My “Dying” Truth

I’m about to lay down some truth, so you may want to sit down.

I’m not a natural brunette … at least not my current shade of chocolate brown with caramel and butterscotch highlights.  I wish!  (By the way, who else is now hungry after that color description?)  I dye my hair.  Well, actually, I don’t dye it.  I have it professionally colored in a hair salon by a talented man who works hard to keep my grays hidden, even if only for a week or two.  I could honestly color my roots every 10 days, but who has the time or money for that?!

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my latest shade is to “dye” for

With all the time I spend in the salon, I’ve come to realize a few things.  Notably, …

  1. It’s hard for me to relax.  Sitting still stresses me out.  I can’t fully enjoy the pampering because I’m too anxious, thinking about all the things I should be accomplishing instead.
  2. I feel (slightly) guilty spending so much money.  Professional coloring is expensive (not to mention time-consuming), but the results are SO much better than when I do it myself.  I once even had to cut my hair into a pixie style just to remove all the damage I had done.  True story.
  3. I’m tired!  This may be why I don’t sit down much during the day … I fall asleep.  Like really asleep.  It happens often and not because I’m so relaxed (see #1 above).
  4. I am really out of touch with reality TV.  It’s only temporary, though, because by the time I leave the salon, I know more about Kimye, the Real Housewives and Teen Moms than I care to admit.
  5. Hairdressers are like bartenders.  Customers confide in them — airing their dirty laundry, detailing illnesses, bitching about in-laws, bragging about kids … I’m guilty of it, too, sometimes.  Why is that?
  6. Having two stylists blow out my hair simultaneously is both luxurious and a tad creepy at the same time.  All the attention does make me feel a little like a Hollywood celebrity, but it also has a bit of a menage a trois vibe to it.  No further comment is required here … my mother reads this blog.
  7. Getting my hair colored and cut makes me happy.  I always feel more confident when my grays are well-covered and my hair is freshly cut and styled.  Maybe I’m vain, but who isn’t at least a little vain?  Confidence = happiness and we all know that when mama’s happy, everyone’s happy.  It’s a win-win.
flanked by my hairstylists, Jeremy and Kat

flanked by my hair stylists, Jeremy and Kat

So today, after I sat in the salon, agonized about my “To Do” list, thumbed through a few trashy magazines and dozed off once or twice, I returned home a happier (albeit less productive) mom.  Thanks, Jeremy and Kat — see you in a few weeks to do it all again.

– LJDT

This Morning, I Got It Right

Parenting is difficult.  There’s no instruction guide or manual to follow (despite what you can find in the Parenting section of Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com).  Much of the time, I don’t feel like I get it right … But not this morning.  This morning, I got it right.

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Despite the fact that there is only one month left in the school year, our mornings are still frantic and chaotic.  The boys don’t seem to grasp (or want to grasp) the concept that if they don’t leave the house at EXACTLY 7:58 A.M., they will miss the school bus.  I do not enjoy running up the hill to chase down the bus, nor do I like rearranging my schedule at the last minute in order to drive them to school.  I don’t deal well with the morning bullshit, so I push past their pouting faces, whiny voices and grumpy attitudes in order to get everyone out of the house on-time.  Selfish?  Maybe.  Honest?  Brutally.

But not this morning.  This morning, I got it right.

My youngest was moving particularly slow, moaning and groaning as he slowly tied his sneakers and his older brother yelled at him to hurry up.  On a typical morning, I’d have joined in the yelling, making my voice the loudest of all in an attempt to motivate a faster pace and end the whining.  I probably would have even cursed a bit in anger and frustration (Don’t judge!).  Yes, I know this is wrong.  Yes, I know this sets a bad example.  Yes, I know this doesn’t even work … but I do it anyway, to my dismay (I’m working on it).

But not this morning.  This morning, I got it right.

