The 5 am Work Out

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Happy New Year! Another calendar is turned to January. When I worked in an office, I always loved those desk calendars. I’d make notes all over it. By the end of the month, the page would be covered in notations, squiggles, or whatever. But when I ripped the page off and found a blank month waiting for me, all possibilities were open again. I’m in love with the blank page. Hence, my career choice as an author.

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We all know I like to exercise. Naturally, I try to encourage the Noodges to exercise too. Noodge 2 does. She works out with a personal trainer for fitness reasons and to help with a medical condition she has. Noodge 1 will exercise, but usually with a little persuasion from me. I want them both to be healthy and happy. Exercise aids in both of those things.

Teens today have pretty tight schedules. The advanced classes they take so their college applications look good require hours of homework. They have extra curricular activities, jobs, and a social life. Noodge 2 wanted to increase her cardio time, but didn’t know how to fit the workouts into her busy schedule. I suggested to workout before school.

I’m an early morning exerciser. In fact, I’m a morning person. My best time for everything is early. Noodge 2 is a night owl like the Coffee King. My early morning exercise suggestion was met with an eye roll.

We belong to the local YMCA. I offered to go to the Y twice a week with her at 5. She agreed. A new habit was formed, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I’m honored my teenage daughter wants to work out with me. Teens usually want nothing to do with their parents unless money is involved.

I will say, getting up at 4:45 (the Y is three minutes from our house, thankfully) to the alarm clock in winter is no easy task. I might do mornings, but I don’t do cold and dark very well. But I won’t bail on her or on Noodge 1 on the days he joins us. (When both of my kids come to the gym, my heart swells.) If they want to skip the gym, that’s fine, but I won’t cancel.

I’ve made encouraging my children’s interests part of my mothering goals. I attend the opera because Noodge 1 wants to go. I’ve attended the Pride Parade in NYC with Noodge 2 and three of her friends because she wanted to see that parade. Have you ever been to the Pride Parade? I have certain images burned on the back of eyelids I can’t unsee. Growing up in my house our whims weren’t exactly indulged. I wanted to do things differently for my kids.

Hence, the 5 a.m. workout.

aruba2018beachchairsRecently, we vacationed in Aruba. I love Aruba. “One Happy Island.” Put a visit there on your bucket list if you haven’t been. You won’t be sorry. Of course, the resort had a gym. And Noodge 2 and I found ourselves on the treadmill several times that week. Me and my girl. I grew ten feet tall when I looked over and saw her working out – with me.

That’s the key. She wants to be with me. My children are about to embark on the real world. Noodge 1 is only months away now. Even though he must go, I will miss him dearly. In the meantime, while they are still mine, I get to soak up the small moments in their company. And if that company is 5 a.m. in the gym, bring it on.

With this new year in front of us, remember to hug your kids a little more. Make time for the things they like to do even if you don’t. Tell them they are amazing, because they are. And if you have to, set the alarm clock and go to the gym. At 5 a.m.

Happy New Year. Love to all.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Be a Jackass

Have you ever seen the movie Serendipity? The movie stars John Cusack as Jonathan Trager and Kate Beckinsale as Sara Thomas. I love that film. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. It’s a rom-com about a couple who met by accident, and felt an instant attraction to each other. Four years later, days before his wedding to someone else, Trager begins a search for this mysterious woman, Sara, because he has to know for sure if she’s the one. At the same time, Sara searches for Jonathan.

serendipityimageDean Kansky, played by Jeremy Piven, is Trager’s best friend. (Piven also happens to be Cusack’s best friend in real life.) While searching for the mystery woman, Kansky tells Trager he’s a jackass  and goes on to quote Epictetus; “be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” Trager doesn’t care how searching for a strange woman on the eve of his wedding appears. His heart leads the mission logic cannot defy.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live our lives as jackasses? Not to worry about what other people think or how they might be judging us. A benefit to getting older is having the ability to care less about the opinions of others; to throw caution to the wind, to coin a phrase, and finally understand life is what we make of it. To live a fulfilled life, we must not worry about being foolish or stupid, but run through the sprinklers with wild abandon, with the sun on our backs, the grass between our toes, and laughter in the air.

Guess who can’t follow Epictetus’ advice? Teenagers. (And a few adults, but let’s talk about the teens for a moment because they can’t help themselves. The adults – well, that’s another story.)

