Tuesday, June 24, 2014

La Dolce Vita

In the true spirit of the only other place that I could live besides my beloved New York this blog is not going to be long ... it is going to be short and sweet and require very little work.  It is going to be more about savoring the moments to come then worrying about the packing. In the true spirit of Italians I am going to shrug and think "ahh va bene" - it will be ok to do a piccolo blog.

Since I am going to be off tomorrow to that wonderful place that so easily calls to me - why not just take it down a notch or 10, breathe, see what I can accomplish and whatever I cannot well am sure I can do it when I get back.  

I am going to be living La Dolce Vita for the next 2 weeks in the land of ancient empires, modern fashion, amazing food and wine, the singsong language and of course the amazing people.  Ahh Italia here we come - the Big Love (what else would you call 2 families traveling together) adventure is about to start.  Did I mention my fascination with Vespas and gelato ???

People ask me if it is hard to travel with younger children - for us it is not.  These adventures are ones they look forward to.  Maybe we are just really lucky to have kids who are used to new places and people.  Maybe they are really lucky to have parents who take them to places that are different and amazing.  Whatever the reason it works so well.  Is it hard to travel with young children? I guess not with ours - my personal theory, and it is based on no science, is that kids behave in public as they behave at home - their parents are just more cognizant of it when others are watching.  Unless there are really special circumstances take your children to travel as far or as near as your budget allows - but take them because they will appreciate it and the time they get to spend with you. 

So Ciao for this week and look for the next blog from Rome .. Baci

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Us and Them

A friend of mine who has been working with Sandy Hook Promise, an organization started by parents whose children were taken from them through a horrific act, brought the group to our Village Fair recently.

It is a hard thing for me to talk about because I cannot imagine the horror of that day without crying and looking for my own children.  For those parents it will always be Us, we who can hug and kiss and scold and raise our children, and Them those parents who in an instant of such incomprehensible evil had their children brutally killed.  Their children - many still in the single digit ages. I will never pretend to understand their pain or any sort of connection to them on the level of pain that this must cause always. I can relate to them as a parent and as a human being in being horrified that this happened at all.

We hear a lot about gun violence - we hear the people shouting at one another.  We hear about how there should be stricter laws as others shout that guns do not kill people (umm actually they do they are used by people).  We hear about 2nd amendment rights.  We hear a lot of chatter pro and con but I feel like many of us have stopped listening.

Listening to the vast silence of the halls of every school where lives were lost. Listening to the crying where laughter used to be.  Do we really hear the voices crying out as 74 - 74!!!!! - school shootings have happened since Newtown???? Or has it become just background noise that we shrug at, we scowl at and do not stop to listen to.

We owe our children our full attention - and our example against bullying. Bullying that comes in the form of the NRA with their interests and funding from gun makers and not even listening to their members who overwhelmingly believe in laws that ensure that guns are not sold without background checks. We owe Our logic - really who needs an automatic weapon - have said it once will say it again WHAT YOU HUNTING with that???? 

One person, and there are many ones of us that make a loud voice, can vote at the local level where it can actually be heard by the politicians.  We can write and write and not let these bullies with their influence quiet us down because our children our screaming - they are screaming in their sleep from nightmares of these images, they are screaming because they are afraid and most of all they are screaming for us to be the people they have come to expect of us - the people that do all we can to make it safe for them. 

I have a hard time spending time or even reading the Sandy Hook Promise emails - because those parents have a pain no parent should have and I can sympathize but I cannot feel their pain as they do and for that I am grateful to have the ability to hug and love and scream occasionally at my children. 

It will be alway be Us and Them - but We can all do something.  Let's start with asking the media to stop publishing any info on the shooter, they do not deserve the coverage.  Let's start with not judging and working to help create policies on mental health issues.  Most of all let's scream with one voice that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!! Your 2nd amendment right cannot trump our children's rights to live without gun violence - these school shootings were done w legally bought guns since Columbine - so for those of you who have guns put them away and take care of the children in your own homes, there may be issues to be dealt with - they too are screaming for help - thank you to those who are listening.

http://action.sandyhookpromise.org/ - if you are interested it is time for us to be louder than the quiet passing of funds to politicians who forget that our government is of the people by the people for the people - no where in there is it for the benefit of a few.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The longest week - last week of school

This is the last full week of school for my kids.  I remember the emotions from this time so well from my own school years and it is repeated with them.  Every day seems sooooo long and this week cannot end fast enough.... cause when you are a kid that means 2 months of summer fun.  

