Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Family’

The Love Bug’s little brother does everything she does. He’s a copycat.

“What’s a copycat Nana?”

“A copycat isn’t really a cat,” I told the rising Kindergartener, “it’s someone who likes to do whatever you do; when you try new foods, he tries new food. When you build a fort, he wants to help. When you put on your shoes, he puts on his shoes, even if they go on the wrong feet! That’s OK, cause he did it himself.”

It was time to put on our shoes and get into the car. Even though summer has arrived with its hot, sticky days and fireworks filled nights, there is no time to dawdle. The Love Bug shrugged her shoulders and pulled her shoes slowly out of the bin while watching her brother do the same. As they sat together on the floor, and I wondered if we are raising a generation who will never learn how to tie their shoelaces (thanks velcro), I heard her say to him,

“I hope they don’t have cupcakes.”

And maybe it’s all the children’s books I’m reading lately, but I thought to myself, “What a great title for a book!” This has been an exceptionally busy weekend, capping off an incredibly busy week. What with basketball practice, and basketball games, and pre-school camp with her brother, we are a family on the move. Not a lot of time to swing on the porch or play in the pirate sandbox.

And now it was Sunday, the Bride was heading off to work, and we were going to yet another birthday party! Bob and I didn’t go to the party on Saturday, but we were looking forward to seeing the family of this particular three year old. They are our grandchildren’s Godparents. And I knew they had created a childhood paradise under the shade of an ancient tree in their urban backyard, complete with chickens, a water slide and a huge screened-in porch off the kitchen.

We had one of those back yards in the Berkshires. Bob built a zip line through the trees on the edge of a bird sanctuary where guinea hens would come and peck under our feeder. And though I wasn’t known for my cupcakes, I would bake the occasional carrot cake with toasted coconut cream cheese frosting. The Bride loved helping in the kitchen, especially cleaning out the frosting bowl with her fingers.

I’m happy to see this love of pastry making continue since the Bride will often whip up a batch of cookies on the spur of the moment with lots of help from her children.

I looked down at my Granddaughter and smiled. I asked her if they had cupcakes yesterday. She told me the whole birthday story, which led to an astonishing snippet of insight into an almost five year old mind. I loved listening to her take on the summer social season. Every now and then her brother would interrupt with an anecdote of his own.

I realized suddenly that these children were growing up in a city, with all that entails. Trips to science museums and art galleries and libraries where a Nashville Ballet dancer performs along with a reading of Ferdinand the Bull.

The Story of Ferdinand is an example of a young protagonist who grows up very comfortable in his own skin and with his own decisions, but is soon confronted with difficult situations that challenge his peaceful way of life. Young children can use Ferdinand’s story to confront their own questions about ethical dilemmas. Each question set deals with the larger issue of how we make choices in our interactions with others…                          https://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/BookModule/TheStoryOfFerdinand

When her Mommy got home from work, the Bug dragged her into their backyard where the Groom had installed a basketball hoop! She made eight baskets! Her Dad is an excellent coach. We’ve been doing a lot of counting lately, every day it’s a different color car after they strap themselves into their seat belts. Only black was too hard, because there are so many black cars you could hardly catch your breath.

Turns out the birthday party had a soaker hose strung between trees. And they didn’t have cupcakes, they had cookies!  IMG_0789

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Ibsen’s dollhouse it’s not.

But like Nora, I’ve left my serene mountain retreat behind for a week of city life. And since this city is the cathedral for American music, we seem to have picked a particularly jam-packed weekend to be here.

Bonnaroo is happening outside of town https://www.bonnaroo.com/lineup/ Our Jersey Shore girl Nicole Atkins is playing this year.

In town we have the CMA Fest http://www.cmaworld.com/cma-music-festival/ with tons of free music everywhere.

And of course since last night was a full moon, we all had to go to the Full Moon Pickin Party for the Friends of Warner Park. We arrived early with the Bride and Groom to meet friends and neighbors for a tailgate cocktail/supper soiree. There were food trucks galore inside the gates and so many musicians I lost count.

As we spread out our blanket and set up the Pack n Play last night for an adorable 7 month old baby boy, I was reminded of going to Tanglewood with our babies in Lenox, MA. I would make some newfangled cold strawberry soup, my friend Lee would bring the main course and another friend might bring dessert. We had elaborate wicker picnic baskets, real plates and sometimes brought candles. Listening to the Boston Symphony Orchestra each summer conducted by Seiji Ozawa under the stars was a high point of our life in the Berkshires.

