In Honor of Best Friends Day: Friendships Are Like Paper Plates

  I’m a firm believer that friendships are disposable. I know that sound harsh, but look at it like this; some friendships are like paper plates and some are like your good stoneware. A paper plate serves a purpose and when that purpose is over or the plate is a bleeding mess you toss it. But […]

In honor of National Best Friends Day, one of my favorite blog posts is making a return visit. To all my stoneware: Thank you for your beauty, integrity, and taking up space in my cabinets. I love you all! S. 

 

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My senior prom. Thirty years ago. (Time flies.) These girls were my besties back then. Betsy, on the left, is stoneware. Loren, on the right, also stoneware. I love them both dearly. Meredith, the one next to me, paper plate. Her plate got tossed thirty years ago. Just the way it goes. 

 

I’m a firm believer that friendships are disposable. I know that sound harsh, but look at it like this; some friendships are like paper plates and some are like your good stoneware. A paper plate serves a purpose and when that purpose is over or the plate is a bleeding mess you toss it. But your stoneware comes out every day, sometimes three times a day and is probably in your favorite color. Stoneware helps you, supports you, is reliable, loyal, accepts you for the cook you are, and heats up like a hot flash for you. You might buy thousands of paper plates over your lifetime, but you’ll only have a setting for twelve of that stoneware.

You don’t know when in your life you’re going to find that perfect set of stoneware. You might have to buy it in pieces. Some during high school, some during college, maybe even a piece you picked up along the way. But don’t look for a bargain. Stoneware is worth the price you pay. And if you do get it on sale, well, then, lucky you.

Paper plates are easy to find. They’re every where you look and they’re cheap. But they will always and forever be only paper plates. Don’t hold any grudges over them, though. I’ve had some paper plates I’ve loved over the years, but they still had to go when their purpose was served. I trashed paper plates in middle school, high school, college, from the countless jobs I’ve held, neighbors, committee groups, the list goes on and on. The best thing about paper plates is when you’re done with the package another package miraculously shows up in your cabinets. Right when you needed them the most. Paper plates are great-fill ins when you don’t have time to wash your stoneware. But when you’re making lasagna for dinner and the cheese won’t stick together and is running off the spatula nothing will do, but your favorite stoneware dish.

My stoneware set is much smaller than twelve, but I’m okay with that. We’ve been together a long time. My stoneware never disappoints me and is as vibrant as ever. It’s always there when I need it, shares secrets with me, makes me laugh, and reminds me why I bought it in the first place.

I’m thankful for the paper plates too. They’re quick and easy. They’re fun.

I often wonder if my Noodges have started buying pieces of their stoneware. Many times I look at the selection in their hands and think, “Dear Lord, that is a paper plate if I ever saw one. Put it down.” And sometimes I think, “that could be a keeper.” But that will be for them to decide. And I know for myself, there have been times when paper plates were disguised as my favorite stoneware. It wasn’t until the bottom leaked that I realized I’d been holding an imposter. I guess that will happen to my kids too.

How about you, faithful reader? What’s in your cabinet?

 

 

 

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 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…..

 

 

We’re Screwed

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Recently I was having a conversation about school with Noodge 1. He’s a junior in high school. This is the year that counts. Harder classes. The grades colleges focus on.Blah, blah, blah. But I’m concerned. Always have been. Kids today don’t know how to write well.

I teach creative writing classes to students of all ages. I was also an adjunct professor a few years back. I’ve published three novels. I know a little bit about writing. As a mother and a teacher, I’m shocked at how little time schools spend on grammar and sentence structure. Not to mention, idea development and cohesive thinking. I know you’re going to say it’s the aptitude test and the schools don’t have time. I don’t care. They need to.

While Noodge and I were talking he mentioned his friend who was writing a paper for history class. An AP history class. That stands for Advanced Placement. Those AP classes can mean possible college credit. Noodge’s friend needed to draw a conclusion in his writing. That’s fine. No worries so far. Until the young man stumbled for the correct word.

What did he write, you ask? He said, “We were screwed.” Yes, ladies and gents. Screwed. The young man could not, did not know how, to come up with a synonym for screwed in a paper that should be college level. Don’t be mistaken, this was not dialogue. Screwed was the only word he knew. And obviously he doesn’t know what a thesaurus is.

Who let this child down? Was it pure laziness? Perhaps. Or is it something more? Are we so busy worrying about The Tests that we side step what’s important? How are these kids going to get their point across in the real world?

