I am a Chicken!

Although my taste for fish was not ruined by Grandma’s distaste for fish, I think that I have not been as adventurous an eater as are my children and grandchildren. (Don’t tell that to Grandma!) As I have mentioned previously, my mom never served us exotic food. Thinking about the most courageous food that I ate growing up leaves me empty. We were a meat and potato/spaghetti and meatball family. I am happy that my children and grandchildren are far ahead of me in what they are willing to put into their mouths.

The latest proof of this was Bryce’s birthday trip to Myrtle Beach, where he sat down with his mom to split a plate of oysters with her. When ordering it off the menu, Kelly asked if he wanted them rare. “Yea,” he responded with a look, I imagine, that was something like, “do you think I would stoop so low as to have them cooked?”

He told me he loved them. Lily then turned to me and told me that she loves eating eel. “I tried it once and I didn’t like it, but my brudder (not a misspelling) made me try it again and guess what, Grandma? I loved it!”

I am just beginning to dip my toe into the sushi world. I stick only to maki rolls and even then, mostly cooked seafood or vegetables rolls. I have tried spicy tuna and salmon rolls a few times and admit they are not bad, but I am not brave enough to try nigari, which is the raw fish  sitting atop a piece of rice. The kids would just as soon skip the rice.

Perhaps if Grandpa had been more insistent on having us eat fish as kids, I would not have been such a culinary fraidy cat. I never saw him eat sushi, but I bet he would have if he had been given the opportunity. Maybe he did when he was in Japan on his return trip from Russia, but that is another thing about him that I will never know.

I Will Try to Stay Younger Than Spring

Sunday night was another example of showing me that old age does not necessarily mean the same for everyone. Not all seniors spend their final years in a nursing home or stuck in a wheelchair where they are dependent on someone else for their food, trips to the bathroom, and help getting bathed and dressed. Some, like our friend Gene, who at an age north of ninety can still drive a car, take themselves out to eat, travel, and perhaps engage in a sport such as golf, never seem as old as the calendar tell us.

Others can paint, learn the fine art of sculpting, and entertain thousands at a time, like Tony Bennett. This past week and weekend I got to know Mr. Bennett by reading his autobiography and then seeing him perform in Charlotte on Sunday night.

We had gone to his show with no expectations, because, well, he is ninety-three years old. I expected his voice to be weak or strained like other aging musicians I have seen, but I was wrong. While he performed for less than ninety minutes, it seemed like much longer because he sang nonstop.

He did not pause to tell an old tale or take a sip of water, but instead, went from song to song with barely a few seconds in between each tune. Nor did he sit, and it was apparent to all that he was thoroughly enjoying the evening as did the packed audience in Charlotte. He smiled a lot as he looked out and up at his adoring fans. He even performed a few dance moves.

His voice was a little raspier than the Tony Bennett on my playlist, but it was still strong. The words of one song in particular were a poignant reminder that the sands of the hourglass have many more grains in the bottom than the top.

Beautiful girls, walk a little slower when you walk by me
Lingering sunsets, stay a little longer with the lonely sea…

And let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing
And I will stay younger than spring.

After closing with his infamous “I Left my Heart in San Francisco,” he left the stage but returned many more times. While he did not sing an encore, he smiled and waved with appreciation. Yes, I am sure he was tired, but I truly believe he loves what he does and will continue to sing and paint and sculpt until the hourglass is empty.

 It was inspiring.

Tony Bennett- from Blumenthal Photo Gallery


Learning to Hate the Mail!

When I was in high school, I had a math teacher—Miss Pavidis—and she referred to all her students as young whippersnappers. Sad to admit, I have not been a young whippersnapper for a long, long time. I am no longer even a middle-aged whippersnapper, but rather someone that should probably be called ma’am even in New Jersey, where woman like me would still be referred to as “Miss,” even though I have been married over forty years and am the grandma of two little cuties.

I will soon be celebrating the third anniversary of my hip replacement, I have been covering my gray hair for ions, and my hands have age spots and old-lady veins showing through the skin. After careful calculations on timing, I began collecting my Social Security checks as soon as I could.

But this week, the final insult appeared in my mailbox confirming that I am forever a former young whippersnapper. My Medicare card arrived! Although I am not eligible for a few more months, our government has been reminding me for months that this is the big year. I told Grandma the awful news and she responded by saying, “How do you think that makes me feel?”

I am in the autumn of my life.

Our Children will be Calling Bullshit

I am glad I am not raising a child these days, because with Donald Trump as president, it would be difficult for me to explain to my little ones why it is wrong to say or do what our commander in chief routinely does.

Growing up, there was not a lot of swearing or derogatory discussions in our house, and as I pointed out the other day, most conversations said around the children are heard. (Our Children are Listening…“Who is Adam Schiff, Grandma?”)

After the president’s latest post-impeachment rant, when he called the Russia investigation “bullshit” to a roomful of his supporters in the East Room of the White House shortly after noon, Daddy, Kelly, and I had a conversation about his little tirade.

