Stacey Loscalzo

Latest Posts

Jun 20

I Swore Never To Be Silent

by Stacey

Growing up, I hated immigration units in Social Studies. Both sides of my family came to America on the Mayflower so I thought my story was pretty boring. By the time we talked about immigration, we had already covered the Pilgrims so there was really nothing new that I could share with my classmates. I envied the people with stories of relatives who passed through Ellis Island. I wished that I too had tales of family who learned English once they arrived and worked hard to find their place in an already established America.

Now as I watch what is happening in our country, I think back to all my classmates stories and remember that we are all immigrants, even those of us with families who arrived on the Mayflower. All our families embarked on a dangerous trip, escaping a world that was scarier than the unknown world they would enter. The Pilgrims came in search of religious freedom. The Irish, the Italians, the Germans all were escaping dire poverty. Each of these families came to America hoping for a world better than the one they were leaving.

Today, immigrants from Central America escape situations that many of our ancestors could not begin to imagine. Gangs, drug cartels, murder and extreme poverty. Families continue to travel to our borders every day knowing that death along the journey is a possibility and separation from their children is now likely.

I can not get my brain to think of a world that is worse than one in which our girls would be taken from me. But these mothers can. They are making a choice between death and likely separation. They are leaving behind a situation that is worse than being separated from their children.

I always believed that I lived in a compassionate country. One that would welcome the suffering. One that would aid the sick, the scared and the poor. Do we need immigration laws that make sense? Of course we do. Did we have laws on the books that secured our borders? No. Clearly we did not. But is family separation the answer to the problems at our border? Absolutely not.

When Trump was elected, I had a pit in my stomach. I did not support him. I did not agree with any of his proposed policy. I hoped though that I was overreacting and that things would be ok. I hoped that Trump would surround himself with smart men and women who would provide him wise counsel. Instead, our new reality is worse than I feared it would be.

I will not be silent. I do not know how to better secure our borders but I know that this is not the answer. I will not be silent and hope that all my friends join with me in finding a solution.

 

 

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Jun 18

The Orange Popsicle Story

by Stacey

Before Caroline talked, I had never parented a talker. Before she got a cell phone, I had never parented in the digital age. Before Caroline was a high schooler, I never knew how to encourage while not stressing out a teenage student. Over and over again, I am forced to remember that while I have been a high school student, Caroline hasn’t been. The current lesson I am learning? The way I studied for finals, is not the way Caroline studies for finals. The way I react to stress is not the way she does.

It is all new. For both of us.

Each time I am reminded of our differences, I come back to the orange popsicle story. When Caroline was a toddler, we belonged to a pool and tennis club in Richmond. We spent hours there in the summer months and the highlight of our afternoons was often a trip to the snack bar. One afternoon, we went and they were out of red and purple popsicles. They only had orange popsicles left. When I learned this, I said thanks but we don’t like orange popsicles. We started walking back to the pool but Caroline pulled me back. For some inexplicable reason, she still wanted a popsicle. I was confused because who likes orange popsicles? Well, guess what? Caroline likes orange popsicle. I don’t but she does.

As Caroline completes her first year of high school, I am reminded that there are many, many orange popsicle moments ahead of us and it is more important than ever for me to pay attention to this. Enter my current lesson. The way Caroline studies for finals is different than the way I did. I started weeks before, locked in my bedroom with only my cat, Whiz Bang, for company. I created study sheets and wrote out fact after fact over and over again. Until I could write everything out from memory, I would not let myself stop. I can still picture crumbled pages of notebook paper covered with blue ink marks scattered over my bed. Caroline waits longer to start. She likes to study with people, not cats. Her version of writing everything out is talking it out. She tells stories about her facts and she needs people around to listen.

So while I am not completely ok with Caroline’s studying style, I am paying attention. I am still totally stressed out and confused by her methods. But… I am also reminding myself that this is yet another chapter in the orange popsicle story.

