photo (44)

I parent with a wooden spoon. I’m Italian, that’s what we do. Unfortunately, often times I lean to the side of inflexible, but I figure some day my Noodges will thank me. Much like I thank my inflexible mother now. What can I say? The apple barely let go of the branch.

Having said that, I realize there are times when we must allow our Noodges to make their own choices. Small ones at first. Though, I witnessed a mom in the grocery store allow her 2 year-old to pull out a yogurt drink from the cardboard container and not put it back. The remaining three drinks stayed in the case and the 2 year-old walked away with her drink fisted in her chubby hand. I don’t think that was a good choice. Just saying.

But there are times when Noodges have to make their own choices. As much as I hate to admit it, clothing is one of them. Let’s remember I’m inflexible, so all clothing choices have rules in my house. Nothing too low or too short or vulgar, etc. But I have to let them express themselves. That means biting my tongue when something doesn’t match, unless I’m asked, or it’s not the way I would put it together. They will find their style in their own time. Not my time and maybe not my fashion. That’s just a pill I have to swallow.

Noodge 1 has long hair. At first, I thought, how can I let my boy grow his hair long? Then I thought, if I put up a fight about this I might miss the opportunity to fight about something good. So, the hair grew. And it’s almost to his shoulders. I stopped caring as long as it’s clean. See how flexible I am? Honestly, I like the long hair. I’m a child of the ’80’s: the big hair era. Plus, have you seen mine? There goes that apple again.

What about shoe choices? And makeup? And backpacks? I know that no parent wants their child to be judged by their peers for the way they look. We all want our children to fit in and have friends. But should we stop them from being themselves just because it isn’t how we would dress or accessorize?

Have you ever seen that show Modern Family? Funny show. Check it out. There’s an episode where Manny wants to wear a poncho that reflects his nationality to school and his step-dad Jay talks him out of it because he doesn’t want Manny to be made fun of. Gloria, Manny’s mom, gets mad when she finds the poncho in the trunk of the car and says, “We’re taking this poncho to school so he knows we support him.” Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing as parents? Support and guide. Not dictate. If your kid wants to go to school wearing a poncho don’t you have to let him? Aren’t the consequences worse if we squash who they are? Or is protecting your child from getting shoved into a locker, and excluded from the in-crowd more important in those formative years than teaching them to be proud of who they are, to be independent, to march to their own beat and let what other people think be damned? Is it our need to be popular that taints the way we think our children are being seen?

It’s hard to let go. I struggle with that every day. But when I’m having a moment of clarity, I know deep down, my Noodges are good kids with their head on their shoulders. Sometimes they are going to make choices and fall and other times they are going to soar. Even though, they aren’t me, I can look at them and say, “Hey, those are my kids. Unique. Independent. And I think they’re super just the way they are.”

 

photo (43)

View from Mayberry.

My hubby and I have lived in five places since we were first married. I think moving is a hobby for us. A weird one, but  a hobby none the less. Needless to say, I’ve had lots of neighbors. Our second apartment was the bottom half a two-story house. The houses on the street were no more than a driveway’s width apart. We lived next door to a family. A family that should have been on the Jerry Springer show. There were the parents, and their two children. Their one teenage daughter decided she wanted to have a family of her own so she had a baby and the baby’s teenage daddy lived in the house too. This family believed in communicating with each other. A lovely quality all families should practice. However, they did their communicating on the front lawn. It was no surprise to find them outside screaming down the street to each other when I pulled up after a long day at work. I would sit in my car and wait for them to go back inside. It was rude to interrupt and who knew if anyone was packing a gun.

I’ve also had wonderful neighbors. When we purchased our first house an adorable family knocked on our door. The mom held her sweet little boy with bouncy platinum curls, the dad stood alongside his two cute girls, twelve and eight. They baked brownies. Over the years we borrowed sugar, shared food, and hung out on a Thursday nights watching television. You could count on them to keep an eye on your house, your kids, and you. I was very sad to move away from them.

Moving to the country, two houses later, was a bit of a shocker for me. You can read a little about it here. But I have to tell you, we struck gold with our neighbors. It shouldn’t happen twice, but somehow it did. Recently, Noodge 1 locked himself and the puppy out of the house when no one was home. He went across the street to the neighbors to use the phone and wait for us to return. The puppy and the neighbor’s three kids, 7, 6, and 4, had a blast running around the yard together. More recently, our house alarm went off while Noodge 2 was home with the puppy. The police came, it was a three ring circus, but another neighbor sent me a text. “I drove by and saw you talking to the police. You looked okay, but I wanted to double check. Let me know if you need anything.”