Dad recalled listening to President Kennedy’s moonshot speech when he was not yet nine, and then being inspired to work in a technical field. Back in our day, can you believe that parents could permit their children to watch the president speak anytime without fear that his behavior would be repeated and then emulated by America’s kids? Kelly then recalled innocently sitting in front of the television while the presidents spoke, and it was not until Clinton’s impeachment that I had to monitor what was being discussed on the news.

Now our children’s vocabularies are “enhanced” with bullshit, discussions of shithole countries, goddam this, what the hell that, and of course, the lovely non-G-rated Access Hollywood tape discussion which made it to the news when he famously said he could “grab them by the pussy.”

Dad wondered, and I direct the answer to the teacher in our family for the answer, what would happen if one of your students yelled “bullshit,” or worse, in the school cafeteria? Would the behavior go unpunished if the child said they learned it from the president?

I guess I could give him a pass if he wasn’t locking children in cages, loosening environmental regulations which helped clean our air and water (Oh, but that’s good for business!) , mocking a sixteen-year-old climate activist, a Gold Star family or a disabled reporter. I could look the other way when he refuses to apologize for anything if only he would take care of Puerto Rico, did not make fun of women who were sexually assaulted, protected us from gun violence, or stopped going after the Biden family when his own children are openly making a fortune from their Daddy’s presidency.

But people are making money in the stock market, so we look the other way because honesty, integrity, and empathy are less important. His party does not have a single alternative candidate it seems.

Maybe our children will say “bullshit.”

South Carolina Bravery Medal

We rarely had birthday parties outside the house, so I tried to be as creative as possible with my home-based celebrations. There was the tea party during which Dad and I dressed up as the maid and butler, the diner-themed Fifties party, the “make your own gingerbread house party,” and the more traditional parties, where we played games like pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs.

I totally understand not hosting a birthday party at home, because someone else does the cleanup and there is no danger of anything getting broken. Never having been the parent of any boys, I am in agreement with this arrangement. With that in mind, I must say that there is a lot of braveness in allowing a soon-to-be seven year old to be having a sleepover at home. As you recall, the only time we had a birthday sleepover party, it was done at Embassy Suites.

Four boys is a good number, but don’t expect any sleeping to be done at this sleepover. They will be excited, and I will not be surprised if this is the first sleepover party for any of them. May I suggest hiring a hypnotist as your entertainment?

I am working on the cake, which will be five little boys sleeping atop a chocolate cake. Here is the plan which I found on Pintrest. I hope I can do it justice.



Let the Races Begin

Dad had no brothers or sons, so he has been enjoying engaging in activities he did do at his home as a boy or in our home as the father of three girls. I am loving watching my big and little boy playing games, building a car, and most recently, building a track to race golf balls down the side of our yard.

We all know about Bryce’s love of building marble tracks for the purpose of racing them. He is obsessed with watching videos on YouTube of others racing marbles, and he would like to upload his own races.

So I was not surprised to see the two of them discussing how and where they would build the track in our yard. They went outside and surveyed the property and decided on the location, and then just waited for a day without rain and for the temperature to rise. Their enthusiasm was adorable.

The weather on Tuesday, our typical day of the week for a playdate, was sufficiently warm enough for a January day and the sun was peeking through the clouds on and off after lunch. I stayed inside for hot chocolate and tea while the boys got to work.

They used my small gardening shovel to dig the trench and Dad pulled out an old pair of sneakers with heavily worn soles to stomp on the track until it was smooth. Then they began sending the golf balls sailing down the track and observing where it got hung up. Then they repeated the process: dig, smooth, and test until enough track was done to begin the races.

Next, the rest of us were summoned outside and given a ball to choose. The races began, which included lots of jumping up and down and cheering, particularly on Lily’s part.

The track is not complete, so weather permitting, the boys will be back at work this weekend. Then it will be time to build the text raceway.



Our Children Are Listening

As a mother, I tried to bring up my children to be polite and respectful. I also knew that there were also many forces influencing them, but I had help. Back then, beginning in 1997, television shows were rated to help parents determine their appropriateness—TV-Y, Y7, PG, PG14, and MA. I am not certain whether these ratings still exist.

With the exception of the Clinton hearings, I never worried about turning the television off when the president spoke. Unfortunately, that has changed. Now, when our current president speaks and the children are present, I  turn off the television because you just never know if what he says when he goes off script will be appropriate for young ears.

Last week, I was sitting at the kitchen table playing Mancala with Lily. Although she is now four-years-old and therefore a “big girl,” I am still careful about what is on the television. So while we were playing, Dad was watching the impeachment trial on his phone at what he thought was a very low volume level so she could not here. He was wrong.

Part way through our game, Lily turned to me and asked, “Grandma, who is Adam Schiff?” I admit I was surprised (but happy to learn that her ears work quite well), so I thought carefully before I answered, “He is Miss Nancy’s friend.”  (I have not put my Nancy Pelosi Christmas ornament away. She is hanging on a lamp in my bedroom so Lily sees her often.)

Lily then asked, “Does he know Miss Ruth?:

“Oh yes,” I explained to her. “They are all friends.”

So my advice to other parents and grandparents is this: Be careful what you speak about or what you watch when your wee ones are nearby. You may think what they hear is being ignored because it is boring grown-up talk. But don’t be fooled. They are listening and their ears are find-tuned.