Or is the problem that schools squash the love of reading and reading is the best way to build vocabulary. Our high school has implemented a new philosophy in their English department. Allow the students to choose books they want to read. Revolutionary! And about time, I’d say. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a need to read the classics. Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors and if it wasn’t for high school I don’t know when I would’ve found him, but if my only exposure to reading had been Canterbury Tales I’d be washing cars for a living instead of writing. I’ll tell you that. Chaucer is not on my list of top ten favorites. No offense to Mr. Chaucer.

I wonder what the history teacher said to Noodge’s friend. Did the teacher pull this boy aside and explain there are better ways to say, “We’re screwed.” Or did the teacher just take points off. Or maybe the teacher laughed and gave him extra credit. It’s all in the perspective, I suppose.

If I had been the teacher, I would’ve pulled the young man aside and asked him to come up with something better. I would’ve challenged him to use that big brain of his. No short cuts, no easy way outs.

Our kids need to know how to write well developed, thoughtful sentences. They need to know a paragraph holds one idea at a time. It isn’t necessary to repeat themselves in every paragraph to make a point and please don’t start each new idea with “Then.” Stay away from the verb “to be.” And for the love of all things holy, you cannot create a theme in a piece of writing by copying another author’s style.

It isn’t easy to teach writing or anything for that matter. I do blame The Tests for short changing our kids and I blame those that push those tests for selfishly motivated reasons. Let’s go back to the old way of doing things. Everything old isn’t bad and everything new isn’t great.

Because if the younger generation can’t write a lousy paper for history class, then you bet we’re screwed.

 

 

 

Is Back to School Night Worth It?

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

It’s that time of the year again. Back to School Night. How many of you go? And those of you that don’t. You’re probably the smart ones. I mean, what can  a teacher really tell you in ten minutes? It’s kind of like conferences. They are completely worthless. If your child is doing well, the school doesn’t recommend you come in for a conference. Who needs to take up time telling Mommy that little Johnny is an A student, right? But if your child is having trouble a ten minute conference isn’t enough time to discuss the problem and figure out a solution. Oh, we weren’t supposed to figure out a solution? It was just a ten minute vent session (usually for the teacher.) “Why does your son drop his apple sauce on the floor?” Yes, I had a first grade teacher ask me that about Noodge 1.

But back to Back to School Night. The main reason I go is because the teachers give themselves away during their presentation. I can put money down on what kind of teacher my kid is going to have. (Let’s just say because you’re a teacher and stand in front of group and talk all day doesn’t make you Robert DeNiro or Meryl Streep. You get me?)

Some teachers you can tell right away are going to be fantastic. They say things like, “I love what I do. I can’t believe how lucky I am to teach Social Studies.” They have creative ideas on how to present material. They tell you they have extra hours for tutorial (high school level) or they pushed their principal to allow something new that particular year. Their energy is high, their cheeks are rosy, and their aura is glowing.

Then we have the others. Noodge 2’s first grade teacher on Back to School Night: “If you have a daughter and she has long hair you should pull it back because hair is distracting.” From the woman who has no children. And she made sure to let everyone know she hated messes. Can you guess what kind of a year that was?

Or the teacher who insisted the folders matched the notebooks because she color coordinated her clothing to her hangers. She also wanted us to provide her with tennis balls because she didn’t like the noise the chairs made when pushed back from the desks. (Tennis balls cut in half and placed under the legs stops that noise in case you’re wondering.) All that information was revealed on Back to School Night. This teacher said to me on the day before spring break: “Enjoy your spring break…oh wait…you won’t. You’ll have your kids.” Yes, she really said that. I knew on BTSN she was going to be a pill.

Another reason I go is because I want my kids to know I care about their school experience. It’s another opportunity to show them I’m involved, I’m present. It’s why I chaperoned when I could, volunteered for class mother, school library, and Girl Scout troop leader. It’s why the Coffee King coached years of Little League and Rec basketball. And sadly, my BTS nights are winding down. They will get tucked away in the memory file for pulling out when I want to visit them. BTSN allows me to hang on to their childhood for just one more night.

No, you aren’t going to learn a whole lot about the class in those silly ten minutes. It’s not a time to question the teacher about your child’s progress. Our high school is so large I’m not even entirely sure the teacher realized my kid is the class this early in the year, but I won’t miss it because in fewer years than I like to think about my babies won’t have a BTSN. Their public school education will be a thing of the past. I hope they will remember how I went when I could’ve done so many other things and they will think about it with a warm feeling knowing their mom loved them.

BTSN is worth it to me.

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Do any of you remember that Staples commercial for school supplies where the Dad takes the kids to the store, the shopping cart is full of school supplies, the Dad is riding the back of the cart down the aisle the way kids would, one foot in the air, and his two children are dragging up the rear, heads hung low? The music playing over the commercial is the Christmas Carol, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” One of my absolute favorite commercials ever.

