Monthly Archives: August 2013

Definition of Family


Yesterday, my blog was about real families. . . I did not write it to upset anyone or to stir up controversy but it got a lot of responses on Facebook. I never want my blog to be negative. That’s not the premise behind it. I was upset at first but the more I have been thinking and pondering it all day, the more I realize that it was in fact a good thing because it sparked such a great conversation.

I have been thinking all day about what a “real family” is and I really think I despise the term.

REAL is defined as being an actual thing; having objective existence; not imaginary. I have many, many friends and none of them are imaginary. They are very real in fact.

One of my friends is a widowed, gay dad of two “nonwhite” children. Another is a single mom raising a daughter with special needs. There are the gay women who live around the corner and their twin daughters -all white. There is my single white friend raising a biracial daughter. Another single mom friend of mine has two white children. There are also the gay dads and their son who was adopted from Vietnam. Two white couples that we are extremely close with each have two adopted “nonwhite” children. My list can go on and on.

On my Facebook page several of them told me how important the idea of what a real family was. They are tired of hearing things like, “are they real siblings”, or “what information do you have about their real parents. It makes them cringe and I don’t blame them.

One if them eloquently wrote, “We need to embrace change, embrace difference and embrace family no matter what we look like”.

Another wrote, “Family isn’t always blood, it’s your heart. You make yours anyway you can. I wouldn’t trade mine for the world”.

There is a wonderful book that I read to my Kindergarteners every year. It is by Todd Par and the title is “The Family Book”. The book shows that all families are special and everyone matters. Perhaps eliminating the word real when we talk about families is the first step in realizing that the most important part of a real family is love.

“Real Families”


I am so disappointed and perhaps even a bit disheartened. Today I can actually say that I was crestfallen when I read something that I felt was negative, written by a huge corporation that I have always considered to be “magical”. A friend of mine, who helps get people jobs in acting, posted this on Facebook today, “Disney is casting for the ideal family for their next Disney Cruise commercial!! The casting notice specifically states that they are looking for REAL families and they would like a mother, a father, a boy and a girl. They also stated in their casting notice that they do not want to see anyone who is “too dark skinned – light skin preferred”. She went on to write, “I just took my family on your cruise line and I spent a lot of my very real money. Perhaps Disney needs a lesson on what a real family looks like. Disney, families come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Shame on you Disney, shame on you”

I had to ask her if this was really true because I honestly did not want to believe it. She forwarded me the email. Although she paraphrased, it was right there in the email. I read that they were looking for people who “appear somewhat on the ambiguous side – but not dark skinned”. Now of course there could have been a certain “look” they were going for – I understand that, but it also read, REAL FAMILIES in bold and then listed, a mom, a dad, a boy and a girl.

What I found most ironic about this is that I read this after spending the afternoon with a good friend. A single, gay, mom of adopted twins, (who are not white – even though she is). They are a “real” family. Just as real as my family is and as real as the gay married couples in our town raising children. Skin color and sexual preference does not determine a “real family”.

My children have never been to Disney. Before today, it was because we just could not afford to go. I was there a few times as a child and, as I wrote earlier…it was magical. I have always tried to describe it to my boys, promising that we would get there some day. Sadly, if this is actually the way Disney is going to define a “real family”, I really don’t have the desire to go anymore. For me, today it has lost a lot of its magic.

Meeting Up at Target

good friends

This morning, an old friend of mine who I have not seen in years, contacted me to say that she was going to be driving through New Jersey on her way to Massachusetts. Her name is Kerry and we met while I was in my Senior year of college at American University. I was her student teacher. It was my first classroom experience. Kerry was only 24 at the time, just a few years older than me. I worked with her at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Rockville, Maryland. She was not only my mentor but we became great friends. We spent time together outside of school and I met her family and she met mine. She and her husband Michael got married the year before Dave and I did and they invited us to be a part of their wedding and Kerry was one of my bridesmaids. She still lives in Maryland and we try to meet up every so often, but it has been way too long since we last saw each other. Kerry has four children and when her first son Justin was born, we gave him a baby blanket with two hockey sticks on it. She still brings that blanket up whenever we see her because Justin is 17 now and an exceptional hockey player. The reason they were passing through NJ was because they were on their way to a tournament that he was going to be playing in.

