Screen Time Warning


When I was a young Mom, way back in the old days of the mid 1980s, we were warned that we needed to limit our kids exposure to TV. Given the fact that we didn’t have cable yet, and there were only a few channels, we were pretty comfortable with limiting TV.

It wasn’t that hard, cuz, you know, not that much was on.

Then the years went by, and suddenly we all found ourselves surrounded by tablets and desktops and laptops and “smartphones” and “smartTVs”. Suddenly the world became an endless series of googles and posts and updates.

As a grandmother, in charge of the tender care of my little grandchildren, I am acutely aware of every warning.

“Screen time will give your child rickets!,” or something along those lines, appears every day on my Twitter feed. “Don’t let the kids watch TV/YouTube/Netflix!!!! They will become serial killers!” Facebook tells me.

Or something like that.

I tend to ignore this stuff, to be honest.

I mean, you can’t actually convince me that we were better off watching Howdy Doody than our kids are watching Sesame Street and Dr. McStuffins.

At least these new shows have a semblance of educational value.

I do believe, in my deepest Nonni heart, that kids are better off playing outside, using playdoh, painting, or looking at books, than they are when they’re watching TV. So I make sure that our day includes lots of the former, but not that much of the latter.

Yay, me.

BUT:

Here’s the real point of this post.

SCREEN TIME IS DANGEROUS!!!!!

Not so much for the kids, if you ask me, but holy crap. Screen time for them is REAL danger for us!

Let me give you a couple of examples, so that you can draw your own conclusions.

There was the day this week when I totally slept through my alarm. Although the alarm has been set for 6:45 since September, I found myself rolling over at 8 and wondering why the sun was up so high. Luckily for me, my husband has an internal clock, so he was already up and ready for the kids. Unluckily for me, someone who shall remain nameless (Ellie or Johnny) had pushed the “total silence” button on my phone. I was enjoying my total silence. Yikes! I barely had my clothes on when I had to start serving waffles.

Then there was the time I called my phone company to complain that I was absolutely unable to get a text, even though I’d been getting them for months. I blamed the phone, the provider, the Russians, whatever. I was pissed off.

The not-quite-smirking young man on the other end of the phone walked me through a few troubleshooting steps. “Check on your ‘airplane mode’.” he told me. I pshawed. I haven’t been on a plane in MONTHS. “It’s not on.” I snarked. “Did you check?” he asked. So I did.

Yeah.

“Airplane mode: on”.

Gah.

I wonder who did that?

Then there was the status update on my niece’s Facebook page. She put up a lovely post about going to the beach on a sunny weekend day. My response to her was this: ]0\0k\000000k00kk0k0

Yup.

She replied with “WHAT??????”

My first thought was that I’d had one too many glasses of wine, but it was a weeknight. No, I didn’t! Then I remember that I’d left my laptop open while I went into the kitchen to get Ellie a snack.

Johnny was standing there right before my computer.

I think we all know what he did.

So there you go.

At the age of a year and a half, any kid can access your Facebook, change your settings, order a yacht online or send for a Russian bride.

This is NOT good.

Ergo: I now warn you about screen time. I don’t care if the kids are watching too much PBS. I care about protecting you from that doorbell ring where the guy on the steps asks, “Hi! Are you the one who ordered 7,000 red worms?”

Sure we look innocent! We have your phone and your iPad under our chairs!

Trust


Oh, my.

I don’t remember exactly what it was that I hoped my grandchildren would ask of me. I don’t clearly recall what dreams I had back in the days when my teaching colleagues used to call me “NonniWannabe”. I know that I wanted my grandchildren to love and trust me. But I’m not sure that I had a really clear idea of exactly what I wanted the kids to want from me.

Do you know what I mean?

But I think that today showed me exactly what I’d hoped for.

It was a typical spring morning in New England. We live far from the coast, so the mornings here are still cold. Our son-in-law arrived, as usual, with his two kids in his arms. They came into the house dressed for the sixty degree day that was forecast, but the morning was frosty.

The kids came in and sat down for breakfast. I had put out fruit, as usual, but also made nice warm toast. I offered oatmeal or waffles. Both kid wanted pineapple, clementines, milk, and nice cold grapes. By the end of the meal, our Ellie was shivering.

