Category Archives: Growing Up

If Grey (With Pink Polka Dots) Was A Spring Color

Today always brings a wistful melancholy.

Forty years later. I still remember.

I was in kindergarten. My friend Jeannie was in one class. I was in the other. We walked to and from school together every day. But once we reached the building, we took off our coats and hats and gloves and boots and put on our school shoes. She went to her class and I went to mine. We saw each other at recess and at “Morning Time.”

At Morning Time, the two classes sat together in the  common area between the two classrooms. We sang a song. We talked about which day of the week it was. And if the date was significant in some way.

First Day of Spring.

Jeannie and I were sitting next to each other. Like we always did during Morning Time. It was cold outside. Still snow on the ground. I was wearing my favorite dress. A soft, grey wool sweater dress with a pink polka dot border at the bottom. It twirled. A little. And I had on tights. And little grey boots. The boots click-clacked when I walked. I felt grown-up. Pretty.

It was the first day of spring. And it was still very cold. But Jeannie was wearing a short sleeved white dress with little blue and yellow flowers all over. Her dress really twirled. It had a ruffle at the bottom and at the sleeves. She was wearing white tights and shiny patent leather shoes. She felt grown-up and pretty.

Mrs. Kay, Jeannie’s teacher, was leading the group. She asked us about spring. And the new life and colors it brings. She asked everyone who was wearing pretty spring colors to stand up.

I looked down at my pretty, pink polka dots and smiled. Jeannie and I clasped hands and stood up together.

Mrs. Kay talked about each of the colors she saw and when she got to me she said, “Jane, sit down, please. You’re not wearing spring colors today.”

“But Mrs. Kay….I’m wearing pink polka dots.”

“No, Sweetie. Your dress is grey.”

All she could see was the grey. All I knew was that my favorite soft, grey wool dress with pink polka dots was now ugly and itchy.

I plopped down as I heard Mrs. Kay say, “Now everyone look at Jeannie’s dress. White with those pretty blue and yellow flowers! What a wonderful celebration of spring!”

I didn’t hear much after that. My grey dress was no longer my favorite. One sentence took that all away.

………..

To recognize the First Day of Spring today, I wore my favorite grey cardigan. With a pale, pink blouse underneath.

In honor of Mrs. Kay.

I do that quite often now. For the past 20 years, or so, I wear a combination of grey and pink on the First Day of Spring. My adult self, showing my 5-year-old self that grey and pink can feel like spring. It’s an attitude. It’s from within.

And words will not diminish me anymore.

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Filed under Growing Up, Hey! That Reminds Me!

How Young Is Too Young? And Am I Setting My Kids Up For Social Suicide?

A friend shared with me her shock and dismay that her niece had an Instagram account. First of all, her niece was constantly on her phone, fingers in motion. Second, the child’s mother spent the weekend saying things like “Ohhh, such a cute shot. You should send that out!” and “Six more followers! Good job!” Third, my friend’s daughter was now begging for an account because all the cool kids had one.

And last, her niece is 10 years old.

Ten.

As in, one and a zero.

twitterpic

So, I ask. Why does a 10 year old need a phone? Why is her mother so concerned about the number of followers her daughter has? And are my kids uncool because they don’t even have a phone yet?

Social media is difficult enough for an adult to navigate, and I’m talking about the emotional aspects, not the mechanics. Cyber bullying is now addressed in high schools and middle schools. Must we address it in elementary schools, as well?

Of course we must. But that doesn’t mean I want to.

I don’t see the need for my child to have a phone just yet. Knowing what I know about the dangers of the world and how close our technology can connect my child to these dangers is not appealing. Call me a worrywart. Call me over-protective. I don’t care.

My children are at an age when I am having to address this issue and I don’t want to. I want to keep my kids young and innocent and pure. I want their phone conversations to be supervised by a long cord tethered to the phone in the middle of a common area, oh say, like a kitchen. I want to know who is calling and at what time. You know, like it was when we were kids.

I’m struggling.

How young is too young?

Am I setting my kids up for social suicide because I want to prolong their innocence?

What do you think? And how are you handling this tricky, yet common, new century conundrum?

 

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Filed under Growing Up, Motherhood, parenting, Ponderings

Former Hot, Hunky Jock Becomes An Actor. Surprise!