When I heard from her this morning, it was through Facebook. I told her that I’d be at school all day prepping my classroom so she should text me and we’d find a time that worked to meet. I did not hear from her so I sent her a few text messages but we never connected. I was getting so disappointed. It turns out that I had the wrong number for her so someone else must have been getting all those messages instead! In the meantime, she had been trying to reach me through Facebook and I can’t get on Facebook at work. Even though we do keep in touch, we only had each others’ home phone numbers. Fortunately she was able to reach my sister and Kathi gave her my cell phone number and she called.

By this time, it was after two o”clock and I was with the boys at Target. She was fairly close to our exit on the parkway so I told her that I could get home quickly to meet her. She was even closer to Target and knowing that we only had a few minutes to meet, we decided to meet save time and meet there. We knew ahead of time that we weren’t going to have a long visit so this would have to do.

I waited for her at the entrance and saw her as soon as she came in. We gave each other the biggest hug! She is one of those friends that years can go by without seeing each other but when we finally do, it is as if no time has passed! If we didn’t have our kids with us to give away the time span it could have felt like it was yesterday!

We were only able to spend about fifteen minutes with each other and we tried to cram in years of catching up into that short amount of time. They will pass back through New Jersey on their way home on Monday. We are hoping to meet up again then but if that doesn’t work, we promised to not let so many years come between our next visit. It was a quick, unexpected visit but it really made my day!!

Rained Out

smile in rain

Today started out hot and sunny.  Drew was bat boy for The Newark Bears again.  My best friend Kelly was meeting us at the game with her kids.  It seemed like it was going to be a perfect day.  I have not seen Kelly in a few weeks since she started her new job.  Not even a half hour into the game, rain began to fall.  Very slowly at first so the game went on until it started to pour.  Then came the thunder and lightening.  It was by far one of the biggest storms we have had in awhile.  Kelly waited around for awhile, but it did not look like it was about to let up.  She decided to head out with her kids while we waited for an announcement telling us whether or not the game would be played.  Drew would have to stay anyway, so we hung out in a dry area for awhile.

Finally an announcement was made that the game would be canceled.  Drew was upset because he only has one more game left in the season.  I was sad because I finally had the chance to sit and catch up with Kelly and that did not work out.  We drove home through torrential rain and I joked with DJ asking him if he wanted to practice driving.  We could barely see a few feet in front of us and the highway had flooding along the shoulders.  I have not seen rain like this in quite some time!

The kids were hungry and I had to go to the grocery store.  We parked and ran through the parking lot.  I could not help but smile as I watched the boys splash in the puddles like little kids.  We were soaked by the time we reached the store and then were freezing the whole time we were in the air conditioned store.  It was almost comical, seeing the boys with their hair soaking wet.  I cannot even imagine what I looked like as my soaking wet hair stuck to my face.

The minute we got home, the boys put on their pajamas.  It was the middle of the afternoon!  I cannot even remember the last time the three of us spent an afternoon like that.  Right now, chili is simmering on the stove, my brothers are coming for dinner and the kids are hoping that they’ll stay and turn the night into a “family game night”.  Perhaps the rain that made our day so miserable earlier in the day, turned out to be a blessing.  With only a few more days until school is back in session and the pressures of homework, sports and other commitments taking up our weekends, it was a day we were forced to sit back, do nothing and enjoy it.

Getting Back to Work

teachers who love teaching

Getting back into the classroom is always an exciting time for me.  I love making new name tags, decorating and rearranging my classroom to make the most of my classroom space.  As a kid, I loved opening boxes of new crayons, markers and colored pencils  – I still do!!  All the sharpened pencils and fresh glue sticks are ready to go.

Our school starts late this year.  Although teachers report “officially” on Tuesday, the students do not start until September 9th.  I have been back to school a few times now and my room is almost ready to greet my twenty-two new Kindergarteners.

One of the best parts of getting back to school is seeing all of my co-workers.  We see each other in the halls, greet each other with hugs and stop working on our classrooms so that we can catch up.  We have some new teachers, filled with anticipation of what lies ahead of them and  a lot of experienced teachers who return year after year because they, like myself, really love to teach.

Every new school year is a fresh start.  A new beginning – especially in Kindergarten where some of these children are just beginning their school experiences.  Every year is different than the last and I feel invigorated and ready to embark on a new adventure.

A Ride With DJ


DJ is done with his driving lessons.  He has some things to work on and we tried to get him to go out this weekend and practice, but he did not want to.  Today, he asked me if we could.  What could I say??  Secretly I was wishing that he would have chosen Dave to practice with first.  I was hoping to sit in the back seat and quietly observe so that when it was my turn with him, I’d be ready.  Of course, I told him we could.  I drove him to the high school parking lots – which are still fairly empty since school hasn’t started yet.  I got out of the drivers seat and let him get in.  Drew was in the back seat and muttered just loud enough for us to hear, “I’m scared!”  Brotherly love?!?!?

DJ adjusted the seat since I am a good seven inches shorter than he is.  Then he adjusted his mirrors and turned down the radio.  So far so good.  Then he began.  We drove around the first lot which was completely empty.  After I felt he was able to deal with some “obstacles”, we crossed over the road and went into the second lot, which had about ten cars parked in it.  He did completely fine.  He even demonstrated a K-turn for Drew.  I asked him if he felt confident enough to drive home.  It is only a mile, one left turn and two right turns away.  He said yes and in a few minutes, he pulled safely into our driveway, put the car into park, turned off the ignition and let out a deep breath.  So did I – I didn’t realize I was holding it. Then he smiled, got out of the car and walked confidently into the house.

I didn’t want him to know it, but I was so nervous! I really didn’t know if he was ready especially since he was so apprehensive this weekend, but he did a great job, followed all of the rules of the road and became more confident in himself. He is growing up and becoming more independent.   I know other moms and dads have all been through this before, but now that it is our family going through it, I have a new perspective.


“America’s Game”


It is the last week of summer vacation, at least for me.  The kids don’t go back to school until September 9th.  I return next Tuesday.  I will be in and out of school this week trying to get my classroom ready for a new batch of Kindergarteners.  I look forward to this time of year every year, although I find the first two months of Kindergarten the hardest two months of the entire year.  I am never as exhausted as I am in September!

Our last week of Summer will be filled with a lot of baseball.  Drew will be performing his bat boy duties for the last few games of The Newark Bears Season.  There is a game every day or night this week!  He cannot get to all of these games though because he has his own practices to attend for Fall Ball.  We put out an “all-call” on Facebook to all of our friends and family to join us for a game if they are around.  Tonight, my sister and her family are going and my dad will join us as well.    I know that Drew self-esteem is boosted when others show up to see him hard at work!

He has such dreams of seeing himself out on the field as a player some day.  We have been watching The Little League World Series all week.  Drew is astonished at what some of these boys are capable of doing.  His mood swings from awe, disbelief and wonder, to him being completely down on himself because he feels inadequate and not good enough.  But despite how he feels about himself as he watches, he critiques, evaluates and gives his own commentaries throughout each game.  He is glued to the television and does his own “research” on line to see what he can find out about the players, teams and their equipment.  Now, if only I get him to be so enthusiastic about school…

Small Changes


In my coaching group this week we have been talking about “change”.  We all had to come up with something in our lives, that we felt we needed to change.  I thought that if I wrote mine here, I’d have more of a reason to stick to it. My change is that  I need to make better choices when it comes to eating.  I am not overweight at all.  I exercise daily – and this definitely helps me because if I didn’t, there is no doubt that I would have an issue with my weight.  I have absolutely no portion control and eat more than I should.  So I have made the decision to start eating better.  Perhaps it will result in losing weight, but this is not really my biggest reason for doing it.  A few pounds would be nice but I just feel like I need to be a healthier eater in general.  My biggest problem is that I don’t really know how to go about it.  Believe me, I have tried many times.

