I Survived Spring Break, The Mini-Series: Part I

It’s been a full week since we’ve returned from our Spring Break trip to South Carolina, and already I could use another vacation!

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Actually, I don’t think I ever really recovered from our time away.  Don’t get me wrong — it was wonderful to escape the cold Pennsylvania weather and leave our hectic schedules behind for a few days.  But let’s be honest … traveling with kids, no matter what their ages, isn’t really a vacation.  It’s just life in another city (although, it does get more enjoyable as they get older, or so I’m told).

Life was particularly hectic before we left town, so I made a conscious decision not to write or post while on vacation (I’m trying to live more in the moment and enjoy family time, remember?!).  That said, I did jot down a few thoughts (going cold turkey isn’t my thing).

My observations from our spring vacation are vast, so I decided to break them into a four-part mini-series … kind of like The Thorn Birds of the ’80s, but with less drama (or at least no R-rated drama).  I’m calling my series “I Survived Spring Break,” and today’s post is the first installment …

I Survived Spring Break, Part I: The Pre-Trip Hell Week

Hell Week isn’t just for college kids, police cadets and Navy SEALs.  Yes, each of these groups has their own rendition of Hell Week, with the Navy’s of course being the most rigorous and demanding.  According to the SEALs website, Hell Week “tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain and cold tolerance, teamwork, attitude and your ability to perform work under high physical and mental stress and sleep deprivation.”   Hmm … sounds a bit like what us Moms go through in the days before a family trip, doesn’t it?  Ok, that’s a gross exaggeration (with no insult intended to SEALS — I truly admire their commitment, fortitude and sacrifices), but I think you know what I’m saying — it ain’t easy, sista!

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Planning a family road trip is almost as rough as Navy SEALs Hell Week

The pre-trip to a family vacation is nothing like the pre-party to the prom or other big event.  There’s no dressing up (I’m lucky if I shower), no drinking (some days I wonder why I gave that up), no loud music and even louder laughter (just loud voices and even louder yelling), no cameras (thankfully!) and no fun (at least not for the crazy person running around trying to get it all done … can you guess who that is?).  What was my pre-trip hell, you ask?  I’ve made a list:

1. Research – We planned this trip months ago, and by we I mean me and by planned I mean made room reservations.  That’s it.  Just room reservations (I booked a condo near the beach, to be exact).  This is completely out of character for me and caused quite a bit of anxiety.  Mapping out the drive, booking a hotel room for an overnight stay mid-way to South Carolina, researching local activities and creating an itinerary … all things I was frantically still doing 24-hours before our planned departure.

2. Clothes shopping – Naturally, everyone had outgrown their summer clothes, so a shopping trip was needed (despite the lack of extra time for this).  My apologies to anyone who may have crossed my path during my frenzied outing.

3. Grocery shopping – Knowing that we’d be in the car FOR-EV-AH, snacks and drinks were a necessity, not a nicety.  Plus, we were staying in a condo, not a hotel, so we planned to eat breakfast each day at home.  Translation: more groceries and a bigger cooler for the car ride.

4. Laundry – My 7-year-old NEEDED to pack his “favorite” Virginia shorts and my 10-year-old HAD TO bring his “lucky” purple Elite socks  (yes, socks!), among other things.  Of course these items weren’t clean, so to ward off the meltdowns, I was up late doing laundry.  My favorite pastime.

5. House cleaning –  Nobody wants to come home to a dirty house, but actual cleaning was not in the cards.  Tidying up was all I could muster between the other pre-trip tasks.  Good enough (my new mantra for the week)!

6. Primping – Ok, I guess this one was a little like pre-prom, but without the excitement.  Squeezing in time to get my roots touched up and my nails done was a necessity, but also a huge time suck.  The stress made it feel less like pampering and more like another chore on the to do list.  Total buzz kill.

7. Packing – I despise this part of any vacation.  I pack too much and still always forget something.  The boys are old enough now to pack for themselves (finally!), but bag checks were required to ensure that underwear was included and more than five college/team t-shirts were packed.

8. More packing – Loading the car was almost as bad as packing the luggage.  It was time-consuming and frustrating, but thankfully my husband took the lead on this.  My hero, even though I did have to rearrange a few things so they were within my reach more easily.

9. Easter plans – Being away from home on Easter gave me an excuse to scale back our usual Easter basket/egg hunt traditions.  I made only small baskets and hid just two golden, surprise-filled eggs.  Done. Good enough.  I think I’m getting the hang of this new mantra!

10. Sleeping – Just kidding!  Twenty-four hours a day wasn’t enough time to get it all done so something had to give.  Can you guess what it was?  Did my bitchy, pre-vacation demeanor all week give it away?

Oh,  did I mention that all of this happened during a week when the kids’ schedules were jam-packed with practices, games and school events at which I needed to be?  Good times.  But I survived.  We all survived.  It may not have been pretty, and it definitely wasn’t my finest week, but I lived to tell about it (and so did my family, surprisingly).  Score one for me.

Next up … I Survived Spring Break, Part II: The Road Trip.  Bring it on!

– LJDT

There’s No Crying in Baseball … Or is There?

Tom Hanks was wrong.  There is crying in baseball … or at least there was this past Saturday in our house.

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scene from the movie A League of Their Own … “There’s no crying in baseball!” 

Both of my boys are very athletic and love sports, but my youngest son is obsessed.  He is in a league of his own (get it?  Like the title of the movie I’m quoting … yep, I’m that clever!).  Nearly all the books he borrows from the library are sports-based (both fiction or non-fiction), his bathroom reading material of choice is the latest issue of Sports Illustrated Kids (guess I should have seen that one coming) and he can easily locate any ESPN channel on any television.  He is a savant of sorts when it comes to remembering details of players and games.  If you want to know who played where and when, what the score of a game was, how each player performed and what they each wore, too, then he’s your man.