Last night we had a total of nine kids running through fields, catching fireflies, petting multiple dogs, and climbing sand hills. We even got to see Jupiter through a telescope with her moons. Bluegrass and country music filled the air but it was really the fellowship of fun-loving, happy people that filled my heart.

Nashville is a particularly friendly city; you can start talking with a complete stranger at a sidewalk cafe and feel like you’ve known each other for years after paying your bill. Yes, that happened. He talked about calling the wrong “Holly” on his cellphone, which led to catching up and an invite to see U2 at Bonnaroo. We talked about serendipity, and how we must sometimes just jump into that stream and go with the flow as trite as it may sound.

Jumping may be out of the question now, but we are walking everywhere! And a beach house is still in the works once we’ve settled into city life. I wish we had a “summer home,” a family place for generations at a lake or a beach that our grandparents may have built. My family’s summer home on Lake Wallenpaupack in PA has been long gone since my Father’s death, though I do have a memory of roaming the gardens in my First Holy Communion dress and veil. Bob’s grandparents, Russian immigrants, created a bungalow colony on some land in NJ. It was called “Four Bridges” and sheltered Great Grandma Ada and her sisters’ families for many summers. Unfortunately, that parcel of land just sold last month!

Feeling wistful about a summer home after reading “Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan. It’s  about an Irish Catholic family’s summer cottage and the secrets of its matriarch who is masterfully drawn. It touches on three generations of women, and the expectations society and religion placed on them. One character, in fact, is obsessed with building dollhouses! Like Ibsen, the juggling act we women must do to navigate a marriage and children hasn’t changed all that much. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/books/review/book-review-maine-by-j-courtney-sullivan.html

Today, with professional women the journey can be more complicated than ever – because we still do the “mental” work of a household. The scheduling of doctor appointments, the camp and school related activities, the meals, the grocery list….even the best dads seem to need direction when it comes to domestic chores (sorry Bob). Still, our stellar Groom is right in the thick of it, on daddy duty all weekend while the Bride sees the results of all the music-alcohol-related-accidents…

Speaking of which, I’m very careful walking down the stairs of this townhouse.

IMG_0778

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

…and counsel in private.” I’ve heard Bob say this any number of times, it’s a management strategy. You just don’t dress down your colleagues in a committee meeting. I’ve heard this wise advice as a young soccer coach to my son’s team. Don’t humiliate a child in front of his team, goes without saying, no? I’ve heard it while studying for an education degree; ask to see the student after class, or walk out into the hall with a disruptive or disaffected student. Never, ever lash out verbally in the classroom.

Not like the old days, when Sister Mary Claire felt just fine swatting the back of my knees in front of everyone. Which served its purpose well, I still hate chewing gum.

Well Bob has been trying to get this point – you compliment publicly, and counsel privately – across to Mr T, every time we heard some scathing news item about his first trip abroad, in particular his public critique of NATO… I could hear Bob grumbling in the background. Thank God Bob is not on Twitter, he’d probably blow a gasket like that angry cartoon character in Inside Out!

Let’s just admit it, we have a buffoon for a President. He rides on a golf cart in the streets of Taormina, Sicily, behind all the other G7 leaders as they walk together. He needs his own Pope-mobile cause he’s so tired. How many remember the outcry when Hillary stumbled to her car while working with the flu. The silence on the Right is deafening.

They walked the 700 yards from the traditional G7 group photo, taken at a Greek amphitheatre, to a piazza in the hilltop town, but Mr Trump stayed behind until he could take a seat in the electric vehicle,” The Times reported. It also noted that Trump arrived last for the photo as the 6 other leaders stood waiting for him.

And then, Mr T pushes the newest member of NATO out of the way for his photo op?! Forget about the French handshake (actually the French kiss hello but we all know that wasn’t happening), the flapping of Melania’s hand at his (“Stay away from me you crass, crass man”), we now know that Saint Angela can see the writing on the wall.

To think that he has managed so much destruction of foreign alliances in so little time is mind boggling. I believe Mr T is tired, and I think he wants to rule like Mr Putin, he knows that whatever he says or does will be forgiven by his adoring fans. No matter that his most triumphant feat of travel was getting “triumphant” arms deals with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni country with a history of civil rights abuses who sent their terrorists over here to learn to fly planes without landing them…to attack Mr T’s own emerald city and our Pentagon.