I’m in the thick of raising teens, and like every stage of parenthood, this one has its pluses and challenges. Here’s one of the challenges: teens spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying how others perceive their behavior. They believe the whole world is watching them, because they have magnifiers and bright lights pointed on themselves. They worry that the world around them will judge them; tell them they aren’t good enough, smart enough, fast enough, strong enough.

Truth is, no one is paying that much attention because they’re busy worrying about what other people think of them. One of my favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt:

You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. 

Teens just don’t understand that. I feel badly for them. They worry about things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of life, but matter a whole lot to them. If they could let go of the fear, they’d probably enjoy the ride a lot more. (Again, same applies to adults.)

But teens have to be teens. They make decisions based on emotion and not logic or reasoning. So, when I’m trying to be logical with my teens about something that is purely emotional to them, I lose.

I’m learning not to argue. They have to come to their decisions in their own way, and that’s a life lesson for them. Soon they will be out in the world all by themselves and I won’t be there to wave logic in their faces like pom-poms. “This way. Look over here. Pay attention to my wisdom.” I want to shout, but can’t. Their lives. Their choices. I’m only the GPS if they need me. And they need me less and less.

Often I find myself thinking, I’d love to go back to being a teenager with the knowledge I have now. I’d have the great time I was too afraid to have back then. And often, I find myself wanting to say to my teens, “don’t be afraid to be a jackass.”

Since I can’t go back, alas, then I have to live the example now that I want for my teens. Be fearless in the face of fear. Be willing to be thought foolish and stupid. Have a blast.

Are you a jackass?

Shopping For Girls’ Clothes

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. This is not my child. 

 

Ever since I became a mother, I’ve been shocked at how hard it is to find suitable clothes for girls. When Noodge 2 was still in diapers, the rise of all the pants and shorts weren’t high enough to cover the diaper no matter how hard I pulled the pants up. I often wondered why anyone would manufacture bottoms that couldn’t cover a diaper? What 1 year-old needs a low-rise jean?

I didn’t have these problems for Noodge 1 – the boy. Shorts and pants always came up around the diaper.

As time marched on and I could completely control what they wore, finding appropriate fitting and looking clothing for a child wasn’t terribly difficult. I could guarantee certain stores wouldn’t let me down. One of my favorites back then was The Children’s Place. The shorts for girls came down mid-thigh, the price point was fantastic since every season I was replacing a wardrobe, and the clothing held up well wash after wash.

The length of shorts for the boy was never a problem. Every pair, regardless of where I purchased them, came to his knee. Not the case for the girl.

The funny thing about kids is they grow up and if they haven’t developed a mind of their own before puberty, be certain they will have one immediately following. They want a say in what they wear. And they should have a say. But the battle for age appropriate, and school appropriate and plain old appropriate is a big one.

When your daughter enters middle school, fitting in there becomes survival.  That means she wants to look like everyone else. Individuality isn’t in the forefront just yet. Even though as parents we preach: march to your own drummer, don’t jump off the Brooklyn Bridge just cause Taylor did, and stop worrying about what other people think of you. Problem with that age is you think everyone is thinking about you when in fact everyone is thinking about themselves.

Your daughter wants to wear what she sees everyone else wearing and when that includes shorts that barely cover her panties the battle just got harder. Let me digress for a minute if you will. Consider this a public service announcement. Mothers, don’t buy your seventh grade daughter bras from Victoria’s Secret. Cause guess what? When someone else’s daughter sees your daughter’s bra while changing for physical education she goes home and asks her mother to buy her one too. That makes mothers with enough sense to buy plain white bras for their twelve-year-old daughters have to work harder in battle. Don’t make them work that hard. Buy your daughter’s bra in plain, white cotton, without lace and leopard print too please.

Most girls want to shop in the places where her peers are shopping. That practice has been going on since someone decided wearing clothing instead of fig leaves would be beneficial in cold weather. I was that girl too. Wearing the right clothes on the prairie was very important a thousand years ago.

Now I have a teenage daughter and she wants to wear the cute clothes she sees on line. I don’t blame her. I would too. In fact, I do too. Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I don’t want to be fashionable. But I think teenagers, girls, have it harder.

Everything that’s out there for girls, young woman, with real curves and real bone structure and not the body of a mannequin, is too short, cut too low, too fitted, and comes complete with holes in it all strategically placed to show off her underwear.

