hard to pick my favorite memory from our short stay. There were so many. Perhaps it was when we first entered our hotel room, having come out of the oppressive heat and humidity of a 95-degree July afternoon. As we entered our room, we were not jolted by the typical arctic cold blast of air conditioning you find in most mid-priced hotels.  Instead, your fine hotel helped ease our transition from the heat of the outdoors with a gentle transitional room temperature of 92. After awhile, when the air conditioning unit did not seem to moderate the Amazon Rain Forest climate conditions of our room, I got just the slightest bit uncomfortable, as rivers of sweat flowed off my body and converged into a small pond on the carpet. So I approached your front desk person, Brad, about the situation.

Without even needing to personally inspect the air conditioning unit, Brad intuitively surmised that the cause of the lack of apparent cooling in our room was not a defective air conditioning unit at all but rather an accumulation of the collective body heat radiating from me and my daughter, having been outdoors in the intense heat. Brad surely must have been right. The sweat pouring down my brow must have been the result of my own body heat and could not possibly be the result of a completely malfunctioning, defective air conditioning unit. Besides, I’ve read that sweat is the human body’s natural air conditioning system. Your hotel was no doubt just trying to be eco-friendly. Thank you for caring about our planet like that. Sorry about the sweat stains on your carpet. Please bill me for any cleaning expense.

The Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY billed itself as having a view of the world-famous Niagara Falls. So, I was a little nervous about what the view from our room might actually be. Might my precious daughter lean a little too far out the window and fall to her death over the falls? Well, I am happy to report that this concern quickly evaporated when we went to open up the blinds of our hotel room window. Instead of a view of the falls, I was relieved to see a view of a Motel 6 across the street, safely obscuring any possible view of the falls. I immediately felt 100% safer. Turns out it was just a brisk 20-minute walk through the 95-degree heat, to get to the Falls. Thanks for letting me get a much needed aerobic workout.

Another thing I appreciated about our stay at the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY was your “pet-friendly” policy. Of course, when I read about that on your web site, I thought it referred to guests who might want to bring their own pets. But I now understand that the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY goes the extra mile by providing its guests with pets from the hotel at no extra charge. Imagine my surprise when I felt one of your little pets – a half-inch long black ant – crawling up my back in my bed. I have to admit, at first I was somewhat startled. But after awhile he kind of tickled.

Apparently, we hit the “pet-friendly” jackpot because this little fella must have invited 40 or 50 of his closest friends to join the party – on the bathroom floor, the walls of our room – and just for good measure, my daughter’s pillow. I will never forget the look of stunned surprise on her face as she opened her eyes the next morning to see two black ants staring back at her from point blank range. The screams of terror were over in an instant. The eventual laughter she will experience when retelling this story years from now will last a lifetime.

I called down to the front desk to ask about changing rooms. I called five times over the course of 90 minutes. I was never able to get a hold of a live person. I can only conclude the reason no one ever answered at the front desk was because Brad was out and about helping other guests feel every bit as welcome as we were feeling, wearing his “I our guests” button.

Perhaps in part because of the company I was keeping with my little black ant bed mates, I did not sleep quite as well as I might have otherwise. But that’s totally fine. Honest. I’m told most adults don’t really need more than 3 hours’ sleep a night anyway – unless they want to be coherent the following day. Coherence is overrated anyway. When I placed my call the night before, requesting a 6am wake-up call, your morning staff must have anticipated my impending lack of sleep. They were gracious enough not to disturb my morning slumber, wisely choosing instead not to give me the requested wake-up call. Thank you for your thoughtful decision to let me and the ants sleep in a bit longer.

Whether it was the Cable TV that kept losing its signal or the empty roll of toilet paper that came with our bathroom or the advertised “whirlpool bathtub in every room” that came equipped with everything but a functioning whirlpool, your capable staff made sure our stay was comfortable. Compared to sleeping in a mosquito-infested, mildewed tent in the Everglades in August, our room felt palatial. The only thing I might have suggested to go along with the whirlpool bath tub besides the missing whirlpool might be a clean shower curtain … Oh, and perhaps something vaguely resembling water pressure …. Oh, and perhaps a tad fewer ants in the tub.

Finally, thanks for helping me “shut down” from work mode. This was, after all, my vacation. Noticing your advertisement for “Free Internet in every room”, I tried to log onto the Internet to check my work email. But your hotel wisely knew that what I really needed was to get unplugged, and thoughtfully made sure your hotel’s Internet access was “down for repairs” during our stay. God bless you for keeping me focused on having fun.

In looking back at my time at your lovely hotel, my only regret is that I wasted so much time at the Falls when I could have been enjoying the comforts and convenience of your establishment. The thunderous crashing torrents of the icy blue water of the world famous falls could not possibly compare to the green bubbly water of your hotel swimming pool’s hot tub – had it not been “closed for maintenance” during our visit, that is.

I can certainly understand why the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY prides itself on providing first class service second to none – unless of course you include any European youth hostel I have ever stayed at – including the one in Venice, Italy with the sign at the front desk that read “No masturbating in your room”.

It’s also clear that the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY spared no expense (other than for normal maintenance and repairs) to make me feel like a king! Where did I leave my crown and scepter? I am confident your hotel would pass almost any third world nation’s health inspection (with a bribe), with only a smattering of minor sanitation code violations.

I felt a tug in my heart as we checked out of the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY. I wanted to stay longer. When checking out, I shared some of the highlights of our stay with Heather, the morning front desk person. I told her about the cozy, warm 92-degree room temperature in our room, the 40 or more surprise house guests, the lovely view of the hotel dumpster, and the out-of-order vending machine on our floor. I started to tear up, thinking about all the wonderful memories from our short visit. I will never forget Heather’s caring, compassionate words when I finished sharing my story. She looked at me, smiled tenderly and said, “Your total comes to $167.89. I see there were no additional room charges. Will that be Visa or MasterCard?” Heather, thank you for listening.  You had me at “Your total comes to $167.89.”

Oh, just one more thing. Turns out, unbeknownst to me, a few of your little black ant hotel pets hopped in my suitcase and made the journey home with me – a fitting reminder of our time at your hotel.  Let me know if you’d like me to return the ants to you. But I have to tell you, I’m starting to get attached to the little fellas.

PS: I will be sharing a copy of this letter at my blog site in the hopes that the thousands of people who read my weekly blog might pass along this letter about my wonderful experience at the Quality Hotel and Suites, Niagara Falls, NY to others who might be planning to visit your fair city. I would hate for anyone to misinterpret this heartfelt letter and come away with the errant impression that my stay at your fine hotel was anything less than memorable. Please give my best to Brad and Heather.

With fond memories and deep appreciation,

Tim Jones

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2010 – 2011