He was a jock.

He was hot.

And he knew it.

And all through high school he’d hang with his posse. They’d sit on the floor of a well traveled hallway and rate the girls with flashcards. When a 9 or 10 would walk by, the lucky girl would giggle and blush. When a 6 would walk by (me), she’d hang her head in shame and wish she could disappear. I have no idea how the ones or twos got to class. Luckily, the teachers got wind of what was going on and ended the game.

He and his friends made fun of the choir geeks. No slushies in the face (it would have been Slurpees) but they wouldn’t be caught dead at one of our concerts. And the plays? Even when we needed hunky, athletic types for Grease they were too cool to try out.

I remember him making a disparaging comment about one of my friends. One of my gay friends.

“I’m in that play, too,” I said.

“No you’re not,” he shook his head. “You’re a swimmer.” (Our school often won State Championships in swimming so it was a cool sport back then.)

“Yes, and I’m in the play and the choir and the select ensemble,” I waited for his response.

There was none. He brushed it off. In his cool, dismissive way.

“Sorry about the other day,” he said, barely audible, and he walked away.

I suppose he was referencing the day I was rated a six.

We never really spoke again. He was an upper classman. Friends with my upper class friends on the swim team. I ran into him a few times before he graduated at hockey games or football parties (he played) but we barely said hello. And that was OK with me. After his comment about my friend, I no longer thought he was hot.

He had been popping up on my sidebar in facebook. For over a year.  Fifteen friends in common. I’ve ignored it. But I wondered if he even remembered me. I sent a friend request. Just to see what would happen.  And now I’m part of his other 1,886 posse members.

Guess what? He’s in Hollywood. And he’s a hot, hunky actor. Making a fairly good living at it. I’d heard this but didn’t believe it. I’d seen him, thought I’d recognized him in a few television shows, but dismissed it. I thought he went to Cornell University. Majoring in business or some other predictable pursuit. It couldn’t be him. He made fun of us acting geeks, the songbirds singing with the queers.

Guess what? He did attend Cornell. Majored in business. Then, I guess he figured out acting would be a more lucrative career for him than business.

And there he is. On the small screen. Making a living as an acting geek. A hot, hunky acting geek. With fans. An L.A. home. A rock ‘n roll lifestyle.

Well. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything less.

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Filed under Growing Up, Observations

Thank You, Mom. For Saving My Life. Again.

The first time, we were hiking. On a trail we know and love but hasn’t been properly maintained. We won’t be hiking it again until the boys are older, due to the dangers that lurk, but we didn’t know this at the time.

A narrow portion of the trail with a steep drop-off.  Tree roots underfoot. A broken railing.

“Stay to the right. As close as you can,” my husband cautioned.

There was no talking. Only concentration. And then it happened. My not-so-graceful 7-year-old stumbled and tumbled over the edge. With reflexes of a Jedi, I grabbed his flailing arm. He dangled for a moment in mid-air and I yanked him toward me.

His eyes wide with fear, he said, “Mom! You saved my life!” And then tears started to well up. In both of our eyes.

…..

Yesterday. Giggling in the TV room. I walked in. Two little boys, cuddled on the couch together. One boy at each end, sharing a blanket.

As soon as I walked into the room both boys hid under the blanket. I knew something was up. I yanked the blanket off them. Their little legs were buried in Starburst wrappers. An entire bag, gone. All before 9am. Breakfast of champions.

I couldn’t help but laugh. It was a comical scene. Two little boys, sneaking candy for breakfast. Succeeding – at least until Mom walks into the room. I’m a horrible disciplinarian and I own it. With my laughter, they begin laughing, too.

And then it happened. #2son started choking.

Any first aid training I’ve ever had started racing through my mind. As long as he’s coughing, it’s OK. Don’t do anything. But the Heimlich maneuver. I know how to do it for an infant. I know how to do it for an adult. But a 7-year-old? Will I crush him? What if I don’t do it hard enough. Ok. Calm. If it gets to that point have #1son call 911.

“Can you walk?”

Eyes wide with fear he nods, yes.

“Go into the bathroom,” I direct him. I don’t know why I want him in the bathroom. I suppose because I’m envisioning squeezing the guts out of him and anticipating his vomit and offending candy all over the place. After all, I just vacuumed.

