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.

 

My YouTube Debut!

How can you say no to this face?

How can you say no to this face?

I never had a dog growing up. Well, I had one for about five minutes. My father brought home a white German shepherd puppy when I was about seven. My younger sister, she was four at the time, was deathly afraid of this white, puff-ball puppy. My parents had a decision to make. Keep the puppy or keep my sister. Now, that I’m thinking about it, my mother was probably the one who said keep my sister. My father might’ve wanted the dog, but that’s a blog post for another time.

Now that we have a puppy I had to learn what to do with him. (This goes to my OCD, controlling personality. Did I mention I’m Italian?) Our breeder recommended reading The Art of Raising a Puppy, by Monks of New Skete. Let me tell you what, all new parents of human babies should read this book too. In fact, any parent that isn’t sure how to discipline their child should read this book because children and puppies are the same. Don’t go getting your panties in an uproar because I’m comparing children to dogs. I’m speaking the truth. raising a puppy

In the book, the Monks talk about how important it is not to reward the puppy for whining. Let’ say you’re in the car and your puppy starts to whine because he doesn’t like going for a ride. If you pet him and tell him in a soothing voice it’s okay, what the dog really hears is “Keep whining. I get a lot of good rubs from that lady if I make this noise.” Do you know how many times I watched a parent give their child a cookie or soda to stop crying? They think it’s a distraction and let’s face it, no one wants to hear their child cry, but if you just told your kid he couldn’t get out of the stroller and he cries you can’t give him a cookie to make him be quiet. What does he hear? “If I cry then I get something I really like. I don’t remember why I was crying, but who cares? This lady keeps giving me sweets.” See? The same.

The book explains about dogs being pack animals and in that pack their is a hierarchy of who’s the alpha and who is the omega. The Monks say you must establish right away who’s the alpha in your pack once the puppy comes home.  That would be the humans, in case you weren’t sure. If the human doesn’t show the puppy who’s alpha then the puppy will naturally claim that role, it’s their instincts, and now your puppy will push you around. Again, same rule applies to children. Parents often forget who’s in charge. Parenting isn’t a democracy and if your child doesn’t know who’s in charge, then they will be. And that’s bad news, friends. You don’t want your teenager in jail because you didn’t establish who was in charge when you brought her home. Don’t laugh. I’ve seen that exact scenario happen.

I’m surprised no one has written a book about parenting and paralleled puppy training to it.  I guess in today’s society that would upset someone and no one is allowed to be upset so I apologize if I’ve upset you. But I’m not giving you any treats.

 

 

I enjoy house hunting. It became a hobby over the years since we bought three houses so far in our married life and I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying at least one more. I’ve always wanted to live in the South. I think I need to own a house and live down there at some point.

I’m tempted when I see a real estate sign decorated with balloons on a Sunday afternoon to stop and tour the house, but I don’t because it isn’t fair to the agent or the home owners. I’m not buying at the moment, why get their hopes up when someone knocks on the door?

But I have to get my fix somewhere so I watch HGTV. It’s my go-to channel. Home shows are my kind of reality television. Yeah, I know, not cool, but what do you want from a middle-aged mother of two?

My favorite part of every show is the big reveal. The home owners return to find their house has been transformed into a show palace. Everything has a place and everything is in place. There’s even fruit on the counter nestled in a large, pretty bowl. Does anyone in real life actually do that?

In fact, does anyone’s house ever look like they do on HGTV? Mine certainly doesn’t, though I wish it did. There’s no large bowl of fruit on my center island because, I don’t want to take up the room and fruit goes bad after a

This room is clearly in the "before" state.

This room is clearly in the “before” state.

while. I can’t leave it there forever. Sometimes the fruit even gets eaten. Which technically would be a good thing, but not when you’re trying to go for a look. You know what I’m saying?

While I’m watching those shows and we see the homeowners in their “before” house I think, are they going to keep that new house clean and neat? If we paid them a surprise visit would they have mail on their counter like I do? Would their shoes really be tucked neatly into the entry bench by the back door? Okay, sometimes our shoes are. I’m OCD, remember?

And what about the little home office the fancy designer tucks under a stair case? What’s that going to look like in a week? You should see my desk. I strive to keep my entire house neat, except for my desk. It’s the true reflection of the creative side of my brain. I have piles everywhere, notes on top of those piles, the printer, books on the craft of writing, and a small spot left for my laptop. It’s no wonder I take myself to the kitchen or outside to work. That mess is way too distracting to the anal side of my brain.

I’m starting to talk myself right off my HGTV fix. It’s not reality television. It’s nothing but fantasy and adventure. Hey, wait, I write that kind of stuff. I can’t walk away just yet. Nope, I’ll make a cup of tea, clear a spot in the kitchen, and stay a little while longer.

 

I wasn’t sure I could get this post out this week. Life in our household turned upside down. We have a new edition. A German shepherd puppy.

His name should be Noodge 3.

His name should be Noodge 3.

 

Noodge 2 has been asking for a dog for a very long time. Hubby has also wanted a dog for as long as I can remember. Noodge 1 was on the fence at first and me, well, I like the idea of a dog. I wasn’t sure about the work. Because I have nothing to do ever so I figured, what the heck.

Why a German shepherd, you may ask. They’re loyal, smart, great with kids, and protective. I wanted the companionship when I went for a power walk along the country roads. Serial killers and bears hang out in the woods. I need to play it safe. And at night I want something to growl when an intruder approaches so I can press the panic button on the alarm panel.

It’s a long road to get to that protective dog stage. Right now he’s a cute fur ball who isn’t in love with his crate. He’s missing his brothers and sisters. Can’t say I blame him. You wouldn’t find me going to live with strangers willingly. Not without a concealed weapon. All he has is a bandana and the ability to pee.

We successfully survived the first day and night. Well, the puppy did. When I looked in the mirror after spending the night sleeping on an air mattress in the mud room next to his crate, I screamed. Who was that gaunt woman with hollow eyes staring back at me? I was pretty sure I didn’t play with a Ouija board the day before.

I hear all our hard work will be worth it. (That’s what they say about raising kids too and I’m still debating that one.) I’ll have to keep you posted on that conclusion.

But next time I ask for something I’ll try for round, clear, sparkly, and large. Just saying.