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Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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children

Waiting for Dinner

What does waiting for dinner have to do with National Color Book Day? This past weekend we enjoyed my husband’s annual family reunion. We converge on the hometown most of the cousins were raised in, fill some of the local cash registers, and spend a day at Stony Brook State Park. Saturday is picnic day which includes time for a walk in the park gorge. It’s a pretty place full of memories for all of us. The annual get-together has been going on over 60 years. Continue reading “Waiting for Dinner”

Fighting Evil

It’s National Superhero Day. I love to see little kids, and even big ones, emulate or dress up as their favorite super hero. I think it’s a healthy thing to want to be strong and have the desire to fight evil. Superheroes can be positive role models for children in that they show the improbable is possible. I say, let the children believe they can, and they will grow up with a desire to do so.

Now, we not only have superheroes, but also transformers, ninja turtles, and video game heroes I’ve never heard of. It seems there is one thing in common among all these heroes, and that is a cool costume. I have to smile when I see a mother in the store and her child is dressed in a superhero costume. I wonder if it’s the color that they like, or if it is the TV show or movie they have seen and they want to “feel the power” by dressing up as their favorite.

My grandson went through a prolonged Spider-Man phase. Everything was Spider-Man: sheets, sneakers, coat, shirts, and hat. I sort of miss that because now he is becoming more aware of the real world and how it isn’t always nice out there. But, he has found some real superheroes to emulate and respect. He is into his second year of Karate lessons and has gained self-esteem, manners, and an interest in doing things to the best of his ability. His black-belt instructors, called sensei, are teaching him those things. And one of them, Mike, is often wearing  a Batman t-shirt under his ghee (karate uniform).

A superhero post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our military, police forces or firefighters. These people serve their communities and country on a daily basis. They are the strong ones that protect us from evil often putting themselves in harm’s way. We owe them a lot and should respect their uniform. I also think we should include medical staff in the superhero category. Where would we be without modern medicine and the facilitators of it.

The next time you see a superhero, remember who you wanted to be like when you were little and evaluate if you’ve come close. I’m sure you have in some way.

 

 

What Happened to Manners

It’s National Common Courtesy Day. I am old school and still think using the words please, thank you and you’re welcome, out loud, are a necessity. My husband and I have been together sixteen years and use these words on a daily basis. It helps to not take each other for granted. Note: “No problem”, is not acceptable. We happen to hate that terminology, and if you break down the meaning of the words, it is actually inaccurate most of the time.

When I was a kid there was chivalry between the male and females of the human race, then women’s rights came along and destroyed it. My husband still opens my car door for me. It makes me feel important and more like a lady. People give him odd looks, like maybe he is crazy. I appreciate his kind of crazy. When he does it for a friend, or a workmate going to a meeting with him, they don’t even know how to act. It’s sad that it has come to that.

We gave a family member a very large cash present recently. She didn’t look in the envelope in front of us, but we never got a text that said, “Wow”, “Thank you” or a card after the fact. Yes, we gave it because we wanted to, but with no acknowledgement of any kind, it’s likely not to happen again. The plain old common courtesy of saying thank you, even in a text, would have insured a repeat. Are we being mean? I don’t think so. You might disagree.

I have read that the last cookie or piece of pie tends to get left because no one wants to be accused of eating it. I say, if you want it, courteously offer it to anyone around, then when everyone says no, offer to eat it so it doesn’t go to waste. You get what you want, and you are being courteous at the same time. Works for me.

To mark this day of common courtesy, let someone into traffic, take care of someone’s cart at the grocery store, don’t sit too long at your table at lunch time if there is a line waiting, find a way to do some little thing to acknowledge the importance of your fellow human. I promise, it will make you feel good inside.

Family Craft Time

It’s National Children’s Craft Day. Once again, I am perplexed by the choice of picture for this day. I guess if you let that little person sit on your lap while you are crafting, you create interest that hopefully remains. I would have picked an older child that could actually create something on their own. You know, with popsicle sticks, glue, glitter, colored paper and crayons. Maybe a little help with the scissors would be needed.

As a mother, some of my most cherished heirlooms are things my children made in school or scouts when they were little; as in ages five to ten. Christmas tree ornaments are a prime example. It doesn’t matter how well they were made, or if you even know that brown blob is a camel from the manger scene, it matters that my child made it and when they brought it to me, the expression of excitement and accomplishment on their face is embedded in my memory forever.