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I didn’t yell and I didn’t curse.  Something in my gut told me to slow down … so I did.  I stopped rushing and sat down with my 8-year-old, despite the fact that he’d miss the bus (I did put my oldest on the school bus — no need for them both to be late).  He looked so sad.  We talked quietly and calmly for a few minutes, and eventually he told me that he’s lonely on the bus in the morning (his brother sits with the other 5th graders in the back of the bus — it’s a big deal around here).  He’s very popular, especially with older kids, so this was a complete surprise to me.  But it’s how he felt and I could see how sad he really was.  It broke my heart.

With all the rushing around that I do — that we all do — I often forget to stop and actually see and hear my kids, even if they are kvetching.  Today was a bittersweet reminder of that.  My boys know that I am always there for them, but I need to be better at being there with them, too.

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As I’ve said before, I’m a work in progress.  This morning, I got it right.  Fingers crossed this becomes a trend.

– LJDT

 

The Tenets of An Elementary School Concert

Yesterday was my second grader’s spring music concert.  As usual, it was sweet and sour for me.  Sweet because the music teacher was enthusiastic, the parents were proud and the kids (for the most part) were excited.  Sour because, apart from being scheduled during a very busy time of the year for most of us, it was a bit long … five songs per grade with slow transitions between sets.  I did doze off once, but only momentarily.  I swear.

With kids spaced three years apart, I’ve been to my fair share of elementary school concerts and shows over the past five years.  Spring concerts, winter concerts, K-3 concerts, 4-5 concerts, band concerts, talent shows, lip synching competitions, etc.  I’ve been to them all.  The school auditorium is a familiar place, in deed.  As a five-year veteran of these events, I’ve come to realize that all school concerts share three common traits, notably …

  • the school parking lot fills up early, as in 30+ minutes before showtime early (the early bird catches the worm and the anxious parent gets the front row)
  • aisle seats are at a premium (that’s why the parking lot fills up early)
  • parent paparazzi is in da’ house!  (cameras are flashing and videos are recording, but most will feature the back of someone’s head … that’s why I always make sure to brush my hair and touch up my roots before a show because that head could be mine)

But these three traits aren’t the only tenets of an elementary school concert.  From my years of experience, I’ve found that there are seven student behaviors highlighted on stage regardless of age or grade (this, by the way, is not based on any real scientific study or data — just my keen observation when actually awake).  At any elementary school concert or show, there’s always one kid who is …

  • louder than all the others, screaming the lyrics instead of singing them
  • off-key or off-tempo, singing faster than the melody
  • not singing at all, either looking bored or scared
  • over-animated, exaggerating whatever “dance moves” accompany the lyrics
  • totally off-beat, or moving in the opposite direction as everyone else
  • fidgeting, turning around or poking a neighboring kid
  • dressed to the nines, in full-on formal wear (sparkly shoes or headband included)

Frankly, I have the most fun watching the over-animated or off-beat kids.  They liven up the show (not the ones who are purposely misbehaving and acting rudely, but the ones who are really trying despite having no rhythm).  And let’s be honest … most elementary school concerts are not Carnegie Hall material (harsh, but true).

Don’t get me wrong.  Despite nodding off on occasion, I enjoy watching my own children perform in these events.  Not because they are talented singers (they’re not) and not because the musical arrangements are my favorite (far from it).  But because I’m proud of seeing my boys embrace the stage, smile and sing along with their friends and classmates.  I’m proud of their confidence, their comfort level and their self-awareness.  I’m proud of their behavior and their attitude on stage.  Off stage … well, that’s a different story some days, but I love them all the same.

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How can I not love these two monkeys?

-LJDT

I Survived Spring Break, Part IV: The Long Road Trip Home

The road trip home after a week of complete family togetherness was, in a word, trying.

Maybe it was the weather (rainy).  Maybe it was the traffic (heavy).  Maybe it was the holiday (Easter weekend).  Maybe it was just that we were sick of being with each other and everyone was tired, grouchy and short-tempered.  Or maybe it was just me.

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Joan Crawford would not have survived this car ride.

I was foolish to think the ride home would be like the ride down, but hind sight is 20/20.  I do take ownership of the fact that I set us up for failure … my inaction plus my bad mood and poor attitude was a recipe for disaster.  All I can do now is apologize and share my wisdom so that others don’t have to experience the torture that is the road trip home from a family vacation.

Rule #1 – Plan and act ahead.  Pack suitcases and load the car the night before.  Prepare sandwiches and fresh snacks.  Charge iPads and wireless headphones in advance.  Make reservations for brunch/dinner if traveling on a holiday.  Delegate.  Share the workload so it’s not all on you to get it done.  I did none of these things and as a result, it was a mess.  I was a mess.  Overwhelmed, stressed, tired and pissed off.  Not a good way to be before jumping into the car for a full day.

Rule #2 – Be flexible.  Traffic and weather are uncontrollable and can suck.  Deal with it.  If you follow Rule #1, it’s not so bad.  I didn’t follow Rule #1 (uncharacteristically and to my dismay), so it was bad.  For everyone involved.

Rule #3 – Limit liquids.  Staying hydrated is important, but it also means multiple bathroom stops.  Synching up pee time doesn’t work — it’s not like female roommates and their periods.  Despite telling kids to “just try,”  inevitably, someone will have to use the bathroom again 20 minutes after leaving a rest stop.  Immediately.  Luckily, we didn’t get any tickets for all the roadside urinating my boys did, but I may need to take them to a urologist.

Rule #4 – Don’t over-schedule, just get home.  Breaking up the drive into two days may be a good idea on the way to vacation, but not on the way back.  It’s for the best if you just go home.  We didn’t follow this rule either.  We over-promised.  We stopped in North Carolina to visit the UNC Chapel Hill campus (my boys love ACC sports) then continued on to  Richmond, VA where we toured the city and spent the night.  Yes, we got to meet up with some friends for dinner which was fun, but that meant we had to drive another 5+ hours the next day on Easter Sunday.  Can you say miserable?

Rule #5 – Breathe … and nap if necessary.  Talk about favorite memories from the week, sing or just tune everyone out for a bit.  Remember that the car ride will eventually end and you will eventually get home.  To your own bed.  To your own bathroom.  To your own laundry room where you’ll be for the next two days washing the vacation clothes.  And if that doesn’t work, do what I did — scream, bitch and vow never to take a road trip with your kids again.

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Dinner with friends in Richmond was a treat.

Ok, that vow is unrealistic and irrational, I know.  Thankfully, our next road trip is a short, three-hour drive to New York to visit family.  Easy peasy … but wish me luck anyway!

-LJDT

I Survived Spring Break, Part III: A Week of Total Family Togetherness

Day #1 of vacation

Day #1 of vacation

We made it!  After a tumultuous pre-vacation week and a traffic-logged travel day, we had finally arrived at our resort condo, ready to start enjoying our vacation.  With Lenten promises all but broken, we were ready to overindulge and enjoy ourselves.  But could we survive a full week of 24/7 family togetherness?  Honesty, I wasn’t sure we could.

We all had different ideas of how the week should go.  I  would have been content reading by the pool each day.  My husband wanted to play golf.  And the boys wanted to do it all, from swimming, biking and golfing to go-kart racing, zip-lining and playing games on the boardwalk and at an indoor facility called WonderWorks.

After some tense negotiations and even a few tears, we managed to hit many of the activities on each person’s “To Do Wish List,” including attending a minor league baseball game one chilly night (the Myrtle Beach Pelicans rock!) and meeting up with some old friends who were vacationing nearby in Charleston.  All in all, it was a good week, as the smiling faces in these pictures will attest.

