Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Tell Everybody I'm on My Way

Elite w/poolside Moc'tinis!
"New Friends and New Places to See..."

Early Decision
Early Action
Priority Scholarship Deadline
Reach and Safety School/Access Institution
Flagship Institution
Successful Academic Progress
Expected Family Contribution/FAFSA
First Time in College
Big $'s but engaged faculty
Spring to Fall First Year Retention Rate
Six Year Graduation Rate
Mid Career Median Salary
Full Freight
Net Price Calculator
Cleary Report

Over the past year and a half the family and I have been on an arduous journey visiting 15 colleges and universities in six states and DC trying to identify where our eldest will take her next steps in life.  Along the way we have learned, on the fly, a new language one has to become familiar with to gain entrance into this new world of academic higher education.  Granted, I've lived my whole life around higher education.  In fact two of my all time favorite posts have been about colleges and college towns.
Elite and it shows!

How getting into college is like meeting people on Ashley Madison
Ryan's World Wide college town tour

However, everything certainly seems quite different as a parent and seeing all of this through the eyes of my daughter.

As cool when football sucks?
Getting a job is what is most important so is the mid-year median income of that school's grads the most important factor?  But if they don't enjoy college they will never make it to graduation day so maybe spring to fall retention for "first time in college freshmen" is most important?  They are in college to learn but if they don't like the food and where they live they won't be happy and won't be able to focus on their studies so maybe Princeton Review's rating of "Best College Dining Services" is important.  And if the food sucks on Saturday night is she going to need a lot of extra $'s for Chipotle?  That could be a big $ suckage!  Classes are Monday through Friday but if they are lonely on the weekend they will want to come home and won't build an affinity towards the campus and thus won't progress towards graduation so maybe campus life is kind of important (and dang I sure would like to see Zedd for Homecoming).  But then again, it really is about learning so how connected are the faculty to their students, will Professor X really know who she is, and are there really great experiential learning opportunities beyond the classroom because that is what she really wants.  Study Abroad, should we be interested?  And then what is all this about Title IX, the Cleary Report, the Dear Colleague Letter; I thought this little college town seemed so safe?  Is safety really important?  Probably is and can I really believe those reports on the institution's web page?  Maybe I should be reading "College Confidential" blogs?  She wants to go far away to a sunny place for college, what are the hidden costs we don't now foresee like flights home over fall break?  And OMG, I live paycheck to paycheck but the Federal Government (FAFSA) thinks Shannon and I are doing fine and dandy and will have no problem signing $50K checks to good old Fancy U (google EFC)!

Oh wait, we have to get into these schools first!!!

S-A-F-E-T-Y, Safety DANCE!
That one with the great median mid-year income for graduates has a 30% acceptance rate.  With her grades and SAT she only has a 50/50 chance of getting in.  Can dance and Early Decision put her over the line.  Yes, Early Decision that big one chip gamble on the college of your dreams.  Early Decision, Early Action, Application Deadline to be considered for merit scholarship; so many strategies to consider.  We have come to understand and rue the tangled web of decisions needed in today's murky world of college applications.  If she doesn't get into her dream school what school can she get into that will make her happy and won't cost a ridiculous sum of money to a school with lesser cache!  It's one thing to lay out $65K to an Ivy League school but I ain't paying $65K/year just because they have a ropes course and Taco Tuesday on the Quad!  Although now that I think about it I would like to visit and enjoy that Lazy River myself, why didn't they have this stuff when I was in college!

Anyway, because of our life and lives this process, though stressful, has to a degree become a collage of our entire life.  We started off where Shannon and I first met and got to re-experience what we loved about that place.  We visited my Big State U.  We finished our long magical mystery tour two weekends ago at two schools that are in the heart of where our girls have come to love.  Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party was a way to put a smiling enjoyable exclamation point onto a somewhat scary, apprehensive process that in the end is what we've all been looking forward to for a long time.

Chipotle @Union but suitcase campus 
But as a parent this is very tough.  I have spent the last 17 years of my life trying to take care of this individual.  Now, as we face college, I understand that going forward for the rest of my life there will be more days I don't see her than days I do.  Though heartbreaking its also exhilarating to imagine what her life will become.

In the end all you can do is hope you've established firm ground for your kids to start life upon.  Dang, I am glad my younger one loves Big State U as much as I do and doesn't want to go anywhere else so we don't have to go through all this BS again.  I'm done!

"Tell everybody I'm on my way
and I'm loving every step I take.
With the sun beating down yes
I'm on my way
And I can't keep this smile off my face......"

