I Will Give It a Try Ben!

Last night, I spoke the words that Dad always loves to hear—“You were right.” I explained that I was wrong in criticizing his often pessimistic attitude. I decided my new outlook on life will be based upon Ben Franklin’s famous quote that “I’d rather be a pessimist because then I can only be pleasantly surprised.”

I always tried to be a “cup is half-full optimist,” but this perspective causes me to be disappointed, annoyed, or angry too often. So I am going to see if lowering my expectations and the level of liquid in that cup will make me a happier person.

No longer will I be upset by not receiving a thank you card. I now longer expect one, so I will be “pleasantly surprised” if I receive one.

There is toilet paper and paper towels in a bathroom? What a surprise! I am in awe. I won’t get upset by the absence of these products because I no longer expect a restroom to be stocked with TP or PT, clean, or up to my ten-point bathroom standard. (See The Best Places To Pee)

The roads and bridges in my state are in a sorry state of disrepair and my state legislature and governor cannot agree on a sensible plan. I will no longer get angry if I hit a pothole and destroy a tire on the way to pick up some bread and milk. I will take a deep breath and remember that this is to be expected. Times are tough. At least I have a supermarket within a five minute drive. I am now pleased when I navigate my way to the supermarket and return home with my car unscathed.

I play golf and continually fumed when I had to climb over a rope to get to the ladies’ tee while the men’s tee had no barrier. That was a waste of fury. I should have expected it, thought of stepping over it as “exercise,” and should have been pleased when the barrier was finally removed.

Interrupt me? It’s okay because what you say is probably more interesting than what I may want to contribute to a conversaation. I am surprised—truly I am—when someone wants to hear about my book or my genealogy stories or a story which I think is funny and wrote about in my blog.

You are a random stranger, you stumbled upon my book, and you actually liked it?  That would be my biggest pleasant surprise, because as a pessimist, I have no expectations.

I could go on, but I think you get my drift. I have lowered the bar, so I am hoping my new attitude will lower my blood pressure and bring me peace and happiness.

Ben Franklin

Can We at Least Agree on This?

Our country, and maybe I should say our world, is filled with anger. We cannot seem to agree on anything. Last night Dad and I were chatting, and I believe I finally found a subject which may have bipartisan agreement: Going to the dentist is not fun.

I pulled out your baby books to try to determine what your first impressions of dentists were like. (I know I have discussed dentists before, but never in such detail.  See Don’t Complain to Me about Dentists)

I tried to make tooth brushing fun so that when it was time to see the dentist, he would not be feared. The first time I brought Kelly and Jamie to have their teeth examined, I admit now I was being extremely deceptive. It was complicit in a plot hatched by the Montville Recreation Department.

It was St. Patrick’s Day 1989, and I told the two of you that we were going to an Easter Egg hunt—which was not a lie. What I failed to mention was that when you were done gathering your eggs, a dentist would be available to examine your teeth. Kelly cooperated, and Jamie, you did not cry and were quite friendly. You just refused to open your mouth and kept your teeth clenched tightly together.

Kelly, when you went for a more extensive exam which included x-rays, a fluoride treatment and a cleaning, you loved the experience so much that you were upset when you learned we would not be going back the next next day. Seven months later, when we did return, you were very excited. Somehow, I think your enthusiasm for dentists has diminished.

Casey, you wanted to brush “all by myself” at the age of three, and you loved to floss. Like your sister, you could not wait to go, although you said, “I’m apprehensive.” You were three. After the cleaning, check-up, and fluoride treatment, you were allowed to run the train and got nickels for the prize machine. Dr. Weiner’s bribery contributed to your love of dentists.

Now you are all grown up, and I suspect,  like all the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, not one of you is fond of going to the dentist. Still, I have a lot of money invested in your mouths from years of dental check-ups. I hope that now that I no longer hand you the nickels for the prize machine, you still force yourselves to visit the dentist once or twice each year.