“It’s OK,” I tell him. “Keep coughing. It WILL come out.”

I don’t know how I’m staying calm. Three minutes, I remind myself. Only three minutes without oxygen. How fast can the ambulance get here?

And then it happens. He can’t cough. He looks at me, afraid, and his skin is starting to turn colors.

I shout, “Open your mouth. Wide! Wider!”

I jam my hand in his mouth and yank on a enormous gob of chewed Starburst. It’s stuck on his back teeth and blocking his airway. The coughing starts again and the huge blob lands in the sink.

He grabs me around my middle, holding me for dear life. I hold him exactly the same way.

“Thanks, Mom. For saving my life again.”

Again?

Oh. That’s right. Two months ago, on our hike.

“I hope I’m here, every single time, to save your life.” And I hug him even closer.

…..

When things like this happen. When I hear of the teenager playing hockey, who in a freak accident, is now paralyzed. When a child dies in a bicycle accident. I just want to wrap my children in bubble wrap. Or keep them at home and pad the rooms. Feed them liquids and finely diced solid food. Make wearing bicycle helmets a prerequisite for leaving the house.

But I can’t. Life is full of risk. In order to fully live, we must take risks. Every single day. Small risks. Big risks. Calculated risks. Split-second risks.

We can’t live in a bubble. And our children shouldn’t either.

But, dag gum it, I’m going to be there, every step of the way, with hands at the ready.

To save his life.

If I can.

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Filed under All In A Day's Work, children, Growing Up, Lessons Learned

My Baby Is Heading Off To College. Help!

My baby. My sweet, adorable angel. My amazing little girl is heading off for college. College? Seriously? Oh, how I feel like my grandmother when I say this but here goes….Where DID the time go?

I love being a mother.

Wait.

Did I just say “love?”

I ADORE being a mother.

It has been, hands down, that absolute best job I have ever had. No commute time. Loads of benefits. Company car. My coffee breaks aren’t timed. I can take a lunch whenever I want. No company parties to attend. Free daycare. Casual dress code.

And, I’m my own boss. (Well, most of the time.)

But it’s one of the rare jobs out there with a limited lifespan and forced retirement. Oh sure, I’m still her mother. But no longer the day-to-day chef, nurse, chauffeur, laundress and maid.

Hmmmmm. Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.

As much as I’ve complained about picking up after her, attending to her crisis-of-the-week, cooking the dreaded tuna noodle casserole (her favorite), I’m going to miss that little stinker.

She is bubbly and bright. A stinging sense of humor. She quick with a witty comment or a heartfelt hug  just when you need it. She entertains her little brothers for hours on end. She has the magic touch when they are sad or frustrated.

I am going to miss her. So much. Four hours away seems like forever away.

My heart is aching and excited for her, all in the same beat. Such a pivotal and exciting chapter in her life. But I’ll be on the sidelines, with binoculars, from oh-so-far-away, watching and cheering. I’d like to think it is going to be a pivotal and exciting chapter for me, too.

But right now?

I just miss her so much.

 

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Filed under children, Growing Up, Motherhood

The Life And Times Of Six-Year-Old Jane

Hi. I’m Jane. And I’m a big girl, now.

I’m six. And my life has been so very, very full.

My earliest memory is sitting on the basement steps, eating this pretty blue stuff. (Drano) I was about 18 months old. It didn’t taste very good but it sure looked sparkly. The next thing I know my mom’s nails were jabbing into my armpits. It really hurt. But my mouth and eyes were stinging, too. Then water was rushing all over my face. My mom put me in the tub with all my clothes on. I can’t believe she let me get all wet and messy like that. Time for a new outfit! I love changing clothes.

I like reading with my mom and my sisters. I have 3. Two are twins and they’re three years old now. When they were babies I would help my mom feed them a bottle while my other sister held the book so mom could read to us. My dad snapped a picture with mom and I each feeding a baby and my sister on the floor, holding the book. I like that picture.

I have more things I remember that I don’t want to talk about. My parents were very stressed, having 4 kids in the span of 3 years. They did the best they could but it didn’t feel like it at the time. Tired. Angry. Mean. My sister got pulled by her hair a lot. I’m glad my hair is short. Some cruel punishments that shouldn’t be mentioned. I tried really hard to be good, to hide the evidence if we messed up. To clean up.

