The Brothers Bloom. Gratitude Experiment: Day 75

For some reason my post yesterday didn’t actually get published until just now. And I just realized – thanks to Ambling & Rambling, that the countdown widget I added to my site told me I had 19 days left, when it was really 26. Duh. Yes, I am sometimes severely WordPress-challenged.  Still need ideas for my next challenge, but I have a little more time than I thought. So keep them coming!

Now, for today’s actual post…

I am grateful that today I got to see my sons hang out and laugh together like old times.

They are growing up far too quickly. And becoming a little too cool for our regular family goofiness. And as teenagers, they get on each other’s nerves a lot these days.

So when I see them laugh and hang out together like old times, it warms my heart. Today was one of those days and hearing their laughter made me smile. For this I am thankful.

PS: If you haven’t seen the movie The Brothers Bloom, rent it.  One of my favorites.

Before they leave. Gratitude Experiment: Day 70

The first thing I have to report is that both my kids both had a good day today.  This means that my day was much better as well! I am grateful for this.

And, in keeping with my ‘time is flying by’ theme, I’ve done some research and thinking on what some key things are that I want to be sure to teach my kids before the leave for college. Yes,  I have a few years left, but lists calm my nerves.  I live for lists.  They make me feel more in control.

There are several check lists out there for this, but below are my top priorities which I will be working on  – one item per month.  Many of these things my kids already know some of.

Cooking: I am going to continue to teach my kids how to make a few basic meals (scrambled eggs and bacon, spaghetti, salad and bread and a few variations on ramen noodles, as all college kids should know).  Also some basic rules on saving, refrigerating and freezing food. And good basics to keep in the pantry.

Budgeting:  I am going to teach them how to make $20 or $3o go as far as possible in the grocery store – including basic foods and cleaning supplies. And I’m going to point out what items are expensive and how to save.  And how to prioritize spending.

Banking:  My kids have online checking accounts, but I am going to work with them more on checking their balances and how to pay bills, write checks and balance accounts.

Laundry: My kids know the basics, but we are going to do some practice on dark and light loads and how to do them, as well as how to iron when needed. And how to treat for stains. And how to read labels on clothing.

Cleaning:  I’ve already taught them some basics, but I am going to expand on this a bit to include cleaning dishes by hand, and cleaning woodwork, bathtubs and floors.

Organization: I am going to go over basic ways to organize a pantry, as well as good things to stock the bathroom and cleaning supply cabinet with.

Correspondence: I am going to make sure my kids can not only write a letter, but also address,stamp and mail a letter.  And I will make sure they can send a professional email.

Car maintenance: We’ve been working on this for a few years and we will continue to help them know how to check tire pressure and oil, accurately read dash gauges, change a tire and do regular maintenance on cars.  I will always remember my dad teaching me how to check my oil and change a tire.

This is the start of my basics list.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

Today I’m grateful that I have prioritized this one list, as it has given me some peace of mind.

Why do kids have to grow up so quickly? I’m glad having a plan like this helps me focus more on enjoying the process.

Thanks for reading!

Breakfast Club Flashback. Gratitude Experiment: Day 25

Today as I sat waiting in the high school parking lot to drop off my son’s tennis equipment before he left for a tennis match, I was transported to another world.  Actually back to my world back in high school.  And the world according to the Breakfast Club movie in 1985.

This movie has been hailed as one of the greatest high school films of all time, by John Hughes (God rest his fantastic movie making soul).  And the song – “Don’t You Forget About Me,” that instantly reminds my generation of scenes from the movie that have stayed with us since.

The movie follows  five students—Allison Reynold (Ally Sheedy),  Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), John Bender (Judd Nelson), Brian Johnson (my favorite Anthony Michael Hall),  and Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) as they surprisingly find common ground with each other throughout a single day of detention on a Saturday.  Each student represented a different clique or stereotype within the school.  If you haven’t seen it, rent it.

Watching the disbursement of high schoolers on a Friday after school took me right there. I watched each stereotype pass the front of my car. During a phase when I am feeling a little old and thinking things are so very different, I suddenly realized things really didn’t seem that different. Had nothing really changed except for the fact that they each had a cell phone and ATM card in their pocket?

The ‘Jock’s (although in this case both male and female) were gathered on the sidewalk high-fiveing each other.  The ‘punk’ hard edge type kids were all walking alone with a jolted gate, looking very guarded. I even saw one bump into a jock, then the jock got upset and held his hands out just like in the movies (if only he had been wearing a letter jacket), then the punker extended his hand and they shook hands and did a “bro” hug.  I should have been filming as it was stereotypical perfection.