Happy Birthday. You’re All Grown Up

Dear Jamie,

The morning of your birth, it was clear to me that June 23 was to be the big day. I began having contractions the day before—a Monday—and then the following day, my water broke shortly before my doctor’s appointment. This triggered a phone call to my friend/big sister Jan and Grandma.  Grandma and Grandpa immediately got in the car and headed to Yorktown Heights, where you lived for the first year of your life, so they could babysit for Kelly.  Jan was notified because we could not wait until they arrived, so Jan watched Kelly until they arrived.

Your birth was fortunately not as long as Kelly’s, but the cast was the same, including the nurse who stayed with me until I gave birth to you. I remembered that she relieved the pain both times by putting her fists in my back. My labor lasted less than twelve hours, while Kelly’s birth was almost double that.

It was rainy the day you came home, but you were not even aware of the weather. You slept the whole way home. We were greeted by Grandma, Aunt El, and some neighborhood friends.

Kelly was happy to be a big sister—for the most part.  I think she may have tried to hit you once or twice, but once she realized that you were there to stay and wouldn’t take all the attention away from her, she replaced the hitting with kissing and all was well.

You grew and progressed normally.  You just had one early flaw, which was your thumb, which was a permanent fixture in your mouth.  Even when I would feed you it would get in the way.  I remember the early feedings of cereal.  We would remove the spoon from your mouth in order to give you more, and as soon as that spoon was out of your mouth, the thumb went back in, which was extremely annoying, messy, and funny. You loved baby squash and pastina.

We moved into our new house in Montville one day after your first birthday, so we waited until then to have a celebration with the family. We all settled into our house on White Oak Lane where we lived for the next sixteen years.  You loved watching videos on TV, and would force me to replay whichever was the current favorite until I could stand it no longer.  Some of your earliest favorites were the Sesame Street movie Follow that Bird, Pinocchio, which is why you got the “Pinn-a-doke-i-o” stuffed animal, and Peter Pan, which caused you to think you were Pocahontas.  You even dressed up like her that Halloween and then for many months afterwards.

You, Kelly, and Casey loved to play mailman—drawing pictures and then delivering them to the neighbors.  I think they all enjoyed your little deliveries, and you would often return home with some treats which you got in exchange for the letters.

When Casey was born, you were 2 ½ years old.  But unlike Kelly, you were accustomed to having a sibling, so her arrival was not as traumatic to you as yours was to Kelly.  We have videos and photos of the three of you sitting on the sofa together, with you and Kelly smothering Casey with your sloppy wet kisses.

You were thrilled when you could finally join Kelly on the school bus and take the ride to Valley View together.  Casey was not as happy with the departure of her two big sisters.  She even made me photograph her in tears after the two of you left together on the bus, since she wanted you and Kelly to know how sad she was to see her sisters leave.

You were very happy at Valley View.  You liked most of your teachers and did well in school.  Mr. Goldberg was a great principal, knowing each student by name as well as their parents.  Mrs. Fisher was a strict teacher, but you left kindergarten able to read quite a bit. (foreshadowing?)

.No one will ever forget your graduation from middle school.  We were all sitting in the bleachers at the high school football field.  It was obvious to everyone except whoever was in charge that trouble was in the air.  Dark clouds filled the sky, and the winds began to increase as the speeches began.  Droplets of rain began to fall, but rather than eliminate the speeches of the Board of Education Members or principal and hand out the diplomas, the program continued as scheduled.  Finally, as the wind started blowing harder and the droplets of rain increased, the announcement was made for the class to stand up, and then the ceremony was over.  Everyone ran for cover and that was it.

We moved to Chapel Hill during your senior year, which was awful, I know. Chapel Hill at least was a fun town.  There were all the diverse restaurants, and it was exciting being around when the Tar Heels won the NCAA tournament.  It was fun watching the town growing crazier and crazier with each win.  Living in Chapel Hill enabled you to meet several celebrities.  We never saw Michael Jordan, but you did meet Jeff Foxworthy, the Saved by the Bell celebrities, the Jonas Brothers before their rise to fame, and John (who you saw immediately for who he was) and Elizabeth Edwards.  Thus began your love of meeting and being photographed with celebrities.

Let’s fast forward. You graduated college with excellent grades, and after a year of waitressing and substitute teaching, you got your first job teaching first grade here in South Carolina–but your heart was still in New New Jersey.