“Snuggle me, Nonni,!” she asked. “I’m freezing!”

I held my girl, wrapped her in a blanket, snuggled her as she had asked.

“I’m so cold!,” she told me. “I need your warm snuggles.”

My heart started to melt. I had intended to vacuum the floors, but I was forced to sit still and hold my sweet little girl in my arms. Her french braid tickled my chin, and her bony little bottom wriggled on my leg. It was heaven.

As we finished our breakfast, I told the kids that I had some leftover chicken to give them at lunchtime.

“No thanks,” said Ellie. “I want some nice hot soup for lunch.”

I blinked. I answered honestly, “Honey, I don’t have any soup ready.”

She turned her head and gazed up at me with her deep brown eyes. She put one hand on my cheek.

“Nonni,” she said sweetly, “Just check your ingredients. I bet you can make soup!”

Holy trusting child.

She was cold. She had the shivers. She was trusting me to warm her with my loving arms, but she was also telling me that she was completely confident that this old woman could whip up some homemade soup in no time.

Naturally, I pulled out some frozen chicken stock, added some garlic, onions, salt, pepper and bay leaf, and let it all simmer. Of course, without a doubt, Johnny and I pulled apart last night’s chicken and added it to the pot. We let it simmer while we played all morning, and then I cooked up some ditalini and added frozen peas to bring down the temperature.

I served it to the kids, who were starved after an hour outside playing in the cold, wet yard.

“Oh, yum,” said Ellie. She slurped up a big spoonful of hot broth, and smiled at me. “See? I knew you had some soup around.”

And now I know.

THIS is what I wanted my grandchildren to think about me. I wanted them to think, “Nonni will keep me warm. Nonni will be able to cook up the best food to keep me healthy and warm and safe.”

I wasn’t even sure what I wanted them to think, but you know what?

THIS is it.

It’s about soup.

Other Grandmoms, do you get it?

Know What? I’m Proud of Me.


Sometimes in this long life, you just need one of those days where you feel proud of yourself, you know?

I used to be a teacher. I taught fifth grade after years of providing speech and language therapy to kids with communication disorders. I was proud of myself back then. I was good at both jobs. I was good at connecting with kids, I was good at diagnostics, I was a fun teacher.

I used to get lots of positive feedback from kids, from colleagues, from the parents of my students. I mean, it wasn’t all good (I still wake up at night thinking of the kids I failed and the parents who were let down by my efforts.)

But I usually felt OK. I usually felt proud of what I accomplished in a year, or a month or a week of teaching.

Now I’m staying at home. I take care of the two people on this beautiful planet who I love the most. I laugh with them, I watch them eat the good food I’ve made for them, I help them to create art.

Watching my grandchildren is a gift.

But I don’t usually feel proud of my “work.” I mean, really? I peel multiple clementines, wash multiple hands and change multiple diapers. A monkey could do it.

I rock, I soothe, I sing lullabyes in my off key voice.

Proud is not one of my average adjectives.

But today was different. So different.

For the first time in MONTHS, I took both of the kids to the grocery store, to the florist and then to the hair salon while I had my head beautified.

My Johnny at the salon. String cheese in hand, new book on his lap. I freakin’ rock.

Oh, yeah.

This 63 year old Nonni put two toddlers into carseats not once, but THREE TIMES. During one of those carseat buckling events, the 22 month old had what can only be described as a takeover by an alien force. There was screaming, writhing, head swinging, teeth gnashing…. There was also a big old downpour of icy rain, so Nonni was not able to be her usual patient self (cough, cough). I wrassled that poor little tyke into that carseat, and all I had to say through my clenched teeth was “This is NOT my first toddler meltdown!”

Naturally, on the way home, said toddler fell sound asleep in his carseat. I got his sister into the house, safely debooted and dried, sucking on a lollipop (don’t judge! It was in a jar at the salon.) I brought seven bags of groceries into the house, let in the dogs, dried off the dogs.

Then I ran outside to check the sleeping baby.