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But let’s be honest.  Nearly 200 uninterrupted hours of family time did take its toll.  For different reasons, we all had our cranky days (some of us had more than others) and by the end of the week, the love was fading.  Does it make me an evil person to say aloud that I missed my alone time?  Am I a bad mom or just an honest one when I admit that I relish the hours when the boys are in school so I can go to the gym, write and do errands without anyone nagging me?  I like to believe that absence makes the heart grow fonder … that way I don’t feel so guilty saying this.

As always, I had high expectations.  There were a few times when I felt disappointed and that made me crabby (yea, that’s probably an understatement).  I tried to lower my standards, but as a recovering perfectionist, I struggled.  That said, I can look back now and say that I learned a few things from this trip that will better prepare me for our next family vacation in December.  Some of these apply only to warm weather journeys, but I think you get the point:

  • eight days of total togetherness is too much for our family … carving out separate kid/adult time is a sanity-saving must
  • the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray
  • meltdowns and arguments still happen, no matter how much you plan
  • long lines suck, but Lifesaver candy lives up to it’s name
  • vacationing in a condo means there are dishes to clean and clothes to launder, just like home … boo!
  • crashing in a go-kart hurts
  • wearing jeans with flip-flops makes me happy
  • showering is optional … chlorine kills germs, right?
  • allowing iPads in the morning is the key to getting quiet “adult alone time”
  • it’s vacation … ice cream every day is perfectly acceptable
  • dinner served on a frisbee is awesome!
  • every boardwalk needs an Elvis impersonator … or better yet, a “fat Elvis” impersonator
  • a bad vacation day is still better than no vacation day
  • I love my family, even on the days when I don’t like them very much
Spring Break 2014

Spring Break 2014

So after eight days, we were all packed up and ready to go.  Thirty-six more hours (because of a stop-over in Virginia again) of total togetherness … would we make it?  Stay tuned for Part IV to find out if we survived the long road trip home.

-LJDT

I Survived Spring Break, Part II: The Road Trip

Who needs “I Spy” and the license plate game when you have modern technology?  I may not have had my act together in the days and hours before we left for vacation, but I was prepared for the car ride.  Two fully charged iPads (and power cords), two wireless headphones (with extra batteries), five new movies (including one slightly inappropriate title), an assortment of snacks (composed of both healthy and unhealthy options), a cooler of drinks (I’d pay for this later) plus cozy blankets and comfy neck pillows … what more could two boys want for a long car ride (besides more leg room)?

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I spy with my little eye … a boy playing on his iPad

It may have been 10PM on Friday night by the time we were ready to go (yep, that’s four hours later than planned), but Part I of spring break was finally in the books and we were ready for Part II … the road trip.

The first leg of the ride was uneventful — the boys watched a movie with headphones, my husband and I chatted and sang along with the radio, we stopped only once for the bathroom and we slept in a hotel in Virginia, about half-way to South Carolina.  After a hearty breakfast the next morning, we started the second leg of our journey.  That’s when the fun started.

What should have been a five-hour drive turned into a nearly eight-hour experience.  That’s a lot of time in the car.  As such, I made a few observations …

  • traffic sucks
  • the Waze app is way cooler than Google Maps
  • 1/3 of the cars on I-95  have New York license plates
  • a black SUV with black leather seats on a sunny day is hot
  • hollering “Woo hoo!” makes everything seem more fun
  • the inventor of wireless headphones is a genius
  • snacks save lives
  • a cooler of drinks = lots of bathroom stops
  • my kids would kick ass on “Name That Tune
  • South of the Border is cheesy and gross
  • my husband is a rock star
  • my kids are actually pretty good in the car
  • I am the worst passenger out of the four of us
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South of the Border is kitschy and dirty, but there’s ice cream

All in all, our first long road trip wasn’t too bad.  The excitement of going someplace new lightened everyone’s mood (especially mine) and made the long drive more bearable.  The road trip really was part of the spring break experience and together we were making memories as a family.

Now let’s see if we can survive the rest of the week together.

– LJDT