That’s the cool thing about crafting. Any age person can do it (according to the type of craft of course), learn about art, learn construction, and have a sense of accomplishment. My grandson, at the age of nine, asked to make a quilt with me, so he could learn the process. I did the cutting with a rotary cutter and ruler, and the pinning. He learned to lay out the color design, sew straight seams and iron by setting the seams first, then pressing to the dark fabric. We had a grand time and his quilt is on his bed. I wish he wanted to do more, but once he learned how the process worked, he was satisfied.

There are so many different types of crafting I can’t begin to even name them all. May I suggest, sit down with your little ones, or borrow some if need be, and make something with your hands. Sharing time with your crafter is almost as rewarding as making something is. Make it a family affair.

Always Prepared

When I was young, I knew some of my class mates were in the Boy Scouts. I heard them talking of earning badges and working their way up through the ranks. There was one boy I had a big crush on that attained his Eagle rank just before he graduated from high school. I didn’t have any brothers, so really all I knew was what I listened to on the school bus. I did get to go to one of their Christmas parties with that boy I mentioned. I digress.

If you’ve never been directly involved in the Boy Scouts, I urge you to go to their web site and read the requirements for a young man to attain the Eagle rank. I looked it up when I was doing research for my novel. I was surprised at how detailed and extensive their training is.

The boy I mentioned was the oldest of six children, and hence was the after school babysitter for his siblings while their parents worked. He was also involved in the school band, on the track ream, and started meals and did laundry at home. In retrospect, I don’t know how he had time to meet the requirements to attain the Eagle rank. I do know his parents were very proud of him. He went on to a career in the Navy.

The badges the scouts earn give them a well rounded education in all sorts of daily experiences. Things that will help them with their every day lives. They also learn to help others, work as a team, and be respectful. The Boy Scouts motto is Always Be Prepared. It’s a good plan for anyone’s life. I wish more youngsters made time for the Boy Scouts.

 

Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore too!

Winnie the Pooh has figured prominently in my life. I remember reading the stories when I was young, and watching the movies when they first came out in the ’60’s.

When my children were young, I read Winnie the Pooh stories to them, characterizing all the voices. It was one time they actually sat still and listened. Once during a church social, I sat in a side room reading aloud to little ones so they had something to do while the adults did their thing. When I finished, I had more adults listening than little ones. I heard one man say, “No one ever read to me like that.”

I mention my grandson on a regular basis. At the baby shower in anticipation of his arrival, his Daddy, who has quite the personality, dressed up in a Tigger costume to greet the guests and deliver the cake. It is a touching memory. The personalized baby quilt I made has a life-size lounging Pooh and Tigger done in applique. A project I remember like it was yesterday. I saw the quilt this week. It is well-loved. That pleases me.

Recently, my granddaughter handed me a Winnie the Pooh book. I hadn’t done the voices in years, but my adult children asked me to do so. Jaycey sat and stared at me while I read, especially when the deep slow voice of Eeyore spoke. I wish I could read to her every day.

Whatever memories of Winnie the Pooh you have, share them with your family. Any day is a good day to think about bees, balloons and honey.

Mickey Mouse’s Birthday

On November 18, we commemorate the birth of that ever lovable mouse that was once a rabbit called Oswald. It was back in 1927 while under contract to Universal Studios that Walt Disney first sketched a floppy eared bunny that later became Mickey Mouse.

From a rabbit named Oswald to a mouse named Mortimer, eventually the squeaky voiced rodent was dubbed Mickey. He flopped in two animated short films, then on November 18, 1928, Mickey’s star was born. The first animation synchronized to music and sound effects, Steamboat Willie premiered in New York.

Within a year, a Mickey Mouse Club popped up in Salem, Oregon. This particular club offered admission as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army with a donation of either a potato or a small toy and a penny. According to a December 22, 1929, Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon) article, $12 and three truckloads of potatoes and toys collected by eager new members.

Remember, the stock market crashed just 20 days before Mickey Mouse was born. That a cute little mouse could bring smiles to the faces of children at an uncertain time really isn’t such a surprise.