You moved to New Jersey, worked a year out of my old bedroom, and finally, after three years teaching in two schools, you finally found your home as a kindergarten teacher in a small town in New Jersey. Apparently, you love the job so much that you are sad that the school year has ended.

You met a wonderful man who you married two years ago. I miss having you so near to me, but knowing you are happy makes the distance worthwhile. That is all a parent wants—success, independence, and happiness for their children.

Happy Birthday, Jamie.

Kindergarten - 2016
Now- Kindergarten 2016
Jamie and Mom Kindergarten
And Then- Kindergartenn 1992



Not More Policies!

Kelly had mentioned seeing my post on some of my policies of life. I thought I would add a few more today just so you know how to remain on my good side. If you need your memory refreshed or did not read my original post with my first seven policies to live by, check here: Policies to Live By.

  1. No thank you, no gifts. As you all know, I have major issues with not receiving any acknowledgments from gifts I send. If it’s mailed, I want to at least be assured the gift was delivered. This is such an important policy to me that I wrote an entire post on this. Thank You Very Much
  2. No New Jersey during the winter. Winter, to me, is defined as December 20-ish to March 20-ish. I have had to break this policy several times (always Grandma-related trips), and always, I get rewarded by snow and ice which translates into many very scary driving episodes. That is why policy #9 exists.
  3. No golf below 50 degrees– It has taken me many years to enjoy playing golf, and still, I am not very good. (Although my tee-shots are not bad!) When I am thinking about how cold I am, then I am no longer having fun.
  4. Only 2 glasses of wine per day. This may seem shocking to all the wine lovers out there, and on those rare occasions when I am drinking that third glass, I am having fun at the moment. But I don’t enjoy feeling unsteady on my feet, and I particularly hate the fact that too much wine always wakes me up around 3 am. Thus, I have instituted this policy.
  5. Make the bed every day– I know you don’t all agree with this, but for me, I am uncomfortable when my bed is not made. On the days when I change the sheets, the room is untidy longer than I like until my sheets are “April or May (or whatever month it currently is)—fresh.” Besides, I have a pretty comforter, which I cannot admire if the bed is unmade.
  6. Hang up after 2 hellos if the number on the caller id is unknown– Dad does not follow this particular policy. He will continue to yell “hello, hello” many more times than I have the patience to do. Perhaps he is hoping it is someone asking him to do a survey, which you all know Dad just loves to do.
  7. Don’t talk during a movie shown in a theater. I know that I have been known to ask a question or two or three when watching television, but my rationale is that at home, the show can be paused or rewound. It does not affect anyone else. In the theaters, it is rude.

I don’t want to bore you anymore. That’s all folks.

Happy Birthday “Twin”

I woke up this morning and thought that it’s not really just All About Me today. How could I ever think like that? How could I forget?

My father had twin sisters, my mother had twin brothers, and I was born under the sign of Gemini the Twins. My second sibling was not born until I was four years old, yet I always felt I had a twin sister.

Biologically speaking, Gail was not my twin since she was born two years after me and was the daughter of my other mother—Aunt Marian—Mom’s sister and my godmother. For her first three birthdays, we celebrated together.

I looked at my baby book since I admit that those birthdays are lost in my memory bank, so I needed my mother’s words to beam me back to that time.

On my third birthday, Gail and I celebrated together—her first and my third. She was not very happy and had to be taken for a walk. I guess that enabled me to be queen of the party instead of one of the two princesses.

Gail and I celebrated my 4th birthday at my house. All my cousins attended. There were fifteen of us by then. I wanted a swimming party, but it was too chilly, so we had cake and ice cream and played Bingo for nickels.

I celebrated my 5th with Gail at her house. We had all our cousins and Gail’s neighbors—the DeVite’s, Terry Lanza, and the Onorati children. I received swimsuits and money.

Then I went off to kindergarten, and like any sophisticated big sister, I threw Gail aside and celebrated my 6th birthday with my new friends. Sorry, Gail!

I have no pictures of us alone together, just this one from a party—our last? Cheers to you, Gail. Happy Birthday.

Cousin birthday celebration- 1959-ish?
Birthday with my “twin”

What Color Toys Did You Prefer?