Trump enthusiastically participated in a symbolic funeral for the Arab uprisings by embracing repressive leaders such as Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. No activists, civil society leaders or intellectuals were present, and Trump explicitly disavowed any pressure to alleviate their suffering at the hands of abusive regimes. Arab regimes will have ample opportunity to continue their long practice of manipulating the discourse of terrorism to justify the wide-scale repression of civil society, independent media, and political dissent.   https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/05/22/what-kind-of-deal-is-trump-making-with-saudi-arabia/?utm_term=.fa7cef71dc03

Let’s not forget that Mr T made a deal, a 110 Billion dollar deal, for weapons/arms/defense so that our proxy war with Iran can continue unabated. Hawks can rejoice on the Hill, our leverage in parts of the Mideast is secure . But what about the Putin/Trump bromance? And what about Iran’s election of a moderate leader? Oh and that nasty story about Russia influencing our election. #whataboutheremails??!!

There was little fanfare this Memorial Day weekend when a judge dismissed the suit against Hillary over Benghazi deaths and her emails. Nor were there many pictures of her walking in the Memorial Day parade in Chappaqua, NY. Walking in the rain, not riding in a golf cart.

I have no doubt that Hillary’s experience as Madame Secretary, combined with her law degree and experience as a mother and FLOTUS, would have taught her eons ago that little golden rule about complimenting publicly, and counseling or criticizing privately. I also doubt that the current President can be taught anything about diplomacy, foreign or otherwise.

Meanwhile, on a happier note, the Bride and Groom stopped by on their way to a Cville wedding this weekend. The visit was too short, but the force in this marriage is strong!

IMG_2012

 

Read Full Post »

Insisting I get back to “normal,” I found myself on a bike at the gym reading the New Yorker. It’s the latest issue and the extremely long, entangled article titled, “Are You My Mother?” (a gay couple, an adoption plan, and a brutal custody battle) by Ian Parker held my interest; so much so that I would have never have left the bike if not for my aching back! New York family law was in the midst of defining what makes a parent for same sex couples – biology, adoption, support, intent? After all, it is a bit tricky.

Still I had two mothers long before it was even possible with open adoptions, LGBT rights, and the latest in reproductive wizardry. My mothers had made an arrangement in 1949; Nell would care for me while the Flapper was recuperating from her injuries. My biological mother couldn’t afford to pay her and she didn’t offer. I found out later the Flapper was receiving a small stipend from the state of PA as a widow with children, but my foster parents never asked for money. No papers had been signed, only an oral contract asking Nell NOT to adopt me.

In this Brooklyn case of two mothers (Hamilton v Gunn) there was also no contract signed. Two women were a couple who had planned to adopt, it was an international adoption and so one had to “pretend” to be a single heterosexual woman, only before the adoption became final these women broke up. Pure and simple – they were no longer a couple, yet the one woman, Hamilton, who had begun the process of adoption still wanted a child. And so she continued and brought home a boy from Ethiopia. They had never married, though one claimed they’d been engaged.

For years the previously romantic couple continued their friendship, naming the other woman, Gunn, the boy’s Godmother, To complicate matters, this other woman continued to help financially and also to babysit at times. It wasn’t until Hamilton decided to return to Great Britain where she would be able to find work and be close to her family that Gunn sought out a lawyer, thereby striking new territory in parent equality cases – many times while reading this article I thought to myself, if this had been between a man and a woman what would have happened? Why is a same sex couple treated differently by the courts?

In most family law cases it comes down to this: what is the best decision for the child! This best-interests rule is dubious at best. Hillary Clinton wrote in 1973 that the rule is used as “…a rationalization by decision-makers justifying their judgements about a child’s future, like an empty vessel into which adult perceptions and prejudices are poured.”   http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/22/what-makes-a-parent

Who will be able to afford the best schools, the better vacations, etc and most commonly it was the marginalized parent without resources who would inevitably lose. The women’s movement gave us some freedom, but made mothers who traditionally hadn’t developed a career outside the home, more vulnerable in family custody hearings by granting more rights to fathers. Remember the movie Kramer vs Kramer? That scenario scarred me for life.