It is always bittersweet especially this year in my house.  Our town is on what is known as a Princeton plan which means pretty much every 2 years of elementary schools move to a different school.  So 1st and 2nd grade which were in one school now loses 2nd graders, my youngest, to the next school in the process for 3rd and 4th grade.  Since my kids are 2 1/2 years apart as one enters a school the next one exits so they will not be in same one until 6th and 8th and high school.  This causes some stress for the parents in this town but the kids love the adventure of it from what I can see.  This allows for class size to be set and also for children who are young not to be in same school with older kids.  It works.  

Yet for my 4th grader - who is turning 10 !!! this week that double digit still knocks me out how did my first born become this man in training? I love him to pieces and I love the more evolved conversations we are having but a bit of me still remembers with a smile that first night in the hospital when I held his little body and was just amazed at the love that was happening.  Back to him cause that was all about me.  My guy has been with same class and teacher for 3rd and 4th grade so a bit in him is wondering what a new classroom will be like- time to make some newer friends, though he told me "I am pretty popular so I think I got it covered". Time to go to a school where I learned during the orientation, love the Principal, that so much more is understandably expected of them.   

Both my kids are just burstin' though to get this week over with, then 2 days next week and vaca here they come.  I remember this time like it was yesterday - though it was last millennium (no really it was in the 20th century).  I remember getting to school and spending a lot of time looking out the window thinking of what summer plans would be like.  School work pretty much stopped right about now and restlessness sank in.  We did not have air conditioning and some times in high school if there were stockings on, prep school dress code, man did they stick.  I remember all of us talking  and planning how we were going to keep in touch as our parents planned trips to home countries in Europe for some of us, family vacations for others and the promise of long days doing nothing on the streets of Astoria which for some reason held real appeal.  My kids look forward to seeing their camp friends from neighboring towns, going to the beach weekends and the family vacations during the summer. 

The days when it got dark later and so you could stay out longer, come home when street lights come on, Mr. Softee magic song pulling us toward the truck.  There were of course the days to come where boys from school crushes were to be replaced with the boys of summer.  I remember one year going away with my friend and her family, 2 only children who often benefited from each other's company as her parents took me along, to Virginia Beach.   It was pre-high school and we were in a rental that was attached to another house where for the first few days was another family with 3 kids.  Two were about our age, a sister and brother, but the older one - I still remember his straight brown hair falling across blue eyes.  No I do not remember his name but I do know the younger siblings told us he was annoying 'cause he missed his girlfriend back home.  At some point he and I started talking - if you ever met me you know I can make anyone talk.  We played badminton and when the butterfly went over the neighbor's fence and we ran to get it and he kissed me.  I remember that so well - I blushed, it was an innocent kiss on the lips and it happened once more before we ran back flushed.  They left the next day.  It is added to the treasure trove of summer memories I have. 

The innocence of that time when school relationships seemed so tenuous, where you felt that if went away the world you were leaving behind would suddenly break out into a Grease like extravaganza that you would miss .. it never did your vacation was always more interesting.  That last week of school felt months long for that sweet smell of summer and lazy days full of no uniforms, no homework, beach (including tar beach for us city kids), public pools and long days of tag in the streets or just plain hanging out enjoying every moment.  That last week was long but the last week before you were due to go back was short - it was full of promise to go back to school, tanned, happy, ready to talk to the people who you had not seen as well as to the people you spent days and then hours stretching that phone cord talking to  even after just leaving them from a day's worth of hanging out.  Ahh those were the days. 

I mentioned Grease before and nothing says summer like Grease - I saw it at least 20 times the summer it came out and think we all hoped for a Danny Zucko romance and a chance to wear those sexy black pants " Tell me about it stud"- put cigarette out with very cool shoes... ahh sigh. So as the kids drag through this week think back on your weeks before summer vacation - the pleasure of all those weeks off and most of all the notion that time was languid not hurried like it is as adults....