Why must tops be made to stop mid-belly? And please, spare me the mind set, well, if she has the body for it she should wear it. Which I have actually heard more than one mother say. Why do you want your daughter, at any age, going around with her belly hanging out unless she’s at the beach? I’m pretty sure if I showed up at my mother’s house with a crop-top on she’d be asking me what the heck I was thinking. It would be for different reasons than the mother of a teenager, since at my age my belly is the equivalent of watching a car wreck, but she’s still my mother and still offers her opinions when she thinks I’ve lost my mind. way.

As I go from store to store with my daughter all I see around me are shorts that won’t make the finger-tip length rule at school. And let me add for my mothers whose daughters wear uniforms to school, your kid has to put clothes on every weekend too. So, it doesn’t matter that your child won’t be wearing shorts to school. On Saturdays, those same shorts aren’t Daddy appropriate either. The Coffee King has very specific rules about clothing. It might feel like a double standard, but again, girls’ clothing are too short, too low cut, too clingy. Boys’ clothing? Not at all. Noodge 1 is always in appropriate clothing. I couldn’t find shorts too short for him unless he wanted to start wearing the girls’ clothing. Then he’d be getting the too short lecture as well.

I hate that I have to say no to most of the things she likes. “Too short.” “Too low.” “Too much skin.” I just want to walk into the “it” stores and come out with bags of clothing that my kid likes, feels good in, and won’t get her “dress coded” at school. Why has the fashion industry decided that what’s “in” means show off your tits and ass? (Yes, I said bad words. It’s my blog.) I’ll tell you what adds to the fashion industry’s decision, twelve-year-olds wearing Victoria’s Secret!

I have no easy answer to this dilemma. I could start sending off letters to clothing stores asking them to stop carrying that kind of clothing for girls. Or write to the manufacturers asking for some help. Go ahead and offer the shorty shorts and half-tops, but please also offer full-length clothing that doesn’t cling to her every curve. I basically boycott the stores because we walk out empty handed, but my kid still needs things to wear and wants to tell her friends she went shopping in the cool stores. She certainly doesn’t want to shop in the stores I do. (Where things are more appropriately proportioned because you’re not getting a woman my age into some of those shorts. Nor should we be.)

In the meantime, it’s back to the battle field. Credit card at the ready.

 

The College Essay

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Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

As you may know, Noodge 1 has begun the college search. We are months away from the dreaded application process, but I can see it on the horizon every time I peek out from under my, “don’t send my boy to college” barricade.

I hear the college essay is quite an important part of the application. I’m glad I’m a writer and I can help him. Not that he’ll want my help or even need my help, but since I can’t help myself I will be offering my services.

I’m under the impression it’s beneficial for the applicant to have a moving story. Some adversity they experienced and climbed from the rubble to succeed again. That’s a lot of pressure for a teenager. Haven’t we as parents been trying to keep them from calamity at all costs? It makes me think of that Modern Family episode where Haley is trying to write her college essays and realizes she hasn’t experienced any obstacles in her life. That’s when Claire, her mother, helps her out. Funny episode.

Haley from Modern Family and Noodge 1 have a lot in common. Thank God. So, what’s he going to write about? How he couldn’t get internet while on vacation with his intact and semi-normal family? Or should he try sometimes my mother doesn’t go food shopping and I’m forced to eat the expired pickles in the fridge? How about, several times my mother has forced me to wear clothes from the hamper because she didn’t do my laundry and I never bothered to mention everything I own is dirty? And if they really want to feel sorry for him he could tell them about the times he’s been booted out of the Netflix account.

Maybe I should take him for a ride in the middle of the night, blindfolded (him not me) drop him off at a cemetery without his phone and tell him to find his way home? He could write about his crazy mother and the lessons he learned about survival, trust, and navigating by the stars. Hmmm……It would make for a great essay.

 

 

Why It Pays To Be a Helicopter Parent

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

If you Google “are helicopter parents bad” a huge list of articles from places like Forbes, Psychology Today, and the Huffington Post (Not a fan of everything coming out of HP) saying being a helicopter parent is the worst possible thing you can do for your child. I’m about to tell you why it isn’t so bad.

Some people may describe me one of those parents who do too much for their children. I drive them to the bus stop even though they’re both in high school now. (In my defense, the bus stop is not near our house, we don’t have sidewalks or street lights and the majority of the school year the bus arrives in the dark.) I do their laundry, make their lunches, I’ve been known to bring things to school when they’ve forgotten something. I have also been involved at school; Class parent, library volunteer, Girl Scout leader, PTA volunteer, Band Parent volunteer, and probably other things I’ve long forgotten. Oh, chaperone for class trips! And I wouldn’t let Noodge 1 fly with the marching band on his first band trip at the age of 14.

Am I ruining my children’s lives? Well,the verdict is still out on that. Ask them in twenty years.

But here’s what happened. Noodge 1 forgot his marching band uniform on the bus on Friday and didn’t realize he left it on the bus until 6 pm Friday night. He needed that uniform for a performance on Sunday. A performance, if missed, that takes seven points of his grade. Yes, they get a grade and credit for being in the marching band. This isn’t your average extra-curricular activity.

I could’ve let my son sink. In fact, many of you and all those articles say let him sink. It’s how he learns. Let me tell you what, you need to know your kid before you make that decision.

Because I’m involved in my kids’ activities I’ve had the great fortune to get to know people. Nice people. Moms like me. (And a few moms nothing like me.) So I sent a text. And we were able to get him another uniform. Mom to the rescue.

I rescued him because something bigger was going on. A more important learning lesson for both of us. Just the idea of losing seven points was enough of a consequence for him. You see, he’s my rule follower. Always has been. I keep waiting for that to change. Especially as he entered the teen years. It hasn’t. Most likely it won’t. Sometimes I wish he would, but he is and always has been an old soul.

His reaction to the idea of losing seven points worried me. Leaving a uniform on the bus wasn’t the end of the world and a very fixable problem since I knew the right person to ask for help. He didn’t see it that way. He had a committed an unthinkable act being so irresponsible. And he didn’t know how to handle how he felt.

Now we were dealing with the lesson; how to handle stress. Much more important in my book. Especially since I come from a long line of Italian people swimming in stress. What can I say? We’re hot-blooded passionate people.

Allowing him to blow a simple thing out of proportion, and punish himself over it, (the rule follower thing) without the tools to change that thinking process wasn’t worth my taking a stand not to help him so he could learn a lesson. He learned it. All by himself. I just saved him extra anguish he would’ve piled on over nothing.

Mistakes happen and what I think childhood often is a time when we’re taught mistakes are bad. “Don’t forget your gym clothes or you’ll get in trouble.” We all forget things. More importantly, we need to learn not to sweat the small stuff. Do we need to learn to follow rules? Yes. Should we make kids learn to fear making a mistake? No way.

Now, if you have a kid who could care less about making mistakes, doesn’t worry about the consequences, I don’t have answers for you because I’m not an expert. I know my kids. I try my best to be the best parent I can and pray everyday I don’t screw up too badly.

I may be a helicopter parent at times, but there have been enough times I wasn’t. My kids know I’m not an open threat. That’s good enough for me. I won’t let them go down for making an honest, harmless, fixable mistake.

What I hope I showed him was be nice to people, give of your time, be helpful because someday you might be the one asking for help. Show your appreciation for their kindness. (We gave our savior a big bag of truffles.) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

And mom is always near by flying her helicopter.

 

The College Tour

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We went looking at colleges recently. Noodge 1 is a junior in high school and I’m under the impression this is the time to get serious and check things out. There’s a lot of pressure to pick the right school. I have a friend whose son is also a junior and she’s been on a binge to see as many schools as possible before Christmas.

But anyway, looking at colleges is the right thing to do, so we’re at it. As long as we’ve seen every school he’s interested in by marching band camp next summer I’m good. We can skip the discussion about how ridiculously expensive school is. It is. That’s that. The Coffee King and I have made our requirements known. Though, the cost of school is a very important discussion and if you want to have one here at the blog, that’s fine, but please have one at home too.

You know for me, the most important thing was how clean the dorms were. Okay, not THE most important, but I’ll admit I elbowed a few people out of the way to make sure I took a look at the room on display. I controlled myself and stayed out of the bathroom. But I will be sending Noodge to school with bleach. Mark my words.

It isn’t easy to choose a school. (Here’s an article from The New York Times about how to pick a college. I’m not a huge fan of The Times, but how badly can they screw up this information?) For us, we’re looking at location. I want him to go to school in my backyard. He wants to go anywhere. We’re compromising. Anything withing five hours. The Coffee King had to weigh in and talk me off the ledge. I know, I know. I’m a controlling, paranoid mother. What can I say? I take my job very seriously.

Degrees offered is also important. Noodge has an idea what he wants to do. He’s changed his mind several times already, which is fine, but based on today’s desires we have a place to start.