In the end, Gunn lost her case because the judge said that their plan to adopt had terminated – that it had not “continued unabated.” The little boy would get his passport back, but since Gunn has appealed the ruling, there will be no flying away to England in the foreseeable future. So the lawyers get richer and the child is stuck in limbo.

In cases like these, I am always drawn to the Biblical story involving two mothers and the sound Judgement of Solomon. I want to believe the real mother would naturally give up her child in the end, would never allow a sword to be used, even in the metaphorical sense. Maybe that’s because I was always going back and forth, between two mothers, two states, two very different temperaments. With Nell and Daddy Jim I had the unconditional love of two parents, and for that reason the Flapper never insisted I return to her. She worked hard, she moved to NJ, and she waited, until it was my decision.

And in my opinion, love, like the definition of family, is expanding all the time.

IMG_0103

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

The photographs I have left of my Father, who died when I was a baby, are in black and white. As are my baby pictures, stuffed into a bag in an album that has lost its binding. The Flapper gave me to her friends, my foster parents, after her automobile accident because her only other choice would have been an orphanage. My sister Kay was already taking care of my two brothers, and they had to go back to school, so who else would take care of me?

Nell only had one child, and her daughter was in nursing school when I arrived in Victory Gardens after the War in 1949. And so I was raised by a grandmother figure, as Nell was already in her 50s. And she catalogued my childhood lovingly, pasting black and white pictures with tiny black paper edges onto every page. Only my memories conjure up the white and pink explosion of the dogwood tree outside our kitchen window, the red and white tile in the one bathroom, the green grass under my feet with the white sheets billowing above.

Our TV was in black and white, and after school I would walk home from the bus in my maroon plaid Sacred Heart School uniform, to catch Nell watching Art Linkletter on Kids Say the Darndest Things. A small piano stood in a corner with brass feet and hard white teeth. Our first dog was black and brown, I remember sitting on Daddy Jim’s feet while he read the black and white newspaper, and smoked his pipe after work. I would lean back on his knees and stroke the dog’s fur, listening to his critique of the day’s news. Maybe this is when I thought I might have something to say about world events? clr-on-tricycle-20170127

When we view history through a black and white lens, we lose something of the nuance. The tone is off, and it becomes harder to relate to something that happened so long ago. It creates the distance we need to survive certain tragedies, like my Year of Living Dangerously – my psychologist brother Jim’s description of 1949. Which is why finding this photographer, Marina Amaral, is like finding a jewel in the coal dustbin of time.

Amaral’s passion is restoring and colorizing old black and white pictures. And I found a picture she posted online of a child, a Czechoslovakian girl who was the same age as my sister Kay in 1949, when she died at Auschwitz in 1943. Her name was Czeslawa Kwoka; and I remembered Nell’s given name was Kosty, which was probably changed at Ellis Island. On Amaral’s webpage, you can move a line back and forth over the child’s face, and bring color to her cheeks and blood to the cut on her lip.

“Color has the power to bring life back to the most important moments,” http://www.marinamaral.com

Today more than ever, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we must remember that the Holocaust started with the rhetoric of hate, and the silence and indifference of the rest of Europe and America. And we must vow to resist in any way we can, and we must say her name, Czeslawa Kwoka.

Photograph courtesy of Marina Amaral.

c3lknnqw8aath7x

Read Full Post »

You are either a reader of books, or you’re not. You might pick up a magazine now and then, or skim some article while waiting for the barber. You may be that young lifeguard years ago who told me, “No thanks, it’s the summer. I don’t read in the summer.” Meaning, if it’s not on his Fall reading list for school, it’s not happening. Reading became a chore somewhere along the way, and reading for pleasure an oxymoron.

As you already know, I’m a Reader. I like to read everywhere, especially on a beach. I can read on a train, a plane or even a boat. This type of reading makes Bob sick; if his body is in motion, he cannot read. I’ve been known to read while sitting on the floor next to a baby in a bathtub, though I couldn’t read while nursing. I’ve made some of the best friends through book clubs. So yesterday, I eagerly picked up the NYTimes article at the gym, “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books,” by the book critic Michiko Kakutani.

I really love reading on the bike, while everyone else is plugged into some TV or work-out music playlist. And I love Kafka’s quote on reading: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

And what I took away from Obama’s love of books, is that books were a refuge for his childhood. He grew up a Black child in a White world, and even when his mother moved him back to Hawaii, he felt different because he had come from Indonesia. He always felt different. And I could relate to that, because I was the child with a different last name from my foster parents, I was the girl with flaming red hair who stood out in a crowd when I so wanted to blend in.