Then I also watched as the many ‘princesses’ dialed for their rides exhaustedly while flipping their hair in frustration and simultaneously watching peripherally to see who was checking them out.  Then came the ‘brainiacs’/nerds as I watched them attempt to talk to the cute girl jocks while the huge guy jocks with gelled hair stood to the side fanning their feathers.  They didn’t stand a chance but I was rooting for them.  And I sadly watched a ‘misfit’ walk out to her car alone.

Maybe they will all be in detention together one day and bond over their similarities, but I doubt it.  More likely, they will all find themselves in different cubicles of the same corporate world and bond over the lack of sunlight.  Sorry, that was dark.

Today I am just grateful that the world isn’t really racing ahead as fast as I thought.  And that makes me happy.

Never say never. Gratitude Experiment: Day 12

Sometimes it’s the people who you would never expect to surprise you that do just that.  I’m sure I used the word never more than a few times in high school, during my self-focused adolescent furies.  Mostly about my stepdad and how I thought we would never get along, much less like each other.

My stepdad entered my life in the early eighties. I was part of the package when he married my Mom – the youngest kid still at home, very bummed that big sis had moved on and left me there stranded. I think my stepdad and I both started counting down the days until my exit as soon as the vows were exchanged.

I wasn’t his biggest fan in those days and he certainly wasn’t mine (I shudder at the thought of what a jerk I probably was). For the most part, we managed to mutually exist in order to keep the peace for my Mom. I didn’t touch his stuff and he didn’t touch mine.  My mother had to pay the price if we did. And I’m still convinced that my cat’s disappearance wasn’t as random as it was said to be.  She had a way of throwing up on his bright white Buick Regal with a navy blue vinyl top at precisely the moment he finished waxing it and walked away.   I would have high-fived her little white paw if I could have.

Those were not fun days. And luckily I ended up with a boyfriend who was equally as thrilled about his new step parent situation as I was. It was a perfect match at the time and it got us both through high school relatively unscathed.

As the years went on and my mother faced her own struggles in the face of losing my sister, my stepdad was there for her like no other. I gained a whole new level of respect for this man and for the size of his heart as he stood beside her. Over the years we became part of team Mom, working together instead of against each other in support of my fragile and hard to understand mother.

Her Alzheimer’s diagnosis many years later launched our improved relationship into overdrive, forming a strategic alliance with the strength of a small army.  At my suggestion, we moved them closer to me so that I could help, and he has taken my lead on just about everything.  I try not to let that thought keep me up at night as I don’t feel grown up enough yet myself to have someone look to me for so many decisions.

I never understood what my mom saw in him back in the day, but now it’s quite clear. I witness it every time I help out with my Mom. Just Friday I noticed he had to remove all of the knobs from the stove.  He’s had to install all key locks on the doors.  And he’s had to get good at hiding things he doesn’t want to disappear (we’ve learned the hard way). He has adjusted to their new life without a complaint.

This man — who had most likely never cooked meals before, never cleaned a house, never handled organizing doctor and vet appointments, probably never dressed or bathed his own kids — now does all of these things for my mother.  I am in awe of his grace and strength.  We have a silent, understood mutual appreciation for each other.  We recognize each other’s capes and the irony of our new found closeness.

They say hard times can make people shine brighter than any star.   And for this I am grateful.

Stick figure decals as sticky notes?


This morning, on my first of 459 round-trips to and from my 8th and 10th graders’ schools for the coming year (different schools/different start times/bus route eliminated despite the impact of additional exhaust fumage multiplied by God knows how many families), I noticed a common sight.

It always provides driving entertainment as I see the many variations on the theme. And it is certainly not uncommon in my corner of the universe where my realtor told me people hock their wedding rings to move into this district with such highly rated public schools.  It was a back window decal on an SUV – taking up a large portion of the lower half of the window – with what appeared to be two parent stick figures (perhaps with career themed attire), three or four kid stick figures (with what looked like their respective sports apparatus) and what looked like a dog (not sure if he was holding a regular collar or harness to signal his preference).

I know there is a market out there for these stickers since I even saw a storm trooper version the other day.  And come to think of it, maybe they are a crime preventative measure (what car thief would be so bold as to take a large, active family’s mode of bulk transportation?).  And they do keep me amused on my routine jaunts to and fro.  But I think maybe I’ve finally figured out the real reason for them.

They seem to often depict larger families with three or more children  – all with different sports apparatus.  So maybe the real reason people have these stick figure decals is so that they can remember which kid plays what sport?  Or how high to count before they close the car door? Something to think about.

Note:  no stick figure decals were harmed in the writing of this post.