Back inside, I unpacked seven bags of food and put them away. I also served two bowls of fresh blackberries to the 3 year old who had finished her pop. I gave her a string cheese. I got the dogs off the couch, pulled out lunch foods, and started to defrost dinner.

Then I ran outside into the rain to grab the now awake little one. I brought him inside, pulled off his boots, rocked him for 15 minutes while he tried to wake all the way up. I also sang “Frozen” songs to his sister, who was dancing in her blue sparkly dress. I wasn’t able to put down the cranky boy long enough to boot up the computer for the music, so I had to rely on my singing.

Luckily, she loves me. She isn’t a critic. She danced.

Finally, both kids were awake.

I served up a lunch of raisin bread and blackberries (STOP JUDGING! It’s what they wanted!)

Then I made a lovely dinner (for me) of octopus.

Oh, my GOD, so delicious!
Message me for the recipe.
This isn’t a food blog.
But seriously…..so so good.

OK, OK, fine.

My husband is having leftover ravioli, but I am STILL very proud of me.

What a day.

Long, fun, fulfilling, challenging and in the end I get a plate full of delicious seafood.

I. Am. So. Proud. Of. Me.

Educational Inequality


I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent higher education scandal. You know what I mean. The story that recently broke in the news in which we were shown proof that the rich and famous are able to buy their way into the best universities, whether or not they are prepared, equipped or eligible.

It was a public kick in the face to all of us who have used the regular route to college for our kids. You know: get decent grades, apply with a decent essay, apply for financial aid, hope for the best.

But it wasn’t a surprise to a lot of us to learn that the rich, powerful, famous elite are able to simply write a check in order to be given that which the rest of us have been struggling desperately to achieve.

I was not surprised.

I wasn’t even particularly outraged. I was kind of…..accepting. Head nodding. Yawning a bit.

And this is what I was thinking today.

The educational inequality of the United States starts way, way, way before we are paying our way into our most elite universities.

The educational inequality in the US starts at birth.

It does.

For example:

Today I spent an hour painting with my granddaughter. She is 3 years old. I am wealthy and privileged enough to be able to take care of her and her brother every day while their parents work.

I am also wealthy and privileged enough to be able to buy good watercolors, decent brushes, good paper.

I’m talking about maybe 30 dollars worth of materials, so I want you to understand that I am not rich.

Still.

I was painting with Ellie today. We were mixing colors and chatting and using our special water color paper. Her baby brother was asleep, so this was one hour where the two of us were able to focus on each other.

“I love this special Nonni time,” said my sweet girl. “I love painting with you!”

And I loved it too.

But I was thinking about this fact.

If I was a less lucky grandmother, I might not be able to provide this moment to my girl. If I hadn’t retired from teaching in a good school district, I might not be able to stay at home and watch these two kids.

If my daughter was a single Mom, she wouldn’t be able to provide me with the financial support to watch these kids. If she hadn’t been born white, middle class and ‘neurotypical’, she might not be able to work while her kids are here with me.

I am not special.

I am not particularly talented.

But I am able to buy a lot of good art materials that I can use with my grandchildren. I am able to buy them interesting books. I am able to spend my time at home with them, taking them outside to play in the melting snow. I have enough money to buy seeds and soil so that we can plant flowers together.

What does this all mean?

It means that just by the luck of birth, just by the luck of the draw, my grandchildren will have a bit of a hand up on their peers. They will have been exposed to art and science and books by a grandmother who was a teacher. They will have had access to materials for building, for creating, for art, for reading and writing, that many kids will not have seen.

It means that they already have a bit of step up.

Not because they are smarter, or more artistic, or better or more deserving.

But because we live in a country where we have decided that it is acceptable to allow our richest, most privileged children to walk a special, guarded, golden path. It is because we have come to believe that if one is born into poverty, one deserves to stay there. And that if one is born into wealth, one is entitled to all of the best that life has to offer.

It was a wonderful day for me. It was a lovely chance to connect with my most beloved girl.

But it sure made me think.

Loops of Time


Sometimes it just comes back around and smacks me right in the head. Sometimes I think I’m perfectly balanced and no longer feeling the pangs of the old empty nest.