One thing that I would like to start with, is eating healthier foods.  I am conscious of food labels and I do look at what ingredients are in things.  I have been reading a lot about it and found that an easy way to go about it is to limit myself to foods that come from the ground, grow on a tree, come out of the sea or live on the land. Real foods, like meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts.  Fortunately these are all things that I enjoy.  This is nothing new.  I have read numerous articles about eating healthy so I am aware of this, but I always found a reason to not stick to it.  I find it funny that during Lent, when I always give up sweets, I have no problem at all going for forty days without ever straying, but the minute it is over, I am back to eating whatever I want and there is nothing that gets me to do it again until Lent comes around again the next year.  Catholic guilt perhaps??

Perhaps eating healthy will be a good example for my kids.  I have written about it before and they just don’t make healthy choices when they eat.  Sadly that cause a lot of arguments between us.  I know that if there are no unhealthy foods in the house, they won’t be there for them to eat, but when they are at school, or out with friends there is very little control I have over what they are or are not eating.  I also don’t want to deprive them of junk food completely because I believe that will make them want it more, and therefore find ways to get it and gorge themselves with it when I am not around to monitor them.

In the past, I have been good about tracking what I eat. I usually eat very well for breakfast and lunch, and then fall apart at dinner.  I do allow myself small snacks during the day and I try to keep them healthy.  There are some great apps and websites to monitor my food.  Some days I am better than others when it comes to keeping track.  I know all of the “basic rules”.  Eat protein at every meal, there are “good and bad” carbs, fats are essential for many reasons and drink a lot of water.  I gave up soda a few years ago so that one won’t be hard.

My goal is to make permanent, lasting changes in my diet and I plan to take it slowly so that I can do it successfully.  If I try to do it fast and immediately eliminate all foods that I love, I will fail.  That is what usually happens.  I also feel like I will never be able to eliminate everything forever.  I know that would never work, but if I can try to eat well MOST of the time, and allow myself to stray once in awhile, I might be able to do it.  I enjoy food too much to stop eating what I love.  I am going to try to find ways to make it work.  Among my favorite foods, I love pasta, cheese, pizza and meat!  I will find ways to allow myself to eat these but to incorporate them into my “diet” in healthier ways.  If I want a glass of wine with dinner, or something for dessert, I will have it.  I will not stop going out to eat and I cannot always monitor what is in food that I order, but I will be more conscious of what I choose to eat there.

I think my changes for now, will be to monitor ingredients.  If I do that, I am sure that I will see some results.  I will continue to track my calories in a food diary, but limiting calories will not be my goal, although it might motivate me and if it does, that will be a bonus.  By writing it in my blog, perhaps I will be more accountable to myself.  I always say, “I will start tomorrow”, so tomorrow I will.   As for tonight, (since I already ate pretty badly for the day,) I will have some dessert, not feel guilty about it and go to bed knowing that tomorrow I will begin the change.

eating healthy

A Visit With Gram


Tonight, we met for “Family Dinner”, like we do almost every weekend.  In the past we have always gone to the same place, but recently we have been changing our routine and trying other places every so often.  One place our family really enjoys is Enzo’s in Millburn, which is in the town right next to ours.  Great service and great Italian food.

Tonight, it was a small group of us, just Dave, Drew and me, my dad, my older brother Chip, my grandma and her aide Elsa and my brother-in-law and his kids.  My younger brother Tim took DJ to a NY Mets game and my sister was out with friends.  So, just ten of us – kind of a rarity.  Sometimes those are the nicest dinners though because we can all actually have one conversation instead of many going on at once.