Generally, new members joined the club by completing an admission form obtained from a local merchant and attending meetings held during matinees at local movie houses. The price of admission often was reduced for good deeds and report cards. By the end of 1930, the Mickey Mouse Clubs had spread across the country.

A makeover in 1935 by animator Fred Moore gave Mickey the look we are familiar with today. The big eyes, white gloves and the pert little nose. More lovable than ever before, he propelled himself even further into the hearts of children everywhere.

His companions Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto joined him along the way, bringing vaudeville comedy with them.

I took the above history from the National Day of Calendar and shared it because I had never heard any of it. Happy Birthday Mickey Mouse. A trip to Disney World is still on my bucket list.

Teach Your Child

National Parents as Teachers Day caught my attention because I didn’t know if they meant to recognize those parents who teach in the public/private school system so have lots of “children”, or if it was a plug for every parent to work with their own child, like no one else can. I found it to be the later. I’m glad about that because I believe a parent should ultimately be responsible for guiding, helping, and praising their own child so they can do a better job while in the school system.

When I went to school we had a class for the girls called home economics in which we learned the basics of cooking, sewing, and ironing. The old attitude that those chores were ladies work was still strong. Funny thing is, most of the young people I know now, under the age of 35ish, the guy does the cooking, and hardly anyone sews. We have become a throw away society. I think that’s sad. It’s also a big waste!

Back to the subject. It is proven, the more time a parent spends nurturing a little one, the better they do in school, barring learning disabilities. The more books that are read to them at home, the easier time they have learning to read in school. It’s a healthy cycle, and the bond between parent and child is strengthened.

I’d like to take it another step. I don’t think teens learn in school what they need to get along in this world. Simple things like balancing a check book, how to comparison shop, how to save money and not rely on credit, how to fill out a simple tax return with no special deductions, and even how to budget their time. My suggestion to you parents is the next time you do one of these chores, to include your teenager so they will at least have been shown how. Note: I get they probably won’t be interested….bribe them if necessary! Teach them any chance you get. I applaud you for trying-in advance!

Visit your Child’s School?

The titles on the National Day of Calendar can evoke much different thoughts than what the day was actually set up to recognize.  When I saw the title, Take Your Parents to Lunch, I had visions of my adult children calling to invite me to meet them for lunch, during their work day.  That would be possible for me because I’m retired, and I could meet them at their place and time of choice; in my son’s case, an hour from my house.

Alas, when I read the description, it is meant for younger parents to visit their child’s school and go to lunch with them in the cafeteria.  Mostly to learn about the process and see what a good job the school does feeding their child.  I’m a dinosaur, parents didn’t visit us in school when I went to grade school.  [And we didn’t text all day either.]  I do know a lady who had lunch with her daughter every day in school through fifth grade.  That girl just graduated from high school and choose to go to  Arizona for college.  That’s a mighty long way from New York state. None of us wonder why except her Mom.  I guess you can be too involved.  I think the term for that now is a “helicopter mom”.  It’s not always easy to find a good balance that fits the mother’s and child’s emotional needs.

Sitting here, I can’t remember ever eating out with my father.  Stopping for ice cream, yes.  The only time I can remember doing it with my mother was at a church dinner.  But, we lived in rural New York state.  At that time, fast food places were only in the cities, and we didn’t go to restaurants unless it was a very special occasion.  Now, they are both gone, so I can’t take them to lunch.  I’m jealous of people my age that still have their folks to talk to and spend time with.

I’ll suggest you make this day work for you the way that is best for your circumstances.  Or maybe, borrow someone else’s parents to take out, just because you can.  Or call your own kids, and invite them out, without a reason.  Often times we don’t realize how fast time goes.  Take advantage while you can to take every opportunity to go to lunch with your children, or parents, or cousins, or neighbors, or special friends.

 

 

Let Your Children Serve You

I have a confession.  When I was a young mother, I didn’t have the patience to have my children help me in the kitchen.  I liked to get things done quickly, neatly, and with the expected outcome.  I didn’t know I was making a mistake by not letting them help, thus learn about cooking and responsibility.  The good part, they are both over 40 now and the main cooks in their households.  I’m proud of them for learning despite my actions.