Then it just jumps up, grabs me by the throat and shakes me like a wolf taking down a limp old rabbit.

I still miss my kids. I still miss my Mommy days.

The other day we were down in our basement playroom. There are a bunch of old toys down there. Old games, old books, some aging camping equipment. And a few old photos.

My Ellie reached out to one of those photos and asked, “Who is that boy? Is he my cousin?”

“Who is that boy?”

My heart stopped, took a deep breath, started itself back up again.

“That’s your Uncle Matt.” I told my granddaughter. “That’s what he looked like when he was…..(your age? My little one? My sweet tiny boy?)….when he was about 4.”

And I held that frame in my hand.

I could hear his laugh. I could feel the warm sun on my shoulders. I could feel, as if it was right there under my palms, the smooth soft texture of his back. His golden silky hair.

He was my boy. My baby.

My eyes filled with tears.

I know. I know that my boy is not gone, although in the ways that matter to my Mommy heart, he is.

My beautiful golden haired boy is still here. Still a huge part of my life. Still in my heart and my thoughts every day. He is happy, grown, in love, loving and fulfilled.

I couldn’t have wished for anything more.

Except that in that tiny moment, when Ellie asked me about the smiling boy in the photo, I wanted THAT little boy back. Just for a minute. Just for a heartbeat.

That little boy who loved me so and who smiled with just joy as he played with a ball on a hot summer day.

We all move forward, every single day. We look to the future with love and hope. We grow, we learn, we continue to become the people we hope will be our best selves.

But every once in a while, time simply loops itself back and we are face to face with the moments that have passed us by.

I love my current life. I love the idea of my future.

But oh, how I’d love another chance to cuddle that sweet boy.

Jeez, winter, yer killin’ me


Ya know what?

I do NOT want to hear about what a mild winter this has been. Don’t want to hear about how little snow there’s been, or how easy we’ve had it here in New England.

From where I sit, any winter is a rough winter. Any winter is way the hell too long.

Today, a mere two weeks before the vernal equinox, I found myself getting desperate.

First of all, we have more snow on the ground right now than we’ve had all winter. That snow is dry, brittle, and piled on top of a boatload of ice. Second, it was 18 degrees at noon.

Finally, the kids and I have been sick for three weeks. Colds, coughs, fevers, strep, drooling, gooping, snots…….you get it. And the kids are on antibiotics, which means lots of diarrhea and not much appetite.

When the kids asked to watch yet another episode of “My Little Pony” this morning, I realized that I was on my very last nerve.

I had to make it stop. I had to shut off the infernal idiot machine (its amazing how seductive Netflix can be when everyone is sick and its snowing outside.). I had to find a way to distract the kids.

“Want to bake some cookies?” I chirped.

“Nooooooo.”

“Want to make some pretty egg carton flowers? We can paint and use glitter glue and……”

“No. No. No.”

I was desperate. I looked out the window, watching the wind blow drifts of freezing snow across the yard. No shoving kids into snowsuits, wresting mittens onto hands, zipping jackets and then playing outside for twelve seconds before everyone freezes.

What could I do?

At the time, the thought that went through my head seemed like pure genius. Pure. Freakin’. Nonni. Gold.

“Hey!” I called to the two kids. It took a couple of shouts to get their attention, since they were busy trying to push each other off the mini-tramp in the living room.

“Since we can’t go outside, how about if I bring in some snow?”

Four big brown eyes lit up with pleasure. Two little bodies hopped up and raced to the window.

“I’ll go outside,” I told them, “And I’ll bring in a big pan of nice clean snow!!!”

“Bring in two pans,” said Ellie, more astute than her grandmother. “Then Johnny won’t have to try to share.”

So out I went. I easily scooped a big pile of clean white snow into a pan and brought it inside. I divided it into two smaller pans, handed out spoons, bowls and paper towels.

“Genius!” I thought to myself. Look up “self-satisfied old lady” in the dictionary, and you’ll see a picture of me.

I made myself a cup of coffee while the kids played at the dining room table.

“Hey, Nonni!”

I lifted my head, smiling at Ellie’s excited voice.

“Let’s use our food coloring on the snow!!!!!”

Before I go on, let me explain.

I’m tired. My back hurts. I think I gritted my teeth too much last night, because my jaw is really aching.

I’m old. My tummy hurts from my anti-biotic. And from the 10 pounds of incredibly delicious German chocolate that my friends from Berlin sent me for my birthday.

And Ellie has been wicked, wicked cranky for the past few days.

So I did something stupid and inexplicable.

I said, “Sure!”

Then I handed out an entire brand new package of food coloring to two toddlers with a pile of snow on my dining room table.

Yeah.

Let me just say that the kids had a lot of fun. They loved watching the colors mix into the ice crystals. We even had some high quality science conversation. Ellie figured out that both warmth and “pressing” can cause snow to melt into water.

Woohooo.

Johnny seems to have learned the colors blue, green and red. Way ahead of schedule. Brilliant boy!

Of course, by the time all was said and done, my dining room table, my floor, two chairs, two toddler shirts and pairs of pants, five sponges and my entire kitchen sink were all dyed a glorious shade of….blackish purply greenish gray.

“Green, Red, Blue and Yellow make…..black!”

I spent a LOT of time and way too many paper towels getting it all cleaned up, but you know what?

It was actually worth it.

The kids learned a lot. They shared and talked and learned some new and exciting concepts.

Way more importantly, though, Nonni had an entire cup of hot coffee and two pieces of toast without a single interruption or shared bite.

So I guess it was a win.

But if spring doesn’t get here soon, I have no idea how I’m going to beat today’s adventure.

My Small World


Do you remember when you were in high school? Your entire world consisted of your friends, your classes, your teachers and coaches and maybe, on the outer edge, your parents and siblings.

Everything that occupied your soul and your heart and your mind was contained within the smallest circle around you. You only thought about the people you came in contact with ever day.

In a way, that was a wonderful life. Relationships seemed so deep, perhaps because they were so few.

I know that when I was in high school I thought of myself as very worldly and aware. I read National Geographic every month. I sort of followed the news, because my parents did. I knew who was running for which public office.

But I never stayed awake at night worrying about the Middle East, or the Irish troubles or the cold war.

Nope. I stayed awake at night worrying about if he liked me or if he “LIKED ME” liked me. I worried about who was mad at whom, who was heartbroken this week, who made which team and what I should wear on any given day.

My world was small.

Then I grew up. I went to college and had a career. I had a family and a life in a community. My world expanded so much that I sometimes felt overwhelmed. How to balance the work relationships, the community relationships, the hockey mom connections, the girl scout friends, the family and neighbors….During those busy and crazy years of raising kids, I was also involved in local town politics, and to some extent in state and federal politics, too.

I read a lot. I listened to the news and watched the news and debated the various political points and positions with all of the bright and engaged people in my life at the time.

I learned every day, too. I learned from my colleagues in school, from the mentors I had in education, and from the parents and kids I interacted with every day.

I learned, I grew, I felt myself to be a part of a wide, interesting, challenging world.

My world was big. It knew no limits.

So you can see why I am struggling a little bit now, in my Nonni years. Now my world has shrunk so much that sometimes I wonder if there is a greater universe out there at all.

Now I find that my life, so much like the one I lead back in my teens, is composed uniquely of the people I love and interact with every single day. I don’t really follow local politics anymore, to my shame. I try to read and watch and listen to the political news from my state and from this country.

I’ve always been a follower of international relations, so I do my best to keep up with latest Brexit development.

But the truth is, when I lay myself down to sleep at night, my thoughts now are limited to questions of which toddler will like which art project. I worry about finding nutritious snacks that will pack in some extra calories.

I sometimes wake up at 3 AM thinking about Princess Poppy from Trolls.

My world has closed right in around me.

There are weeks when I honestly don’t leave my property from Monday through Saturday.

And this is where I struggle.

Is it bad that I don’t mind settling in quietly to my small, enclosed, circumscribed life? Am I being a coward when I simply stay in the house with the kids and make soup?

I miss being a part of a team. I miss the ongoing intellectual challenges that I knew as a teacher, and before that as an interpreter. I miss getting to each Friday feeling as if I’ve learned something that I didn’t know on Monday.