The fact that my son has such great recall is both interesting and perplexing to me because the child cannot recollect where he left his socks or remember to flush a toilet, but I digress.

The only thing my 2nd grader enjoys more than watching, reading or talking about sports is playing sports … which is why it was a total shocker last weekend when he had a complete meltdown over the mere mention of baseball practice.  Who was this whiny child, stomping his feet?  Not my kid!  My kid loves baseball.  Loves all sports.  Any opportunity to play is usually met with unbridled enthusiasm and sheer joy.  But not last Saturday.

Remaining calm (a personal victory for me!), I asked him why he didn’t want to go.  His answer was even more shocking to me than his meltdown … he said he didn’t want to play baseball anymore.  At all.  WTF?  After further inquiry, but no further explanation, we made a deal that if he went to practice that day, we’d talk about it again later.  He reluctantly agreed.  Crisis temporarily averted.  Score another parenting victory for me … that’s two in one day, for those keeping score.

We have a family rule that once you make a commitment to a team, you must honor that commitment and stick it out.  There’s no quitting in the middle of the season.  Allowing him to give up would send the wrong message and set a bad precedent.  But here’s where my Mom of the Year Award chances start to dwindle.  I was actually contemplating letting him “retire” before the season really even started.  I mean, this was only the second practice, I rationalized.  It would be cruel to force him to play when he really didn’t want to, I reasoned.  My husband didn’t agree with my thinking, which created some strife.  Crisis apparently not averted.

For the better part of the day, I wrestled with this.  Beat myself up and agonized over it, actually.  Which was the right decision — allowing him to abandon his team and his commitment, or compelling him to suck it up and play on?  Truth was, I was thinking more about myself than about my son.  Youth baseball is s-l-o-w and, let’s be frank, sometimes boring.  I prefer fast-paced sports with a game clock, like basketball and lacrosse, because I can’t sit still that long.  Plus, the thought of having to deal with a nearly-8-year-old’s tantrums 3+times a week for the next couple of months if I forced him to play was not appealing to me.  No way could I deal with more snits as patiently as I did Saturday morning.  I’m just not that good of a parent.

Ultimately, I didn’t have to make a decision because he decided for himself.  Saturday’s practice with his buddies was fun, so he says, and he changed his mind.  Game on … like the morning meltdown never happened.  WTF, again?!?  It’s a good thing I love that kid so much because otherwise I could kill him for the stress he causes me!

So baseball is back on our schedule, wedged between lacrosse, spring basketball, religion class and homework.  I will take my seat in the bleachers, cheering loudly for my little slugger and his teammates, but praying quietly for fast innings and no more tears (from either of us).

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Play ball!

– LJDT

The Tortoise and The Hare

What has four arms, four legs and moves at the speed of light?  The Tarr boys.

What has four arms, four legs and moves at a snail’s pace?  The Tarr boys.

It just depends on the situation.

My kids are like the tortoise and the hare

On the field, my boys are fast.  Often the fastest (or at least one of the fastest) on their teams — as reported by every coach they’ve ever had.  Give them a short distance to run and they are unbeatable.  Quick as bunnies.  They are lightning fast around the bases in baseball, fleet-footed on the lacrosse and football fields and swifter than most on the basketball court.

Off the field, my boys are s-l-o-w.  Sometimes the slowest (or at least it seems) in town — as reported by every parent they’ve ever had (ok, that’s a bit dramatic since they only have their dad and me, but I liked how it sounded).  Tell them we have to leave in five minutes (or ten minutes, thirty minutes, it doesn’t really matter) and they are inert.  Crawling at a turtles pace.  They drag in the morning, are leisurely before practices and games and dawdle at bedtime.

Fast or slow.  Forward or reverse.  On or off.  It’s as if my kids are a cheap blender with only two speeds.  Worse, they are like a broken blender that speeds up when you need it to slow down (read: when they should focus on homework, brush their teeth efficiently or actually chew before swallowing) or barely moves when you need it to rush through (when they are tying their shoes before tipoff or showering at night after a late practice, for example).

In sports, coaches tell the kids that they can’t play at just one speed.  They teach them that there’s a time to accelerate and a time to decelerate.  Knowing when to do which is the key to being successful in the game.  This is true in life as well.

I am usually rushing.  Part of that is my circumstance.  Multitasking is a mom’s way of life.  Often it’s necessary to rush through one thing (like homework or a snack) in order to get to the next (like practice or a dental appointment) on time.  But part of the rushing is my personality.  I’m impatient, move at a hastened pace and even speak quickly.  I am a New Yorker, after all.

My husband isn’t like this, and despite being born in New York, my kids are not quick-footed either.  They don’t see the need to rush unless they are carrying a ball, chasing a ball or racing to beat a ball.  They are last off the school bus, last out of a party and last off the field.  Super frustrating for a person like me!

But here’s the thing … sometimes their stride is the right one.  Yes, my boys need to learn when to pick up the pace so we’re not holding up the school bus, arriving late to practice or sneaking in to mass after the first reading, but I need to learn when to slow down and let go.  I need to stop and smell the roses, and my kids’ armpits, more often because in the blink of an eye, they will be grown and it’ll all be a blur.  A rushed blur that I didn’t even enjoy.

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My daily reminder … need to get better at this

A week from tomorrow begins our Spring Break vacation.  Despite the fact that the planner in me has mapped out a (loose) itinerary for our journey, I’m going to try to embrace the slow pace of South Carolina and enjoy every imperfect minute of it.  I’m really, really going to try.

But first I have to survive the 10-hour family road trip … Serenity now!

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National Lampoon’s Vacation … fingers crossed that our family road trip is better than this.  Wish me luck!

– LJDT