Children like to feel like they are contributing.  I found with my grandson that if I asked for his help, instead of giving instructions and making demands, we had a good time.  At age one he was allowed to get all the pans out; he would  crash bang the lids, spread an obstacle course around the kitchen, then put them all in a circle with himself in the center.  It kept him occupied for a long time. He then graduated to wanting to help wash the dishes, then to cracking eggs for me while baking.  (One ended up on the floor and not in the bowl.  My daughter looked at me, shook her head and left the room.  I didn’t yell at him, just cleaned it up.  The rules change when you get older and it’s a grandchild.  I’m pretty sure she didn’t think it was fair.)

I remember some friends of ours who have three boys; they had to make the peanut butter and jelly sandwich different for each one.  How?  One wanted the jelly on the bottom, another had to have the jelly on top, and the third wanted his “fo-ded” (folded) not cut!  Mom was smart enough to make them all the same, and just place them on the plate the correct way.  One day Dad was on duty and he had to call Mom to find out the rules.  We are still laughing about it.

Let your kids take over the kitchen to celebrate this day.  If they are little, let them play with the bowls and spoons; if a little bigger, share the cooking but let them do the planning; the meal doesn’t have to fancy, a bologna sandwich will do; you get the idea; the only rule, they are not allowed to call for take-out.  Help them learn that serving (giving) is a wonderful trait that will take them farther in this world than any other.

 

 

What Was Your Favorite Stuffed Animal?

Kenny Chesney sings a song that has a line in it telling about a little girl dragging her teddy bear up the stairs.  If you are a parent I’m sure you could quickly name your child’s favorite stuffed animal.  If you are a younger person you may still have your childhood teddy bear or critter of choice.  I had two: one was a bear with a music box that played Brahms Lullaby and the other was an octopus.

I know a young man who has finished graduate school and is a sports announcer in a good size city.  He worked in our town for a while, and a stuffed cat from his alma mater came with him.  When he left town, I had the privilege of taking him to the airport; the stuffed cat was on top of his carry on bag, never out of sight.  It represented home.

My grandson’s most favorite stuffed animal, of way too many, was a tiny beige dog he named Pongo.  It was the one thing he had to have with him or he won’t go to sleep.  Pongo accidentally ended up in the laundry at my house once.  I had to take him home at 10PM after searching for him for an hour.  Anything for your grandchild.

I know two different ladies that at the age of 70+ had a teddy bear on their couch.  When I asked each of them who they got the bear from, sadly, I got the same answer.  “I bought it for myself because no one else ever did.”  When my aunt went into an assisted living facility she was very upset she couldn’t have a cat.  We got her a stuffed one that looked so real other residents complained she had a pet in her room.  When we would visit, we would hold it and pet it because it was really soft. Auntie slept with it on her bed.

I’m sure there is a psychological reason that humans like their teddy bears.  I’m guessing it’s a different for everyone.

Oh, it’s also National Hug Your Boss Day.  With today’s political correctness B.S. and sexual harassment allegations, I wouldn’t suggest doing that.  Maybe give him/her a teddy bear instead.

National Tooth Fairy Day

The Tooth Fairy came to life in 1937 in an eight page playlet by Esther Watkins Arnold.  At the same time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made his claim that fairies and gnomes were real by publishing pictures of two girls surrounded by “verified” fairies.  Schools started performing the play the following year and children started placing their newly lost teeth under their pillow, most hoping for a gift, and some hoping to actually see the fairy or gnome that visited.

I can remember wiggling a loose tooth until it was extremely loose.  My sisters or my mother would tell me it would bleed if I pulled it.  Oh well.  There was dime in the waiting.  What I didn’t realize that if I coaxed it out a couple of weeks ahead of itself, I would have a hole in that spot longer than I expected.  I guess the dime was more important at the time.

By the early 80’s when my children were loosing teeth, the fairy brought a quarter, but I know other children were already getting a dollar.  I checked in with my daughter and she said a dollar is the going rate, but my grandson never believed the fairy was real, so he doesn’t expect anything.  I think he needs to understand entreprenurialship better.

I was going through some boxes recently looking for a specific photo.  There were mementoes from my children’s childhoods; hospital bracelets, Brownie patches, Cub Scout troop numbers, perfect attendance awards from grade school, and a small round plastic container with some of their baby teeth.  My daughter’s response when I told her about them, was, “Gross.”  I’m wondering if she thought the Tooth Fairy should have thrown them away.

 

 

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