But I love shaking off the stress and fear and angst of trying to keep up with all of the needs of those around me. I love huddling in my safe little cocoon of babies and finger paints and preschool art projects.

What I worry about is this:

Am I closing myself off too much? How do I continue to grow and learn and stretch and challenge my mind when my days are filled with rocking and singing to my best beloved little ones?

How do I balance the big old world with my safe and happy little one?

This is my whole world.

“Oh, What is to Become of Me?”


I’m a mess.

I’m an old, cranky, Nonni of a mess.

I don’t seem to know what in the world I want anymore. Nothing satisfies me. Nothing much makes me say, “Hooray”.

OK. Except maybe the incredible blood orange cosmo that my dear friend Patty brought me on Friday. That made me say lots of happy words.

But the older I get, the more I seem to be turning into a toddler.

Let me explain it this way.

You know when a toddler demands that you give them a waffle with butter and syrup. So you make said waffle, put on said butter, smoosh on said syrup and present it. The toddler immediately screams, throws themself to the floor and yells “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Well. Yeah. That’s how I feel.

I had a very busy week with my best beloveds. They were both sick and I spent a lot of time making soup, urging them to eat soup, cleaning up the mess of the soup. We watched more episodes of “My Little Pony” than anyone should have to endure. I rocked, I soothed, I brought them to the doctor.

The house smelled of Vicks. I smelled of snot and drool.

I got to the weekend feeling pretty tired.

And it was a busy couple of days, too. Taxes were due, groceries were needed, laundry was piling up.

This meant, of course, than I spent most of Sunday chanting the international call of the teacher, “Snowdaysnowdaysnowdaysnowday.” I checked the “snowday calculator” every 15 minutes. I prayed for snow, even though I really hate snow.

I pictured myself spending a lovely, quiet Monday. At home with just the dogs. Reading. Eating a healthy salad while listening to classical music….

And the snow day was granted by the universe! I was elated!

From 9 to 11, I was just delighted.

Then I realized that I was eating chips out of the bag while sprawled in the recliner in my flannel pants. I was watching “PitBulls and Parolees”. I got up in disgust and made myself vacuum and dust. I went into the attic to put away the Valentine’s tchotchkes and take out the ceramic bunnies and eggs. I semi-decorated. I paid the bills.

It was noon.

I shoveled some snow. I checked Facebook and Twitter. I ate M&Ms.

More “PitBulls and Parolees”. I felt bloated. Bored. Stupid.

Now it’s almost dinner time.

I’m making a cheater’s pizza. You know, where you slice a loaf of garlic bread in half and slop on some toppings.

I tell ya.

There’s just no pleasing this old toddler of a granny.

I can’t wait for the kids to get here in the morning so I can make pancakes that no one will eat, get fingerpaint all over the walls, blow toddler noses 342 times, and then complain about how tired I am.

Do you feel bad for me yet?

“You know you missed us. Ellie will be a pitbull, and I’ll be a parolee.”

Stay At Home Moms….


When I had my kids, many years ago, I didn’t have the chance to be a “stay at home Mom.” I had to work. I had to leave them with babysitters or day care staff. Finances and insurance needs made this true.

But back then, I often thought that I would have loved to stay at home. I imagined the art projects, the cookies baking, the stories being read by the fire. It all seemed so idyllic to me.

I was wracked with guilt about leaving my best beloved little ones in the care of other women. I will never forget the time that my little son, barely able to speak, walked through our house on a Saturday, opening closet doors and calling for his sweet day care Momma. “Nella?” He sounded so sad as he opened every door in our house, looking for the woman who cared for him every day. “Nella?”

My heart broke into a zillion pieces, and if I hadn’t known and loved his Nella, I might have strangled her.

Now, at last, after decades as a working woman, now I am that stay at home woman. I am “Nella” to my grandkids and one of their friends.

They love me.

We have fun here. It is a safe, interesting, creative place.

Wahoo.

And now, at last, after all these years, I understand why so many stay at home moms of my generation wanted nothing more than to break out and see the real world.

Staying in the same house, the same four rooms, day after day after day after day, serving the same snacks, watching the same movies, playing the same games…….