School's out for summer ... Alice Cooper  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hey Luke ... I am your Father

That may not be quite the right way to say that but it is among the most famous lines in the Star Wars movie franchise.

I wrote a blog about all the articles, books, and talk show topics that serve to tell us moms that the bar has been set very high for us and it changes all the time just in case you think you reach it.  My friend Kris had a great response to that blog " I do not care what type [tiger, French, helicopter, Freudian topic] of mother I am as long as my kids think I am a great mother" - so true and from my personal experience the kid table of judges raises a 10 card every time for our performance.  There is of course the perfected eye roll of when we do something they do not agree with but that is when we are being the mothers they need even if they do not yet realize it.

So where are the articles on dads ?  Lion dads, Italian suave dads, drone dads -- I am just looking for counterparts to the mother "types". There are articles on the absentee dads - there are some on how to "help" your husband/partner be a better dad but overall not too many.  All that funding for studies that goes to judging women somehow seems to have dried up when it comes to fathers.

That makes me almost as annoyed as the articles on motherhood.  It dismisses the great job so many dads do.  I am surrounded by them.  Of course they need some direction - you know because even though they can cite who batted 3rd in the 1982 world series in the bottom of the 6th inning, they cannot seem to remember where you hid the pasta in the same place it has been for the length of time you have lived in your residence.  They need some mapping - because even though they could tell you whatever fact about history or whatever interests them with an accuracy that Wikipedia envies, they cannot always match weather with appropriate clothing for their children.

So it easy for us, you know mothers who multitask with ease and have yet to ask except if muttering out loud "what should I feed the kids for dinner?", to maybe laugh at them playfully.  Yet here are the dads today that I know - they do feed the kids and do help dress and drop off.  There is Ricky who travels for work and on the one day off does not sit down and relax in the comfort of their home instead of a hotel room but rather wake up in a different time zone then the night before to coach their son's baseball team.  There is Scott who travels and who wakes up at very early hours to take his daughters to swim meets when he is home on weekends.  My husband who follows the directions I leave with military precision and drops off kids every day because it is the way our schedules fit for two working parents.

There are the dads who are cheering their kids on the sidelines, running errands and figuring out what their daughters and sons are growing into.  They are the role models for the boys we are raising to be good men and great people.  There are the dads in this town who show their support for their wives who run for local office and tell their sons through this action that equality for men and women is a given.  There are the dads who are married to each other who chose to create better lives for the 2 sons they adopted. They too are perfect in their imperfections. 

I look back and think that dads have evolved.  My own father and the fathers of most of my friends were not as involved.  They were "tired" after their jobs, they did not attend events, they left the general day to day care to the mothers (whether these women worked outside the home or not) and they were often the discipline threat.  If that is all that was remembered then that would be leaving out the times my father and I went to the movies alone because my mom worked.  I wouldn't be mentioning the love of learning and music and travel that my father helped me develop.  That would be not acknowledging that he had an amazing sense of humor.  Looking back there were fathers then who were part of their children's lives in ways that may not have been as common as it is now.  There was Margaret's dad who let a gaggle of us go to Florida and stay at their vacation place and then drove a station wagon full of what he lovingly called Nimrods all around Jupiter just because we wanted to.  There was Elli's dad who helped my best friend when she wanted to go for a second masters because he believed in her dream.  There is Kris who looks to her dad as the pillar of wisdom and the force of nature that shaped her into the amazing woman she is.

Dads - maybe the lack of articles on them is more about the pressure put on moms.  My husband and my friends are the dads that books should be written about with the praise they deserve.  So as we inch closer to Father's Day maybe it is time for that extra peck on the cheek, that one less sigh as they ask once again where the cereal is (still same place for past 10 years) and one extra time to tell them what a great dad they are to our children. If in my blog about mothers I was Col Jessup, minus the Code Red of course, dads today would be Lt Daniel Kaffee (cause come on ladies Tom Cruise was a looker at that point) - you know sometimes bit lax about the serious things, bit less focused on the details of the trials of day to day, great at hitting a baseball and in need of guidance on the law (so that makes us all Demi Moore for a second too helping them become the best they can be) but in the end dedicated to being the best dad he could be.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Oh yay another study/article/survey/buzzfeed on mothering..