If the weather is bad and I’m late getting home for the bus I can ask someone to grab my Noodges and drop them at the house. And I often do the same for them. The bus stop is a meeting ground to say hello, how are you, what’s new? We gather in each other’s yards when hot air balloons touch down on our street. We wave to each other as we pass by in our cars. We moved to Mayberry. Now all I need is Andy to come walking up and Aunt Bea to make a homemade pie.

How about you? What are your neighbors like?

August 6th was Lucille Ball’s birthday. If she were alive today she’d be 103. It’s hard to believe a woman as timeless as Lucy could be that age. It seems impossible to me. I’m a huge fan of “I Love Lucy.” I laugh every time. The antics between her and Ethel never get old even though the years keep passing by.

I’m forever impressed Desi Arnaz had the smarts to film their show using film made for movies instead of the film used for the brand new medium – television. He knew the quality of film used for movies would stand the test of time and he was right. (He’s a pretty good storyteller too. Check out the video above.) Have you ever watched the television show “The Honeymooners”? After many years the film became grainy and hard to watch. That show was filmed at the same time as “I Love Lucy” but “The Honeymooners” used film made for television.

I recently read an article printed in the Huffington Post about the author’s 5 lessons she learned from “I Love Lucy.” You can read that article here.  That got me thinking…what are 5 lessons I’ve learned from “I Love Lucy?”

1. Best friends are important to have. My mother always said if you get one good friend in this life you’re lucky. She’s right. Lucy had Ethel and we all need an Ethel to stand by us and help us bury the body. Just kidding. No bodies, please. But we do need a best friend. Someone who will drive miles just to help you sell a few books. Or someone you can call at 8:30 in the morning and vent about the terrible day you’re having. Someone who will share dessert with you and tell you not to count the calories. Someone who knows all your ugly secrets and loves you anyway.

2. Never underestimate the power of a woman. In the 1950s life for women was very different than it is today. Even though Lucy often had to listen to Ricky and do what he wanted, by the end of every episode she usually got what she wanted. She was a modern day feminist ahead of her time. When you want something in this life go get it and don’t let anyone try and stop you. Not even Ricky.

3. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. Lucy, Ethel, and Fred decide they’re going to get into the chicken business now that they’ve moved out to the country. (Hey, just like me. Well, I moved to the country. I want nothing to do with chickens. A puppy is enough for me.) Except it’s too cold to put the baby chicks in the barn so Fred tells Lucy put the chicks in the den and turn up the heat. Lucy decides to pull them out of their crates and throw seed around the room so the little chicks can eat. One small problem, Little Ricky sets them free and now there are baby chicks all over the place! Be prepared. Turn up the heat when you have to.

4. Anyone can drive a car. Isn’t it interesting in the ’50s it would be common for women NOT to drive? Lucy and Ethel can’t drive. Ricky brings home a new car for their trip to California and trouble starts. Lucy wants him to teach her how to drive, but before Ricky will she’s got to get a hold of the insurance agent. Well, Lucy tells a little fib, Ricky gives her a lesson and she’s terrible. Why was it women were portrayed to be incapable of anything unless a man was involved? Really? Lucy was smart enough to know not to make a u-turn in the Holland Tunnel. All the stunts she pulled? She’d be smarter than that. Remember, you can do anything if you put your mind to it. Even driving.

5. Laugh. Is there any lesson more important than that? Well, maybe, but it’s still a good one. Even when Lucy was in trouble she told us it was okay to laugh. Laughter brings people closer together. Laughing helps us find the light at the end of the dark tunnel. Laughing calms the mind and lifts the spirit. I’d have to say, thanks, Lucy. Out all of your lessons, teaching us to laugh was the best one.

 

This is us, not at the restaurant by the river. In all the excitement we forgot to take a picture.

This is us, not at the restaurant by the river. In all the excitement we forgot to take a picture.

Recently, I went out to dinner again with my new lady friends. They chose a cute little restaurant on the river near a mill that supposedly is one of the most photographed places ever. We sat outside at wrought iron tables balanced on slate pavers. Red patio umbrellas protected us from the setting sun. When the sun finally set, white lights strung up all around twinkled their hellos. It was a lovely night filled with laughter and friendship. And then there was the waitress.

I realize I’m past my youth and smack in the middle of middle aged and that can affect the way I see the world. I try not to judge, but it is a fact we create an opinion of someone in the first 30 seconds we see them. If you’re going to have your arm covered in tattoos I’m going to form an opinion of that look whether you like it or not. But tattoos don’t make a bad waitress. Oh no. There are other factors to bad waitressing. Let me explain.