Sometimes it worked. Other times?

I don’t like to remember those times.

I loved my plaid skirt, my Baby Boo, my red bicycle. I love visiting my grandparents. Everyone is happy there. No one fights. And my grandmother doesn’t let us get hit.

I remember the moment I learned to tie my shoes. I was waiting for my mom to finish changing the twins and I was tired of waiting. I played around with the laces and suddenly I realized they were tied. I was so excited. I jumped up and told my mom. She brushed past me and muttered, “Well, it’s about time.” I didn’t care. I did it all by myself. I will never forget that moment.

I play with my sisters and we have lots of fun together. We play pretend mostly. My sister closest to my age is so funny. She makes me laugh all the time. We protect each other. We giggle long into the night, that is, until my dad comes in and tells us to be quiet. She’s my best friend.

There was that time that I had to go to the hospital because I OD’d on baby aspirin. My mom and the twins were napping. My sister and I were bored. So, we played tea party. We wanted real food but we weren’t supposed to leave our bedroom. But there was a bottle of pink pills on top of the dresser. And they tasted like orange candy. We pretended they were tiny cookies. I ate most of them. I guess that’s why I had to get my stomach pumped. It hurt. A lot. But the nurses were so nice to me. They didn’t yell at me because I made a mistake. I wanted to go home with the one with the curly hair.

I remember the day that all my friends got to go to kindergarten and not me. I wanted to go to school so badly but I wasn’t old enough yet. But now, I’m in school and I love it. It’s a lot better than staying at home.

So that’s me. Jane. Six years old. In school and loving it.

As long as I can go to school every day, I think I’ll be ok.

If you had a six-year-old memoir, how would yours read? Feel free to share here, in the comments section, or on your own blog.

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Filed under children, Growing Up

My! How Time Flies!

I remember, sitting in a large auditorium, listening to the Assistant Headmaster welcome all of the parents of the incoming kindergarteners to the school.

“Welcome parents of the class of 2011!”

And we all chuckled.

My, how time flies!

 

 

Congratulations, my sweet, adorable angel. I’m so proud of you!

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Filed under Growing Up, Motherhood

They Make Lifetime Movies About People Like Me!

My teenage daughter has hit yet another (inevitable) stumbling block in her young adult career. First (real, true love)Break-Up.

It sucks. And it sucks to be her mother watching her go through this heartache and not be able to make it all better.

Except laugh.  (Yes, I’m one of those moms.)

“They make Lifetime movies about people like me!” she wailed.

Thank goodness her head was buried in a pillow and she couldn’t see my face. I was biting back a smile.

You mean the one about the teenage girl raising her half siblings because her drug addicted mom was in jail?

Nope.

Or the one about the good kid turned porn addict?

Nope. (Thank God.)

Or what about the one about the cougar-she-devil who seduces her stepson who kills his dad to have creepy stepmom all to himself?

Ewwwww and a firm no.

Then there’s the upcoming movie about the woman who thinks her husband has been unfaithful so she hires a private investigator to prove it and the P.I. falls in love with her so he fakes that the husband is having an affair to win her over.

(Honestly. I couldn’t make this stuff up.)

No, sweetheart. I hate to tell you this. Your life, as unique as it is, is so similar to the millions of other lives out there. We have heartache. We have pain. We have suffering.

Some of us push through it better than others. Some of us wallow.

But we are all walking Lifetime movies of our very own.

And hopefully, yours will never be produced for television.

(Hugs, hugs, kisses and hugs, sweet girl. I am hurting for you. Right now, everything is raw and horrible. Empty. And oh-so-difficult. But like the beautiful moments we should treasure and cherish; this, too, shall pass.)

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Filed under Growing Up, Motherhood, parenting

Stay Forever Young – Between The Ears, Anyway

I’m always learning. My grandmother taught me that it would keep my mind young.

She was right.

My daughter and I were sitting on the couch last night, watching the final (or not so final) episode of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic. (Oh, how we love Maggie Smith! She has the best lines, the best delivery. So much fun to watch.) We were talking about the age of women of that time period for marriage and childbirth.

My daughter turned to me and said, “I can’t believe you’re going to be 50 in a few years. You certainly don’t look that old!” (I suppose that was a compliment.)