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Jun 13

Today’s Benetton Sweater

by Stacey

There is a thread on our local Moms and Dads Facebook page that has gotten me thinking. And by thinking, I mean angrily refreshing the thread every two minutes when I should be getting other things done.

As often happens, there are very strong opinions on both sides of an issue. As always happens, I agree very strongly with one side of the debate but I have held back on commenting. I do not believe social media is the place to have heated conversations. I feel like words are taken out of context and that people say things that they would never say in person. That said, I have learned enough about myself to know that I am not going to stop thinking about this until I ‘write it out’. And yes, I will put this on social media and yes, I understand the irony but I hope my words will be met with kindness.

The topic is the length of girl’s shorts.

As the mother of two girls, eleven and fourteen years old, who like to dress on trend, here are my thoughts.

When I was a teenager, enormous Benetton sweaters were all the rage. Remember that sweater? Mine was grey and royal blue and I would have worn it every day if I didn’t go to a school with a uniform. I loved it. Did I look great in it? Let’s just say that I weighed 100 pounds soaking wet so there were more flattering styles out there for me than enormous sweaters. Did I wear the sweater because I liked the way I looked in it? No. I wore the sweater because everyone else was wearing the sweater and this is what teenage girls do. 

The enormous Benetton sweater was the 80s version of the tiny jean short. And the halter top and the tube top and the tops that are designed to show your bra straps. These are the clothes that everyone is wearing now.

In this conversation, there is a crucial distinction to make and I am so thankful that a mom with girls older than mine explained this concept to me a few years ago. As this mom showed me pictures of her college-aged daughters, my face must have done that thing it does when it refuses to hide what I am actually thinking.

“They all look like sluts, right?” she said. And because of that face thing, I was forced to admit that I had thought just that. And then she went on to teach me something really important. When we were young, she said, the sluts dressed like sluts and the other girls didn’t. I agreed. Now, she said, slutty is just a style. It signifies nothing about your sexual behavior. 

So slutty is a style in the way that Benetton sweaters were a style when we were young. Did my mom like the Benetton sweater? Absolutely not. I still can’t believe she let me wear it. Do I like the miniature shorts that our girls wear? Absolutely not. I try hard every season to find longer, stylish shorts that the girls and I both like. Each year we compromise. The shorts are shorter than I would like and longer than the girls like. Because of the styles that are out there now (this is a topic for a whole separate discussion), we have to agree to disagree.

I remind myself every morning that the girl’s shorts imply nothing about their behavior beyond one thing. As teenage girls, our girls like to wear what the designers are producing and what their friends are wearing.

Now, I am going to tread into deeper water. On the above mentioned Facebook thread, for the most part, it was the moms of boys who were very quick to say that they would never let their children out of the house looking the way our girls do. This got me wondering if there is a boy equivalent to the short shorts.

This is going to seem a bit off but stick with me for a moment. I believe the 2018 boy version of the girl’s short shorts is tee shirts and gym shorts. Of course there are exceptions in the same way that a handful of girls wear long shorts. That said, I am hard pressed to remember the last time I saw a boy walking into the middle or high school in a collared shirt and shorts that required a button and a zipper. This athletic outfit is not highly sexualized as the girl’s shorts are perceived (perceived- not actual- see above) to be but nor is it an outfit that we would have considered an appropriate school outfit for boys to wear when we were in school.

Times have changed. I choose not to fight my daughters every day to wear something that I deem more appropriate in the same way that boy moms don’t fight their sons to stop wearing athletic clothes to school.

I wonder what kind of a conversation we could all have at the end of the week if we tried the following experiment. What if, for a week, we challenged ourselves to make all girls wear shorts to mid thigh and to make all boys wear collared shirts and shorts that button and zip?

I predict we would learn a lot about each other and how we parent and more importantly, I predict that our conversation at the end of that week would be filled with a lot more kindness, empathy and understanding than our conversation currently is.