We arrived at the restaurant shortly after 7 pm and were seated right away. Obviously, not a busy night. Our food arrived an hour and fifteen minutes later. I didn’t realize the restaurant had to cross the state line to hunt down a few vegetables. Wait a second…don’t we live in the Garden State? But I digress. The waitress, whose name I don’t know and perhaps she doesn’t either, makes a stop at our table 45 minutes after we placed our order and says, “My brain is fried. Your food will be up soon. Sorry guys.” Really? No, “can I refill your drinks, here’s some bread, would you like fries with that?”

It’s a good thing we were enjoying each other’s company because we hadn’t completely noticed how much time had passed until my friend Linda leaned in and said to us, “Do you think our food is ever coming out?” The sun setting should’ve been the other clue. But hey, we were having fun.

So another 20 minutes passes when the Waitress With The Over Done Tattoo returns without our food to let us know it won’t be much longer. When we kindly remind her that the entrees were supposed to come with salads. She checks her little black book and says, “I’m really messing up tonight. It’s my last night.” And to that I say, “Who cares?” and “Probably a good career move.” Although, if she’s taking on a job that requires the use of sharp objects she may want to stick with waitressing. Just saying.

Our food finally arrives and three spiders from the river decided to join us. One spider made himself comfortable on my lap and if you know me at all you know I jumped out of my chair and screamed like a girl. The waitress brought our check and gave us a 25 percent discount for our trouble. Frankly, I think the meal should’ve been free. We tipped her on the discounted amount. Her response to our tip? “Seriously?” 

It took all of my years of yoga practice not to give her a piece of my Italian mind. That and my friend Robin waving me out of the restaurant. Thank God for friends. They see who you are and like you anyway.

Why did the Waitress With The Over Done Tattoo think she was entitled to a better tip? Is it because we’re raising a generation of kids who always get the trophy that when they become adults they say, “Why try hard? Why do my best? I’m going to get the tip anyway.” Or is it just this waitress?

My friends and I didn’t let the bad service ruin our night. But we did walk back to our cars discussing the waitress’s inability to take responsibility for her actions. I don’t think we’ll return to the little restaurant along the river with the red patio umbrellas. If we’re paying for a meal aren’t we entitled to pick a better place?

 

DSC02090Noodge 2 is going to be in the seventh grade in the fall. I can’t believe it. Like every other parent, I think where did the time go? Well, it went and it isn’t coming back. Something I’ll never get used to, but I digress. All incoming seventh graders were assigned to read two books over the summer and complete journal entries for each book. I’m all for schools suggesting summer reading. I happen to be a veracious reader. Reading for me is like breathing. I’m never without something to read and my “to-be read” list never gets any smaller. No one ever had to suggest to me to read over the summer or any other time of year. That remains true to this day. I think everyone should be a reader.

Here’s what I don’t like about this assignment. The books the kids had to pick from. Of all the wonderful books that exist in the world, these few were the best someone could come up with? Really? Note; I am leaving the list off of the blog post. And let me say, in all fairness, not every book on that list was a complete dud, but come on. There are way better books to read than the ones they could pick from. I’m sure the list is made up of some ridiculous connection to that Common Core that keeps spilling from everyone’s lips. I’m sick of hearing about Common Core. Let the kids read and let them read what they want. Are you trying to inspire reading or hoping to get your test scores up? And we all know how I feel about test scores.

I have a feeling the person who came up with this list is the same person who tells the students the end of every story she’s trying to entice them to read. Yes, you read that correctly. She says, “spoiler alert” and then tells them the ending. And to that I say, “why should they bother reading?”

Noodge 2 picked a book about World War II. She likes that time period and is very interested in things relating to the Holocaust. (That’s her Jewish father’s influence.) Well, she strongly disliked this book and it’s over use of facts. Honestly, I knew she would dislike it, but I didn’t bother to say anything. She wasn’t going to listen to me. Now, I’m sure it’s a fine book for someone who thrives on reading facts. Like Noodge 1, but since he’s going into the 9th grade… (Another aside, the high school’s summer reading list was fantastic. Bravo! They should talk to the End Ruiner. Just saying.)

There just wasn’t a book on the list that grabbed her. Sad. And you could say, “but Stacey, she has to learn to read things she doesn’t like. That’s school.” And you could be right. I certainly read things I didn’t like in school. The Canterbury Tales was one and to this day I’m grateful for Matt Terra, the boy who sat in front of me in class, who helped me through that unit. But I was a senior in high school. A little different. And let me add: IT’S SUMMER. Summer should be for fun, not weighed down by boring required reading.

Let kids be kids. Inspire them to read, don’t turn them off. Scour the shelves for the kind of book that lights a child up. One that reminds them that life is special, and dreams are possible. That summer days are filled with friendship, ice cream, and fire flies. Show them a character that defies the odds, but is quirky and funny, and the same as them. Forget about the facts, and the numbers. School will start soon enough. You can bog them down with that then. But for now, let them smell the honeysuckles in the air, feel the cold water of the lake against their skin, help them find a way to a place filled with magical creatures, adventure, and imagination. That’s what summer reading is all about.