All of this is incredibly important and supportive for young children.

But it is also incredibly mind numbing for the adults involved.

OK, I know that I am lucky. As in, unbelievably, incredibly blessed to be there every day in the lives of the children I love most on this beautiful earth.

I get it. Yay, me! Yay, Nonni! Go, me!

I go on Amazon at least ten times a week, ordering movies, books, crayons, pains, dress up clothes and musical instruments. I am so happy to be with the kids every day.

Really.

But.

You know what? There are definitely days where I look at myself in the mirror and think, “No one has actually looked at me today. I could dye my hair purple, grow a beard, get myself a new nose: Nobody would notice.”

There are days when I realize that I am the giver of string cheese. The wiper of poopy butts. The finder of lost toys.

There are days when I honestly feel like I could be replaced by a nice soft robot.

And this is why I am now the strongest supporter of young parents. Moms, Dads, working or staying at home. These young adults are doing the work that is most important for the survival of our entire species. They are keeping children clean, fed, safe, entertained and engaged.

They are creating the next generations of humans who will keep our species going.

So I am happy to be a part of this most important job. I am.

But I am also acutely aware that there are days when I have not done one single thing that uses my training, my intellectual skills, my knowledge. There are days when the most important thing I have done all day is to put an “Elsa” bandage on a scraped knee.

As I look back on my life, I guess I have to say this. I’m very happy that when I was a young, untested, untried, unproven human, I was not called upon to be a stay at home mom.

Young parents: You have my utmost respect, support and love.

Go, you! Whether you work outside of the home, or stay at home with your kids, YOU are our future. You are the best of all of us.

I bow down to every single one of you.

Food is Love


I first heard the phrase “Food is Love” from a colleague who was laughing at me gently on the morning of Sept.12, 2001. After the horror of the terrorist attacks in New York, and the long, terrifying night lying awake and watching endlessly repeating news, I had arrived at school with two dozen home made muffins.

I didn’t know what else to do. The world was out of control. I was sad, upset, scared, confused. I didn’t know how to react.

So I cooked.

Food is love. Food is comfort.

Food is family and warmth and security.

I guess that’s why I have raised three kids who are all exceptionally good cooks. My daughter makes the best pizza I have ever eaten. She makes Indian foods, Asian foods, and delicious focaccia.

My two sons are such good cooks that for Christmas I tend to give them ingredients as gifts. They went to college fully prepared to cook for the entire apartment. Now in their mid twenties and in serious long-term relationships, they love to cook for their partners and friends. They grow vegetables, they seek out organic foods, they browse through recipes for inspiration knowing that they will add/change/delete build upon whatever they find.

So I guess it’s no surprise that one of my favorite parts of every day is cooking with my grandchildren.

I get so much pleasure out of those moments when the two kids are seated up on my counter, helping me to mix, chop, stir, mince, sautee and simmer.

OK. Full disclosure and all that: when we’re cooking, I know where they are and I don’t have to chase them. The chaos is contained.

But that isn’t the whole story.

I just love sharing good food with them. I love sharing the history of our family recipes. I love teaching them how to handle foods, how to measure and pour and stir. I love letting them know that spilling is allowed, mistakes are expected and eggshells can add a little crunch to a cake.

Mostly, I love looking at them. I love seeing their big, dark brown eyes gazing into the bowl of dough. I love the way they listen to my every word, even as I realize that they don’t understand it all.

I mean, how many three year old really understand the difference between slicing and mincing the red peppers? How many 19 month old kids know how to crack an egg, crush a clove of garlic, zest a lemon?

My grandchildren do. Or at least they are beginning to.

Someday, when they are living on their own in small, drafty apartments, I hope that they will pull out a pile of ingredients, start to chop, and tell their gathered friends, “My Nonni taught me how to cook before I was old enough to talk.”

I hope that they think of me when they add a dash of crushed red pepper to a pot of soup. I hope they recognize, on some deep level, that they dare to experiment with spices because their Nonni helped them to feel at home in the kitchen.

I hope that they one day they will gaze with devotion at someone at their table and that they will say, “You know that food is love, don’t you?”

Yum. Can we crack some more eggs, please?