It’s that time again and I love it. I love school supplies. It’s a weird fetish, I realize, but I can’t help it. When I was in school I couldn’t wait to purchase new notebooks, pencils and pens, a Trapper Keeper and on and on. I loved having folders or a binder to organize myself. New school supplies meant a whole world of new possibilities. I might turn out smarter, maybe the cool kids would like me if I had the best binder, ah, my imagination would run away with itself. Let me tell you what, there is nothing like a brand new notebook just waiting for you to fill it!

When I didn’t have kids and was no longer in school I’d still browse through the new school supplies bursting out of the aisles and buy myself a notebook. And then when I had kids that needed school supplies? Well, look out. The fun was back. I never say no to school supplies. While they searched for the right pencil case, soft with a zipper, I secretly looked for things I could buy for me. I did it again this year! I’m addicted to notebooks. I can’t help it. All that empty space just waiting for stories to tell. A blank screen in Word can’t hold a candle to a blank page in a notebook. Then there’s the sound of my pen scratching across the page as my hand soars from line to line. I’ll take that sound over the clacking of keys any day.

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This year’s purchase.

As a matter of fact, I can’t wait to go to Staples because I need note cards to edit the new book I’m working on and hope to have published next year. It’s all I can do to control myself from running out when I should be writing. Though, Noodge 2 said just last night she needs additional supplies for schools. Yippee!!! I’ll be looking for those note cards for sure.

The start of the school year brings about so many emotions especially as my kids get older, but this time of the year is something like a birth. Everything brand new and smelling good. Endless chances to do it right. A clean slate. New experiences.

It is the most wonderful time of the year. (Next to Christmas, of course.)

Is Being Older Irrelevant?

23917309952_de5cbd4619_kI miss being young. I don’t miss everything about it, but I long for the time when my entire future was out in front of me. When I had every possibility in the palm of my hand like the first snowflake of the season.

There are certainly plenty of years still ahead of me and every day my eyes open is another opportunity to accomplish all I’ve wanted to. But those years of being young were simpler times. I miss the ease in which the days passed only bombarded by the trivial mishaps being a teen brings. Of course, there isn’t a teen on the planet that will tell you their lives are easy and I was no different. It is only with the filter of age and time that we can look back at the rough edges of teen life and see only the soft smooth picture that remains.

Things that were important then no longer matter now. I suppose what matters to me today will not matter five years from now either. Or perhaps matter less. The present moment leaves its sting like no other.

If I knew then, walking the halls of my small high school the smell of wax, cooked food and sweat in my nose, what I know now, I would have made different decisions. Not all the decisions. Some were good ones, but others I wouldn’t do again. Even armed with knowledge I’d be bound to make mistakes. We can’t eliminate risk all together though I’ve certainly tried often enough.

There is a level of fun associated with being young that no other time in our lives allows for. Somewhere along the path while I wasn’t paying attention fun slipped away. It wanted to play hide and seek and I was too busy to join in. Shooing it away, telling it to come back later. Fun has found a younger person to play with now.

I may miss being young because our society reveres youth. We disregard the older generation as passe; a burden to contend with. Their stories are thread bare and time wasters. Their skin folded and creased with years of living and not smooth and firm and dewy. They are easily manipulated, not adept with technology. They walk too slowly, drive badly, can’t hear or see you. We are told to fight getting older as if years of wisdom is a war to battle instead an honor to bestow. Society has decided an air brush yields more power than knowledge.

My class reunion is next year. I’m looking forward to it. Many people aren’t interested in returning to the place where they had pimples on their skin, awkward words stuck in their mouths, and two left feet. I think I want to go just to be near the people who knew me when I was young. It was with these people I grew up. We hear music that transports us back to football games on Friday nights, we remember parties on the beach, we wore clothes in neon colors and jeans washed in acid, we read books about children locked in attics and scary clowns. We went to movies on Monday nights with a date.

These were the people in my life long before I had teenagers of my own. My classmates don’t think I’m wrong because I’m old and out dated. Won’t tell me I don’t understand them because they know I was once that age. They won’t roll their eyes at me when I share my memories because those memories are theirs too. My stories aren’t boring and tired because they played a roll in them.

I am not young. That burden is for someone else to carry now. I need to read with glasses when the light is dim, I have eliminated cheese fries from my diet, I hung up my baton a long time ago. I am older, wiser in some ways. I have done some living and have plenty more to do. I have a lot to learn because the older we get we realize we don’t know everything. But I will tell you this:

I am not irrelevant.