“I know,” I said, “I don’t feel almost 50. I feel almost 30. In my mind, I feel very young.”

She looked at me oddly.

“You know what I mean?” I asked.

“No, mom,” she said with a grin, “I’m only 18. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

I suppose it’s a bit of a You-Had-To-Be-There-Moment but we were sent into a fit of giggles. Of course she has no idea about her mind feeling young. She’s still young.

My grandmother loved politics, crossword puzzles and bridge. I love current events, jigsaw puzzles and playing Euchre and Rummy. She and I were/are both voracious readers. She loved fashion and studying pop culture. I love new music and discovering new artists.

Anything to keep your mind young; but like the Nike ad said –  just do it. Exercise that muscle between your ears. Pick up a new language. Take a cooking class. Yank out your old Algebra books (I just did that the other day and had a blast challenging myself to complete some problems.)

Our bodies, our eyes, our once nimble fingers. They will show their age no matter how much exercise or botox we try.

But our mind?

That has the true potential of staying forever young.

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Filed under Coffee Talk, Growing Up, How We Roll, Lessons Learned

Money Makes The World Go ‘Round

Money makes the world go ’round. Or does it? And if it does, why can’t we talk about it?

My parents, when times were tough, were horrible with money. I found out, only recently, that they almost lost their home – not once, but twice – when I was a small child.

When I was very young we lived very simply, very frugally. I remember sharing a bedroom with my three other sisters and my parents sleeping on the pull-out couch in the den. We ate every kind of noodle and rice casserole to stretch the dollar. We walked instead of starting up the car. (But then, we lived in a neighborhood where we could actually walk to the market and drugstore.)

My father worked hard at a job that he loved. He worked hard at a job that he hated once new management took over. Bottom line, he worked very hard for the things that we had. And by the time I was a middle school student, we were doing very well. Really well. Designer clothes, high-end restaurant meals, a large beautiful home decorated by professionals, new cars. Money was flowing and my parents were no longer poor money managers.

Me? I’m the exact opposite. My chosen profession was education. I loved teaching. I loved it so much that I passed up the opportunity to earn a higher salary in the public school system where I felt my creativity would be squashed. I taught for a much lower salary at a small private school.

With my low salary and as a single parent, I was just above the poverty line. In fact, if the car I drove was a few years older, I would have qualified for food stamps. But I was happy. I had minimal debt. I was a good money manager. We were getting by.

Life circumstances changed and now there is more money to manage. Unlike my parents, when the money is flowing, I am a terrible money manager. I allow myself to get lulled into a false sense of security. Because I know the money is flowing, I use the credit card more often. I buy things I don’t need. I spend before I think.

Anything I’ve learned about money I’ve had to read in books or listen to money experts on TV or radio. What they talk about is so foreign to me. Putting into practice what they preach is difficult.

My parental model has flaws. My parents never spoke about money with me. They bought. They spent. And I never saw the consequences. When I was 16 they gave me a department store credit card. In my name. I’ll never forget when the first bill came and I freaked out because I couldn’t pay the balance. They laughed at my distress and told me they’d cover it. I cut up the card and told them I didn’t want it anymore. I couldn’t handle the responsibility.

I also vowed I would teach my kids about money. With my daughter, I’m not sure I did any better than my parents. I’ve tried one theory and the next, but she’s a spender. A generous, kind, loving spender. When money is flowing, she buys for herself and for the ones she loves. She had her first real job this past year and at Christmas she was so excited to be able to buy “real gifts” (her words) for her family and friends.

But she’s had the job for 5 months now and has yet to save a dime.

How can I stop this cycle with my sons? Which money theory is the best one? Some say you shouldn’t pay your kids to do household chores. They are part of a family and chores are part of being a family member. Others say if your child doesn’t do their chores, they don’t get paid. Just like the real world. But both theories make sense to me. What’s a poor money manager to do?

I wish my parents had been more open about their mistakes and their successes. I have no idea how my parents became “successful” with their money decisions. They just did. One day we were poor, the next day we were very, very comfortable. (See? I can’t even say the word wealthy.)

Ugh.

My money issues are just too big for this blog.

So I’ll do what I do best. I’ll bury my head in the sand and distract myself with a little humor.

You can, too, if you’d like. Just press play.

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Filed under children, Growing Up, parenting, Ponderings