Monday, July 30, 2018

More to Find Than Can Ever Be Found

Or Whiskey Before Boarding

Our family has an ongoing joke that our girls can never get a straight answer from Shannon and Ryan on what we like in a restaurant.  It always ends up going into a full on Travel Channel styled debate on quality control, menu selection, service, and value.  But we enjoy it.  Shannon of course just wants the best food and a great glass of Pinot and isn't worried about price.  For Ryan though, enjoyment (as with many things in his life) is always a bit nebulous and grounded in value.  Meaning, Ryan loves a good Filet Mignon but would rather have a great $25 filet with pretty good service over an $80 orgasmic filet.  Well maybe Filet Mignon is not a good illustration as an $80 velvet textured filet that you can spread with your tongue is a rare and beautiful thing like other things that are so tender you can spread with you tongue.  But anyway, any answer from Ryan on "do you like this place daddy?" is clouded in price vs value, along with presentation, choices of sides, service, and other accouterments that nobody (and certainly not my daughters) care about.

Anyway, a few weeks ago we found our way meandering through Orlando with a few hours to kill ahead of boarding a homeward flight from ORD to BWI.  Orlando means Disney and Disney is a second home to my girls.  On a quick count I believe we've been to Disney (Cali, Florida, and cruise included) fifteen (15) times since they were born.  Wait, this past time was probably the 16th and I'm probably forgetting one or two.  Anyway, we are addicted to Disney.  And because I'm who I am and we are who we are and this blog is what it is, I am addicted to determining the best, most efficient, and affordable way to enjoy Disney and then to, of course, blog about it.

Btw, here are my past Disney Posts:

Celtic Dance at Raglan Road
     The Rides - Where's Your Laughin' Place
     Places to Eat (and Pee) - Second Star to the Right
     Special Ryan Suggestions - How Do You Do
     More Ryan Special Suggestions - A Pirate's Life for Me
     Ryan in Cali - Scary Monsters

So over the past few visits we have decided that our new favorite restaurant in Disney World is Raglan Road located within Disney Springs.  Raglan Road has it all for Ryan:  good reasonably priced food, great service, inspiring music, and smokin' hot Irish dancers!

What you end up with a happy environment, a warm atmosphere, solidly good food not at Victoria and Albert's pricing, and a free show!  Who doesn't like free, especially at Disney.  Doesn't Irish music and those quick footed Irish dancers just make life seem great!?  And when they are so close to you and so cute, all the better (dancers and musicians)!  At our last visit we got to see these dancers and the Briste Band who are one talented group of cute Irish lassies!  Yes, during your visit you will laugh, cry, drink, maybe be kicked, maybe fall down from too much drink but you will leave full and happy.

Chicken Pot Pie - YUM!
So Raglan Road comes out punching for pleasure from the time you sit down.  First tasting action is the amazing Irish soda bread with their special Guinness Dipping Sauce that, with the beer and Brown Sugar, is delightfully tangy and sweet (just like those quick stepping dancers)!  I would definitely consider an appetizer at this place.  There are many to choose from including salads and some great seafood (and yes they have wings if you just can't break free from your Yankee ways).  We like the Smokie City which is a creamy baked haddock spread with potatoes and tomatoes enjoyed over crispy toasted baguette.  By now Shannon half way through her first glass of Pinot.  Ryan does have to bail on authenticity here as he has never been one of those bitter brown beer dudes.  I admit I have to punt and do a lager.  For the true of beer connoisseur Raglan Road does have beer flights and true Irish imports.

If you don't have a big appetite, many of the appetizers and salads can sub in for center of the plate.  Shannon loves their Irish Egg, the scallops on the appetizer menu can make a meal, and if you are a little too chichi, fru fru, or simply Continental you can go with their Goat Cheese terrine with shallots and shiitake mushrooms over mixed greens.

Ryan is not a real heavy eater so when I'm going to Raglan Road I try to not eat all day and save up for some real gluttony.  I am simple and love the Chicken Pot Pie (often a special) or the Guinness Beef Stew.  The pies are warm and hearty with the savory mushrooms and Irish root vegetables making the dish as much as the main protein feature.  The creamy filling in contrast to the crisp scratch pie crust creates a delightful distinction yet balance to your palate.  You have to have the Colcannon Mashed Potatoes as a side.  I'm not a big veggie eater but the fresh bacon & almond roasted brussels are a rare way to get me to eat those typically nasty things.  The parsnips are nice and Irishy too!  Be careful the portions are mighty!  The Roast Chicken will feed a small army and if you have your kiddies along they do make a decent burger.  If you do feel like you have to experience tasteless Brit food they do have the obligatory fish and chips and bangers and mash (or in Raglan's case and booze).

Dessert is a Irish drama as there is so much to choose from including Fluffy Lemon Clouds, Sinful Chocolate Smothered Cake, Tart Berry trifles, and apple crumb cake.  I'm always a sucker for bread pudding so that is typically my desire.  But no worries you can go with a min-dessert flight which is typically how the Beaumont's roll.  If you are not merry enough yet pair that dessert with a Bailey Irish coffee or a silky smooth port.

By now you are full of food and full of drink and dance, nothing can get you down; even if you have to board a plane and go home.

So next time you are a Disney and you don't have an eternity of money (or time) then just click your heels, say Erin Go Bragh, and head over to Raglan Road and enjoy!

And enjoy the fact that while food and spirits may not be the meaning of life they sure do give meaning to life!