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Apr 10

Happy 12th Birthday Katherine!

by Stacey

Dear Katherine,

Today you are twelve. Each year when I start these letters, I get stuck after that first sentence and go back and read my letter from the year before. This year was no different. In reading last year’s letter, I was struck, as I always am, by how much has changed in 365 days and by how much has stayed the same. Last year I wrote of your strength, of your perseverance and of your love for your family, your friends and of course, for dance. All these loves hold true and if anything, over the past 365 days, I have seen you loves strengthen.

 

This year though, I feel like more has changed than has stayed the same. To the outsider, this change would be hard to spot. To those of us you know you well though, you have grown so very much. Of course, you have grown in height this year- I do now have to look up to make eye contact- but this is not what I mean.

You have always known what you want but this year you have learned to ask for it out loud. You have asked for space in conversations and for roles in decision making that would have passed you by just a few months ago.

You have always worked hard but this year, I have seen you grow to feel proud of this work. You have begun to acknowledge, to yourself, that your work ethic is unique and you have begun to feel proud of this.

As a student, you have always wanted the best but this year I have watched you grow to take charge of your education. Gone are the days of running back to Somerville for forgotten homework. You have navigated the transition to middle school like a star- planning ahead and organizing your weeks to make sure everything gets accomplished.

You have always been surrounded by great friends and this year has been no different. I love watching you with your dance friends and your school friends as these relationships shift as you each get older. What I love the most about your friendships is how even in these middle school years, kindness reigns.

You have always been an amazing daughter and sister and this year, we continue to love having you around. You make us laugh. You make us think and you make us want to be around you more.

Happy Birthday sweet girl. May this day and year be all that you want them to be!

 

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Mar 19

Winter Reading Round Up

by Stacey

In January I began documenting my reading on Instagram and Goodreads. Since then, I’ve realized something. I enjoy those sites (come join me here and here if you haven’t already!) but I really, really miss blogging. My writer friend Nina Badzin said the same last week which for some reason was just the kick in the behind I needed to get back at it.

So here goes… missing months and months of blogging, calls for a reading round-up. Here are the books I have read so far in 2018.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway. Far From the Tree is a story of adoption, teen pregnancy and foster care but most importantly of family.

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. After starting the year strong with Far From the Tree, I fell in to a mini reading slump but this thriller got me right back in to my groove.

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro.  I honestly do not know what to say about Fire Sermon. I do know I have never read anything like it. Faith, infidelity, truth and art all told through gorgeous lyrical prose.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. A novel about immigration and class set in 2008 New York City. And local friends- Behold the Dreamers will Be our library’s One Book :: One Village this year. Be on the look out for more info in the spring!

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. I knew Jason Reynolds was a genius before I read Long Way Down but this book is a must, must read for everyone. Told in prose, the feelings of a young boy surrounded by gun violence came to life.

The Light We Lost by Jill Stantopolo. I have yet to meet a Reese Witherspoon book club book I haven’t loved. This one is a page turner for sure. More romance than I usually read but full of some big questions at the same time. If I’d read this on vacation, I would have read it in one day.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. An American Marriage has already gotten a lot of great press. Sometimes I worry that a book is overhyped but this one is not. A story of marriage, race and incarceration in America. I hate to use the word ‘important’ when I describe a book because I know that can make the read seem boring but believe me this book is both important and fast paced.

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin. My review of Only Child is my first at the brand new book site, Bookclique. Please check out my review here before you read. And of course, I want you to check it out because the site is great but also because this book comes with many warnings. Learn why in my review.

A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis. After the heaviness of Only Child, I needed the type of book that I call a palate cleanser. Not that A Map of the Dark was light in topic but it was a quick read. Think Patricia Cornwell or Harlan Coben.

Ok. Your turn. What have you been reading and loving? You know I always love to grow my to-be-read list!

 

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Nov 08

Reading for Empathy

by Stacey

“Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gifts of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.”
— Neil Gaiman- Fahrenheit 451 Introduction

I wrote a post this weekend about an ugly incident in our town and some adult’s ugly reaction to it. I am thankful that good friends shared this post widely and I am very proud of the conversations the post sparked among so many people in our community.