Dad and I have been enjoying the adventures of having a little boy in our lives after experiencing parenthood with only girls. I wondered if boys are taught to play rough and like particular toys, but I now believe it is part of their DNA.

I have been outside enough to witness the excitement as a car or trucks comes into view. None of you ever showed any interest in diving headfirst off the bed or sofa or jumping across a line of cars because you had become a monster truck.

It will be fascinating to see if Bryce teaches his sister his dare-devilish stunts, or if she is will be content to sit quietly and play with her own toys. Where will her interests lie?

I pulled out your baby books for some reminders of your interests based upon your birthday and Christmas gifts. These presents are another trip down memory lane. I was surprised to see many gender-neutral gifts.

As the oldest, I was shocked to see that I mentioned very few of Kelly’s gifts except for a shopping cart and Winnie the Pooh—apparently her favorite toy on her third Christmas! I was surprised to see that Jamie was not the only fan of the cuddly bear.

Jamie’s received more “neutral gifts” on her birthday. I see Sesame Street Colorforms, Magna Doodle, puzzle, Dorothy Gale doll, and sand and water toys. (She was the only summer baby.) At Christmas she received a Mickey Mouse airport, Little People playhouse, and puzzles—all neutral gifts—for her second birthday, she got arts and craft gifts, a camera and binoculars, and her first Barbie—finally a “pink” present.

For Casey’s second birthday, she received ruby slippers, a Dalmatian puppy, Ariel doll and outfit, Ninja Turtle mug (from your boy cousins), a puzzle and a Magic Nursery Doll. The third birthday was a dollhouse with accessories, “5-Little Baby dolls, and Beauty and the Beast Colorforms. (No “blue” gifts that year.)

I believe you all got more opinionated around your fifth birthday with the surge of Barbie dolls, clothes, and accessories. I believe that Casey’s abundance of “pink” toys as early as her second birthday was a direct result of the influences of her older sisters.

I must admit that I am surprised that the gifts were much more neutral than the abundance of boy toys I see scattered around Bryce’s playroom. Do the toys make the boy or did the boy direct the toys? While I am no longer as certain now as I was when I began this story, I still believe his actions were more aggressive than the three of you. It will be very interesting to see what color toys Lily will receive, and whether her DNA or her brother influences her behavior. As far as her toys, I predict lots of “pink” toys.

Back to the Days of Yore

Technology is great. We can connect with our family and friends in an instant via texts and “long-distance-free phones.” Losing our way is now greatly diminished because of GPS technology, and we can entertain ourselves via an endless array of games, movies, and television shows available on our smart phones, computers, and televisions. If we need a question answered, we turn to the Internet rather than heading to our local library. What would we do without these amazing machines?

However, Saturday night was a prime example of how technology has also robbed us of valuable time we lose because of these great necessities of life. How many hours do we whittle away when we set up our new phones and computers, fix problems with these wonders of modern times, and scratch our heads in puzzlement as we attempt to figure out how to set up a Twitter account?

We have become more impatient. Even three year olds are guilty of this as exemplified by Bryce, when he complained that a video on my phone was taking too long to load.

Last night, as Dad and I were about to settle down for “Saturday night at the movies” in our living room, our aging router decided to kick the bucket. Four hours later, Dad was finally calm, while I was ranting about how an evening on the prairie back in the days of yore was probably far less stressful than how we just spent our night.

I was thinking about a typical Saturday night at the Ingalls household. Caroline and the girls would clean up the dishes and then gather around the fire and sing along as Pa played his fiddle. Perhaps they read a book or took their weekly bath. In any case, they did not have their evening plans wasted by spending three hours trying to figure out how to put their technological house back together.

They did not fritter away an hour of their life getting into their horse and buggy to go down to the general store to pick up a new router. Ma and Pa did not need to deal with a millennial named Brandon who was mentally laughing at them because they just had no idea if they should purchase the $39.99 router or the $299 router. (Brandon, Grandma and Bampa Consumer were able to figure out how to put our house back together without your help. So there!)

I love all these gadgets–I really do. But sometimes I wonder if we all save more time or waste more time because of them. You all grew up with this, so what are your thoughts?