 Is it because it was just Mother's Day not too long ago - or the stars aligned -- or my own guilt about being sure I somehow should not care about these articles but do in some ways -- or just WTF?? At the same time one of my all time favorite movies, A Few Good Men,  has been on  - well I want to be all Colonel Jessup on behalf of all mothers out there.  That courtroom scene --never gets old.

About a year ago I rolled my eyes and in multiple languages told the author of the book about how her wonderful life in Paris made her observe how much better mothers are there ... yeah having been to Paris last year and to a park it seems that she must have found only the "perfectly coiffed" mothers because I found slightly rattled moms, moms that were yelling for and at their offspring just as much as here and no they were not sitting in lovely pencil skirts cross ankled holding a cigarette.  They were dressed in very chic clothes but then again so are many of the moms around my neighborhood and in the city - not sure that has any impact on the motherhood part but it sure made me want to go shopping.  

Then I had to deal with Tiger Mother vs Whatever animal is not Tiger Mother - you know because that author had to tell all of us how much better her offspring were - hope so because my only takeaway was that she had some serious need of therapy control issues and if her offspring were Zooming Tigers good because I was happy with my Puppies.  I mean some of her methods I just wanted to say "hmm really?" and that worked for you -- but then again her whole point who cares how it felt to the kid as long as the As kept a coming. 

Sure enough as that died down there was the famous Helicopter mother issue -- because even if you somehow upgrade your wardrobe to the French mothers, mastered the art of cold pushing your kids to only excel only only!!!! you know in your best impression of Jack Nicholson on the stand in a Few Good Men "You need me at that homework table - you want me at that homework table" or Code Red it is for you.  Well now you seem to swoop down and somehow negate all of the above, careful swooping in pencil skirt ...rip just sayin'.  You come down at odd times and you again are not the "mother" that you could, should be.

Of course then there are the nasty in disguise as "funny" mother articles floating around -- What kind of sideline sports mother are you -- yeah all of them faulted, you were either too into the game, the Tiger Mother above, the French mother who was way too nicely dressed for said sporting event, the social with other mothers, the of course I know that you are on your phone therefore I can judge you mother, etc.... Nowhere in that article was the I am tired - I am thrilled I made it for any part of a game I truly have no interest in - cheering on child whose greatest athletic ability seems to be the art of successfully dropping items of clothes throughout house in what appears to be a pattern (and you thought Curling was odd) - and yes I am checking my phone for work or pleasure because my time is not really my own ever.  

Now of course there is the Tiger Mother vs European American mother - what does that even mean because here is shocker... Europeans are different nations with different types of parenting .. oooh facts are so annoying.  I mean people actually pay for these studies ??? 

I am all of these and none of these and sometimes both at the same time.  Does that make me a Helicopter Flying Tiger with Kitten Heels European American mother?  Boy that sure sounds like my kids will need therapy.  I am totally not perfect and no I am not thrilled to be in mud on a Saturday to watch what is a really boring game of baseball but I am there and my kids appreciate it because they know this is not my favorite thing to do.  I am the mother who learns from other mothers in my friends circle, who goes out and drinks and laughs at the inappropriate things with those same women, who have subjects besides our kids and who get the hug they need from one another when a week has been too harrowing and stressful.  I am the torpedo mother who will knock you out should there be a chance you are going to harm my child.  The mother with an opinion to share with my kids while telling them to build their own.

I wish I could say I am over these articles.  I know that I am not.  If there is a nugget I can gleam from all of them is that it appears that no matter how far we come ladies the art of raising children is expected and judged of us.  There is a peace and power in knowing that for me for the children that I have and their friends are the adults in training that I am glad to see in my future.  Maybe though just for once I want to see a study with a woman whose underwear elastic maybe is frayed and creeping down her jeans, who picks up socks and drops the f bomb once in a while, who doesn't make every event or does -- again in the words of Colonel Jessup (Jack) in a Few Good Men  I would like to say for A Lot of Great Mothers version -  "I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a child, and mother!!!"