In an effort to continue the conversation, I want to do what I do best- recommend books. Over the course of my next few posts, I will share my favorites on some of the issues I feel are most central to our community’s situation.

Empathy seems like good place to start.  All of us, children and adults alike, could spend some time considering empathy which by definition is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” So much of what has happened might have been different if everyone had taken a deep breath and thought about how their actions and words might impact another person.

As long time readers of my blog know, picture books are my first love. Even now that the girls are long past their picture book reading days, these books still cover the flat surfaces of our house. I still buy new picture books and collect them like others do shoes. So, whenever I think about a topic that I want to explore, picture books are where I start.

Below is a list of some of my favorite pictures books that delve into, subtly and not, the idea of empathy. If you have others that I should love, please let me know so I can keep my list growing.

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev (the photo above inspired this brilliant book)

Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose & Hannah Hoose

The Other Side by Jacquline Woodson

Chrysanthemum by Keven Henkes

And then just a few lists from some of my favorite book places.

What Do We Do All Day: Picture Books to Teach Empathy

Pernille Ripp: 10 Picture Books that Spark Empathy

Common Sense Media: Books That Teach Empathy

New York Times: You Can’t Teach Empathy But These Picture Books Inspire It

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Nov 04

Lessons I Hope We Learn

by Stacey

Last weekend two high schoolers in our community fought on back to back days. The second fight ended in a significant injury to one of the students. Many other students watched. Those students did not intervene. They videotaped the fight and posted it on social media.

These are the only facts that the public has. Because the students are minors and because we live in country with a robust legal system, these are the only facts that the school district and the police department can legally pass on to the public. There are rumors of cyber bullying. There are rumors of inappropriate pictures. There are rumors of racial undertones.

If I wrote a fictionalized story of what we believed happened during and leading up to this fight, an editor would reject it. The story would appear implausible. How could all the issues that plague our teens coincide within one story? And yet, it appears that this story is, at least in part, true.

As a family we have talked through many issues since last weekend. Violence and threats of violence. Taking and sending inappropriate pictures. The fact that there is no such thing as an ‘innocent bystander.’ Reminders that if you see something, say something. The importance of smart media literacy. The list could and will go on and on.

Of course, all of this weighs heavily on me as mother. What is weighing almost more heavily though is the behavior of adults in our community as we react to this awful story. I am a member of a number of local Facebook groups and conversations about the fight have dominated those groups in the past few days.

I have read on as parents, using the same social media tool that they vilify, pass judgment on the students and their parents. The names that have been levied and the judgements on parenting that have been passed are truly unbelievable. It is true that there is only one boy in the hospital which makes the story appear very clear cut. And of course, that part of the story is. What is not clear cut to us as outsiders is what led up to this situation and what is even less clear is the parenting that went on in these children’s homes. The fact that people write in one sentence about the evils of cyberbullying by teens while in the next sentence actively cyberbully fellow parents is shocking to me.

If I have learned anything in my fourteen years as a parent it is that we should never judge what another parent does unless we have lived an identical life to theirs which, of course, is impossible. Before having children, I swore that I would cook one meal that everyone would eat, that my children would stay in bed until I was ready to get up and that I would limit their screen time to 30 minutes a day. Anyone who knows me knows that those promises did not pan out and now, neither do the promises I made about raising teenagers. As parents we set the tone in our family. We lay the groundwork and instill the values we hope our children will embrace. And we hold them accountable when they make mistakes. What we do not control, because we never did, is what our children will do out of their own free will. We are, after all, raising them to be independent people.

There are so many lessons that our community will learn as the result of this horrible incident. I hope at least two of these lessons are that we, as adults, should refrain from judging without facts and that we as adults should always refrain from public judging on a social media platform. Social media is never, as some hope, going to go away. That toothpaste is out of the tube and it will not go back in. Our children are going to live their social lives on their devices. It is our job as adults to navigate this world along-side them and to model the on-line behavior we would like to see our children demonstrate. My hope, of course, is that the injured boy is healed and the outcome for the others involved is appropriate. And beyond that, my hope is that we as parents will learn all we can from this terrible situation.