My gram who turns 98 in less than two weeks, does not look like she is nearly a century old, but her hearing is not great, and she is more frail than she ever has been.  This is why we have someone live with her full time, but despite those small ailments, she is doing pretty well.  She still gets her hair and nails done every week.  She meets my dad for lunch a few times a week and still goes to shopping at the mall.  After dinner tonight we were all getting set to go our own way home when my gram asked me if I wanted to come over for a little while.  Although we spend a lot of time with her and see her at least once a week, this is not something that she often asks of us so Dave, Drew and I looked at each other and knew that we had to join her.   She only lives a couple of miles from the restaurant so we got in our car and drove up to her house.  My dad decided to come too.

We sat in her living room and just chatted.  She told us about the other woman at “her salon”.  It turns out that she is not the oldest woman there.  One lady who comes weekly at the same time as her is 99!  She laughed and told us about the “old ladies’ that all come in on Saturday mornings with their walkers. (like her) and in wheelchairs.  Dave told her they could start their own club, “The Titanium Ladies”.

With our busy lives, we don’t get a lot of free time and sometimes it is hard to make time.  Meanwhile, for Gram, whose life has slowed down so much that she often tells us that she is bored, going there after dinner was important.  We did not stay for a long time, but I know that she was so happy that we came and we were glad that we went.  It was good for all of us.

Brotherly Love


It has been raining on and off all day today.  My plans of spending the day at the pool did not pan out.  Instead, I went into school for a little while to get things done in my classroom and told the boys that while I was there they should choose a movie that we could go see this afternoon.

Having two boys with a lot of the same interests, usually makes decisions like this easy.  Unfortunately, with their nearly five year age difference, the movies, (and their ratings,) kept them from being able to settle on one that they could both agree on.  The “adult” content was way too mature for Drew, or to young for DJ.  We scrapped the movie idea and my two “totally bored” boys sat and tried to figure out something we could do that they could both enjoy.  They decided on bowling.  I made Drew promise before going that he would not get upset if he lost, (he is an incredibly sore loser,) and that if he did, there would have to be consequences.

Neither of them have gone bowling in years!  The last time we went they used the bumpers to prevent any gutter balls.  I am not very good at bowling myself.  If I break 100, it is a big deal!!  It is not a sport that we have spent a lot of time playing.  The kids seemed excited – even if it was just bowling with mom.  We traded in our sneakers for bowling shoes and chose our balls.  Wow!  This was a hard decision for Drew.  He needed the perfect one.  We had no time constraints so DJ and I just let him take his time until he found the “right one” – which by the way was only the “right one” for the first frame.  He needed another one after the second, third…..

DJ went first.  we all agreed NO BUMPERS!  Gutterball!  Wow this was harder than it looked.  Second roll, GUTTERBALL!!  I tried giving him some words of advice, “keep your wrist stiff” and “try to follow the lines “.  My turn.  TWO GUTTERBALLS!!  So much for my good advice.  We all had a good laugh over that.  Drew’s turn, first roll….GUTTERBALL.  This was going to be a long game.  Then, on his second roll he knocked down six!!  All of us cheered!  DJ’s turn again.  Two more gutterballs.  He was laughing and shaking his head at the same time.  My turn, not great, but I knocked down a few.  On DJ’s third frame he finally knocked some down.  Phew.  The game went on like this but none of us broke 80 points before it was over.

We had paid for two rounds and actually debated if we should put the bumpers up for the second game!!  We didn’t.  All of us did better but still no one even got to 100.  DJ and Drew wanted to play another game and DJ treated for their last game.  I sat out of that one.  By this time, all of us had rolled at least one strike and a few spares.  Drew has some crazy spin on his ball that even he does not know how he does it, but even people in other lanes were laughing as a ball rolling along the gutter suddenly swerved for the head pin.

It was only a few hours out of the rain, out of the house, together this afternoon but it was fun spending time with both boys.  No fighting – even though Drew didn’t win any of the games.  They were even cheering each other on and giving each other advice.  I actually took notice of the two families playing in the lanes on either side of us.  Both of them were a mom and two boys.  All of the games were going just like ours.  They were encouraging, cheering and complimenting each other.  Some kind of strange “brotherly love vibe” must have been flowing through the bowling alley this afternoon.    I just wish I could have bottled it so that I could have saved it for another time!