The ugly cost is a factor. How much money the school offers in aid is important. It might be the most important component for some people. The schools seem to give financial aid information at their orientation, but if they don’t, make sure to ask. Internships and opportunities as well as activities for the students should also factor in. One big thing for Noodge is the campus itself. He likes a traditional campus more than an urban campus. That rules out plenty of schools. Oh, and size is a factor for some students. He goes to a very large high school so a larger college isn’t intimidating and a smaller one is fine too. Every kid is different. Make sure to find out what the teacher to student ratio is. Some kids will thrive in a lecture hall of three hundred and others will drown.

Helping my child to pick a college is like every other stop on this journey of motherhood. I’m leading with my heart, offering advice, and praying. The rest is up to him.

I mentioned earlier Noodge has been changing his mind about his career choices. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m learning changing his mind isn’t so easy for him. I don’t know if it’s because he’s told people what he wants to do and now that story is different, but over breakfast, while we were away, we talked. Really talked. I led with my heart and gave advice. I told him the decision was his. He didn’t have to explain his career choice to anyone.

It’s okay to change your mind. You don’t have to know what you want to do with your entire life at sixteen. Do what makes you happy because you’ll be doing it for many years, many hours of the day. Life is too short to hate what you do. And if you start doing something and you decide you don’t like it, change it. You’re going to be okay. Dad and I are proud of you.

My son looked at me and said, “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For giving me advice and being so nice about me wanting to do something else.”

Since we were in a public place it took all the strength I had not to grab him and hug him. My heart swelled as I watched him taller than me, stronger than me, smarter than me, with his unshaven face, (It’s No Shave November and though NSN is an organization helping cancer awareness I think Noodge and his friends just want to compare their ability to grow a beard.) The little chubby baby I held in my arms is almost a man.

“It’s what I’m here for.” A stupid grin plastered across my face. As we left the restaurant, I gave him an aww shucks shoulder bump.

My boy is leaving the nest soon. No matter which college he chooses, I know he’ll be fine. Me on the other hand…..

 

 

Weird Relatives

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Thanksgiving is only three weeks away. I can’t believe it really. I’m not sure where October went. I know I showed up everyday for the entire month, but I didn’t do anything exciting like jet off to Europe and walk the runway. (They won’t let me on the runway. One, I’m too short. Two, I’m too old, and Three, well, let’s just say I had to do a lot of fancy foot work to get the records expunged.)

I love Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite holidays. Probably because it’s the one time of year I make stuffing and everyone loves my stuffing. How that happened, I have no idea, but far be it for me to argue when I’m getting a compliment. I also love the Macy’s Parade. I have a thing for parades. Probably dates back to my baton twirling days. But I digress.

Here’s the thing about Thanksgiving. The weird relatives have to come out. We can hide them all year long and pretend Aunt Sally doesn’t exist, but on Thanksgiving we have to unlock the attic door and allow her to see the light. We can handle Aunt Sally for one day, right? Yeah right. Until she yanks the turkey leg straight from the body of the bird and starts chasing Uncle Arthur around the table spewing those chants she thinks keep turkey spirits away. Yeah, you know what I mean.

I like to think of weird relatives as characters in a play. Everyone has a role. We have the director. That’s usually me. We have the carver. The carver likes to play with knives and has a hidden fetish for Sweeney Todd. There’s the sensible one. Her food isn’t allowed to touch on the plate which means several trips back and forth into the kitchen where she carefully washes her plate before she tries the mashed potatoes and the corn. And of course there’s Aunt Sally. I try to cast her as an understudy, but there’s no stopping that woman once she gets her hands on that bird.

How boring would Thanksgiving be if we didn’t break bread with our weird relatives? I mean, come one, no one actually plays football on the front lawn while the food is cooking like normal people do they?

And what about the stragglers? Or as I lovingly refer to them, the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys. There’s Bob. We love Bob. Bob has no partner, no children, no relatives anyone can identify. He belongs to no social groups and the one he tried to join asked him politely to leave. He comes to Thanksgiving dinner every year in his plaid suit jacket complete with elbow patches. He sports the infamous comb over now beginning under his ear instead of above it. What I can’t figure out is why he brings his briefcase with him. I don’t ask. I just show him to his spot next to Aunt Sally. At least he doesn’t eat with his hands. Though he does allow the gravy to touch the cranberry sauce so he can’t sit next to the sensible one. We tried that once. It ended badly.

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving’s display of weird relatives. It’s only at Thanksgiving that I am serenaded by the constant sucking of one’s teeth. I’ll keep that relative nameless. They read the blog.

So, faithful reader, who will be sitting at your Thanksgiving table this year? And please provide pictures.