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Nov 02

What I’m Into (October 2017 Edition)

by Stacey

Last month I jumped into Leigh Kramer’s fun round up of posts titled, What I’m Into and had a blast thinking about the past month. I promised myself I would keep better notes and take more detailed pictures of what the month brought this time around but I can’t quite say I did… but here a few musings on the month that just passed.

Currently Reading

I am currently reading Dan Brown’s latest, Origin. I swear I really like it but for some reason it is taking me forever to get through. I’m not sure if this is commentary on the book or on our ever changing schedules. The girls are going to bed later than ever and for sure, this is cutting in to my reading time.

Currently Listening

All my regular podcasts that I mentioned last month are still in the rotation but I have added a few new ones,  like #am Writing with Jess & KJ and Fully Booked, as well. And for anyone wondering how I listen to so many podcasts, I have two words for you. Dance Mom. Katherine dances at a studio 20 minutes from home and she is there six to seven days a week. I log a lot of driving (and listening!) time.

Currently Watching

Ok. I fully admit I have a problem. I have not even started watching Stranger Things because I can’t stop my Criminal Minds obsession. Between the stress of the news of the world and the anxiety of all the newness (high school, middle school etc) in our own house, I crave the predicability of this procedural. I am going to run out of seasons soon but for now, Criminal Minds is where I’m at.

Favorite Instagram

Last month, I spent a lot of time on Instagram getting to know Bookstagram and meeting lots of new readers. And then the Instagram algorithm changed and I got grumpy about it so… this month I was there less but definitely missed it so I plan to jump back in soon.

I would say, though that I did love this picture from last month.

 

 

 

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Oct 31

Halloween

by Stacey

 

I’ve never liked Halloween.

When I was little, I would go to the parade in my grandparent’s neighborhood and that was sort of fun. But I grew up in New England so it was cold and I always had to wear a coat over my costume which seemed to defeat the whole purpose of the costume.

When I was older, I hated the idea of dressing up. Frankly I still do. I don’t like being uncomfortable or wondering if my costume is ‘too much’ or ‘too little.’ To this day, wearing costumes makes me feel an insecurity I don’t feel over-wise.

When the girls were born, Halloween was fun for a little bit. What’s not to love about a baby pumpkin or duck? We would walk through the neighborhood with friends and collect all my favorite candy. We lived in Virginia at the time so the weather tended to be perfect.

And then we moved to New Jersey and Halloween became cold again. In fact, Halloween was canceled in our town two years in a row. First due to early snow that fell and took down power lines days before and then thanks to super storm Sandy that left our neighborhood without power for two weeks.

And then the girls got older and wanted to trick or treat with different groups of friends so we would divide and conquer. Rob would go with one group and I with the other, the whole time wondering how people have more than two children.

And then the girls got older still and Halloween meant a day full of fun but also different schedules. The girls came home for lunch during elementary school and then back for the Halloween parade. I tended to miss my routine and felt all out of sorts.

As the girls got older still, Halloween only got harder. Suddenly, Halloween became about social groups. Who was wearing a group costume and who wasn’t? Were you trick or treating with these friends or those friends? The social pressures took all the fun out of the day.

I still feel many of these feelings about Halloween. Today though, things feel a little bit different. This is our first Halloween without an elementary schooler. I have no Halloween parade to attend and that makes me sad. Caroline will certainly trick or treat without us and chances are good that Katherine will too. Fortunately, Katherine and a few of her sweet friends will come to our house after school for pizza and to drop off their back packs but then they will most likely be out on their own until dark. Maybe then, Rob and I can trail them at a tween approved distance for a bit?

I know we still have many more years of hands on parenting ahead of us. On days like these though, I can feel the nest getting less and less crowded.

 

 

 

 

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Oct 19

What Made Maddy Run: A Review

by Stacey

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Earlier this week I wrote a post about a few of my recent reads and commented that the book, What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan, deserved it’s own space. I am still not entirely ready to talk about Maddy but I guess I won’t ever be so here goes.

I read this book as part of a program launched at our middle school called Beyond the Book. Each month the group reads a book that thematically represent the mission and core values embraced at our school. Topics will include resilience, grit, inter-personal skills, the whole child and more. Our first book was What Made Maddy Run and our principal, vice principal and approximately twenty parents sat down to discuss it last week. If you are a long time reader of this blog, you will know that sadly, our middle school community experienced a suicide a year and a half ago so unfortunately, this book seemed like the right beginning place for our discussions.

What Made Maddy Run is the story of Madison Holleran and her death by suicide (a term I only learned after reading this book). Maddy grew up in Allendale, just a few towns away from Ridgewood. The descriptions of Maddy, her life and her surroundings are all eerily familiar. Maddy was a perfectionist. A student. An athlete. And a social butterfly. She seemingly had it all and wanted more. These phrases describe Caroline and Katherine to a tee along with practically all of their friends. We live in an area, that despite many parent’s efforts to the contrary, rewards, consciously or unconsciously, perceived success over happiness.

There are many things that I could write about Maddy and the experience of reading her story and talking about it with my peers. What struck me the most though were the conversations that I had with Caroline as she read What Made Maddy Run. And yes- I did let her read it although I was hesitant. I would strongly recommend you read it before your child but if you feel they are ready (and maybe even if you don’t) the conversations that came from jointly reading this book were worth the fear I had to experience in order to allow Caroline to read it. In case this helps… one thing we did talk about last week was that books, television shows and conversations about suicide do not plant seeds in our kid’s minds. Instead they create a safe place to discuss a scary topic.

When Caroline first started reading about Maddy she said something really important. I had underlined passages like “Words meant little. Only excellence helped chip away at self-doubt. And so she excelled.”  Caroline’s comment to me was that she would have underlined different passages. She is not an underliner and I did not want to stop the flow of her reading so I’m still not sure where her focus lay. Of course, as a child, she would read this book differently than I did but we did take away one similar and very important message. Living in a world of social media had a huge impact on Maddy and how she lived with depression and anxiety. When she was about half way through the book, Caroline said, “Emoji’s killed Maddy.”

At first I was confused. She went on to say, “She was able to hide behind the haha’s and the lols and the emojis. It all didn’t seem so serious when she texted lol at the end of her messages.” Maddy did tell her friends and family that she was hurting. She told them something wasn’t right and they did everything they could to support her. They did not ignore her because she ended her texts with emojis but it is true that her messages may have read slightly differently because of them.

There is something super valuable in Caroline’s emoji comment. None of us are talking enough. And we are all hiding behind emojis and text shorthand. I am guilty of this personally and I have allowed the girls to both become very dependent on their phones. Fortunately, the girls still do talk to me, Rob and their friends face to face often but I know that there are times they don’t. I immediately thought back to text exchanges I have had where I have thrown in a haha or an lol myself to downplay the emotion in my message. And I know that I have felt relieved when Caroline has done the same.

Caroline did also say that a line that stuck with her revolved around Maddy’s mental illness. The message she mentioned was that we, as emotionally healthy people, will never be able to rationalize what Maddy did simply because we are emotionally healthy and Maddy was not. I am in awe of the access that Maddy’s family gave to Kate Fagan. Their openness allowed for this book to be written and I am grateful. Being able to talk openly about teenage anxiety and depression is huge. It is scary as can be that Maddy talked and her parents did all they could and she still died. I know though that by telling Maddy’s story, her parents have opened up conversations with countless children just like theirs. And I know because of these conversations, children like Maddy will be saved.

Thank you to the Holleran Family for sharing and to Kate Fagan for writing such a powerful story.

 

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