If you're looking for a book for summer reading...

If you’re looking for a book for summer reading…

 

 

One of my all time favorite movies is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory based on the wonderful book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you run right out and watch it. Gene Wilder was made for the role of Willy Wonka. (Yes, I liked him better than Johnnie Depp. His version is just plain scary. No offense to Mr. Depp. If he wasn’t so good at his job I wouldn’t have been scared. Just saying.)

I was thinking the other day, yes, I know, about how we’ve become a “satisfy my immediate need” world.  Thanks to texting, email, social media, Netflix, YouTube (the list goes on and on) we want what we want and we want it now. We’ve turned into a modern day Veruca Salt. “I want an Oompa Loompa, Daddy, and I want it now.” She also wanted a goose that laid a golden egg. Do you remember how it turned out for Veruca?

Here’s what I took away from Willy Wonka:

1. Learn to follow directions. Mr. Wonka tells everyone during the tour of his factory not to drink the Fizzy Lifting Drink. But Charlie and Grandpa Joe didn’t listen and almost ended up cut to shreds by the fan spinning in the ceiling. Not to mention, Mr. Wonka has eyes everywhere, kind of like mothers, and he knew they stole a sip. That little stunt almost cost Charlie the chocolate.

2. If you dream it, you can make it happen. “Snozzberries? Who ever heard of a Snozzberry?” Veruca says. Willy Wonka grabs her face. “We are the music makers and we are the dreamer of the dreams.” Amen, Mr. Wonka.

3. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Drinking from the chocolate river just because you want to and can’t control yourself only means you’ve contaminated the water supply for everyone else and you’re going to end up in the toffee room being pulled and stretched until your limbs pop off. Think about how your actions affect others.

4. Do the right thing even when it’s hard. Charlie gives back the Everlasting Gobstopper he could’ve sold to Slugworth because it was the right thing to do. His good deed awards him the Chocolate Factory. Can’t beat that.

5. Trust the process. “…There’s no earthly way of knowing / Which direction we are going! / There’s no knowing where we’re rowing, / Or which way they river’s flowing! / Is it raining? Is it snowing? / Is a hurricane a-blowing? / Bah! Not a speck of light is showing, / So the danger must be growing, / Are the fires of hell a-blowing? / Is the grizzly reaper mowing? / Yes! The danger must be growing, / For the rowers keep on rowing, / And they’re certainly not showing / Any signs that they are slowing…

If you want to see the famous boat scene click the link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X48RiKQmFQ

What have you learned from Willy Wonka?

 

 

 

 

 

stargazer lily

I’m someone who has a lot to say. Gasp. Shock. Awe. And usually I have no problem saying it. Until recently. Here, at the blog. If you sit next to me, say…anywhere, and we start up a conversation, I can talk and talk and talk. I’m sure most of my acquaintances quietly wish I would shut up. Everyone who lives in the country is too nice to say anything like that to my face. Now, the people who’ve known me most of my life just roll their eyes and make a face that says, “there she goes again.” I’m pretty good at reading facial expressions, so I take my cue and clamp my lips shut.

But here, I can’t seem to find a thing to write about. Maybe I’m premenopausal and what few brain cells I had left after having children have dried up. I don’t want to be premenopausal. That sounds old. Like someone’s mother. Hey, wait, I am someone’s mother. Ugh. This isn’t looking good. When you’re premenopausal that means you’re entering the second half of your life. Your youth is gone along with your estrogen and estrogen is supposed to keep us young. What’s going to do that for me now?

I can’t think of one thing that’s good about being premenopausal. Even the word is ugly. Why can’t women enter the stargazer lily stage? I love stargazer lilies. They’re my favorite flower. I think from now on I’ll refer to PM as Stargazer. I am officially entering the Stargazer stage of my life. There, that’s not as bad. Just as old, but not as bad.

I suppose not entering the Stargazer stage of life could be problematic. Like I might be dead and that would truly suck because I’m not a best selling author yet and I haven’t sang on stage in front of thousands of people wearing leather pants yet. I’ll need to accomplish the leather wearing pants thing soon before I’m over the Stargazer Lily stage and into the full blown bouquet of menopause and my backside spreads too wide to ever be seen in leather. Outside my house that is.

Have you ever seen that commercial for products to help women with Stargazer issues? The tag line is something like, “Have you had the 2nd talk?” My response, “No, thank you. I didn’t want to have the first talk and now you want me to talk about the part of body that’s malfunctioning because I’m old and the warranty is running out on my female usefulness?” I mean really. Sell me some flowers instead.