President Obama could time travel through books and find that all cultures touch on some of the same human conditions. And he learned to fit into whatever world he found himself in by reading about other people, that included Shakespeare, and forging his own unique identity. Because knowledge was portable in the form of a book…”from his peripatetic and sometimes lonely boyhood, when “these worlds that were portable” provided companionship, to his youth when they helped him to figure out who he was, what he thought and what was important.”

To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”                    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/books/obamas-secret-to-surviving-the-white-house-years-books.html?_r=0

I love the idea of a Kindle as a graduation present! We gave Great Grandma Ada one for her birthday once, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving – since every book she downloads, we pay for! She told me I must read “A Man Called Ove,” for fun and diversion, and I’m planning on it.

President Obama recently invited a number of authors to the White House, including Michael Chabon. I just finished his novel, “Moonglow,” which was mailed to me by my favorite place in Nashville, the One and Only Parnassus Bookstore, since Bob has signed me up to their First Editions Club. It’s a book of the month club for Literary Nerds like me. Moonglow is one of those books you never want to end, you savor the last pages, drawing them out over many nights. And it made me think about a new approach to the Flapper, because he was dealing with his grandfather’s hidden history. http://www.npr.org/2016/11/19/502581929/moonglow-shines-a-light-on-hidden-family-history

You see my Mother was a gun moll, who went to prison in the 1930s, and my book is very much about her. My writing is like taking an axe to my family history.

If I am arrested on Saturday, Bob swears he will bail me out, but if you don’t hear from me next week, I may just be reading in jail! Here I am reading Emily Dickinson during lunch:   “I have no life but this to lead it here.”

img_5811

 

Read Full Post »

Don’t you just love it when scientists prove some theory you’ve held your whole life, contradicting years of previous recommendations? Bob’s reaction yesterday to the news about peanut allergies was mixed, but mostly he was annoyed. Here is the gist of yesterday’s news from pediatricians:

“The new guidelines say most babies can try a little peanut paste or powder — never whole peanuts — at home. High-risk infants are defined as those with severe eczema or an egg allergy. … “That’s a whole generation of children who never have to develop this allergy.”

The Love Bug still has to bring only a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich to her preschool. This news is too late for her little classmate who couldn’t eat one of her cupcakes on her birthday. I felt so sorry for that little girl, who knew Publix made their cupcakes in a factory with peanuts? I truly believe labeling is disabling. When we learned that the Bride has a severe allergy to cats, we just tried to screen which house was suitable for a playdate.

But this new study makes perfect sense. Introduce peanuts early, like mixing some powder into baby’s yogurt around four months of age, and your offspring will gradually build their immune system. It makes sense, if having a dog in your house (ostensibly bringing more dirt and germs inside) helps build a child’s immune system, why shouldn’t this work? When I kept getting poison ivy as a child, I eventually landed in a doctor’s office getting shots with guess what? Small doses of the poison ivy compound to build my own natural immunity!

Bob was naturally smug yesterday. He didn’t actually say, “I told you so,” but you could see it around his eyes. He is partial to free-range parenting. If it fell on the floor, the 5 second rule applies. The baby finds an old piece of quesadilla behind the Christmas tree while you’re dismantling it, sure go-ahead and take a bite! What’s a little dirt? Bob has felt this way his entire life, whereas I am a hand-washing maniac. The Bride’s style takes after her Dad, the Rocker leans more toward hand sanitizers. And strangely enough, my son is just fine with cats!

“Childhood peanut allergies in the U.S. have increased dramatically over the last decade: In 1997, 0.4 percent of children reported an allergy to peanuts, and by 2008 that number was 1.4 percent, or more than 3 million people.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/guidelines-babies-peanut-allergies_us_586eab12e4b099cdb0fc3947

While in Nashville, serving apple slices dipped into peanut butter, I downloaded a little learning App on my Ipad. PopBob was trying it out with the Baby Boy, who is now a hefty two year old who eats just about anything. I could hear Bob complaining about computer programmers who don’t think like a child; I also heard them laughing and bonding. After that, we went out on a walk to collect pine cones, and rocks and bottle caps. So go ahead people, kick off your shoes, get outside and play in the dirt this year. And don’t forget to pack a PB and J!

img_5764

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: