For My Birthday This Year, I Got Guilt

Yes, you read that correctly.  It is not a typo.  For my birthday this year, I got guilt.  Not Gilt, the online retail site.  Not gelt, the Chanukah money.  Good, old-fashioned guilt … You know, that awful feeling you get when you think you’ve done something wrong or let someone down.  That.  Not exactly what I asked for, but I got it anyway.  Three-fold.

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First, I selfishly convinced my 8-year-old that he didn’t want to go to his school’s 3rd grade read-athon event last Friday night because I didn’t want to spend my birthday sitting on the school floor listening to the principal read.  I bribed him with the promise of a Shirley Temple and an extra-large birthday dessert of his choice.  The cake swayed him.  I ordered my dessert with a side of guilt.

Then, I had to cancel a planned weekend trip to New York to visit my mom, who has been housebound since mid-January due to an injury.  My last-minute cancellation disappointed my mother and simultaneously burdened my sister, who then had to step in to help once again.  Score two guilt trips for the price of one.

It was the ultimate guilt-trip trifecta: mommy guilt, daughter guilt and sister guilt.  At least I didn’t feel wife guilt, too, to make it a superfecta (Yes, I had to look that word up).

I was heading into my 43rd birthday feeling rueful instead of happy … Until my sister told me to get over it.  “I don’t do guilt,” she said.  “I don’t have time for it.”  At first, her words sounded callous to me, but then I realized how right she was.  She really is both older and wiser.  Feeling guilty doesn’t change anything.  It doesn’t make the other person feel better.  It doesn’t make me feel any better.  Guilt really is a waste of time.  Thank you, Denise, for reminding me of this.

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Because 2015 is supposed to be about me getting calmer, happier and better, I took my sister’s advice and let the guilt go.  It was my birthday gift to myself … That, and a new pair of bright workout pants.  Happy birthday to me!

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For the record, I still feel bad when I let people down.  It’s just how I am.  But I am learning to release that emotion swiftly and move forward.

– LJDT

Bird Flu, Seasonal Flu or Man (Boy) Flu?

Awhile back, I theorized that having a penis makes boys/men blind.  I think it also makes them wimps when sickness strikes.  I’m not talking about major illnesses or diseases that deserve our sympathy and attention.  I’m talking about run-of-the-mill sniffles, coughs and fevers.  You know, basic cold and flu stuff.

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Here’s how it goes down in my house when one of the male members is under the weather:  First, the embellished coughs and excessive nose-blowing begin.  Next, the dramatic moans and exaggerated groans are added for effect.  Then, the strained “weak” voice squeaks out an “I’m dying” declaration and the need to stay home from school/work … Can you say, “Drama king(s)?”  [To be fair, my husband doesn’t often engage in this behavior because he pops Zicam like TicTacs at the first sneeze.  But I hear from friends that this conduct applies to their husbands, so it must be a penis thing.]

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Last week, my oldest was home with the flu.  For four loooong days.  I felt bad for him because he really was sick.  At least for the first 3-1/2 days.  But then the melodrama kicked in and my patience started to run out.  To hear him, you’d think he contracted the Ebola virus, not the flu virus.  I’m sure he felt miserable because he looked and sounded miserable, but he wasn’t exactly on his death-bed.  And to be honest, his being home from school for three days before a holiday weekend kinda messed up my schedule.

I don’t get sick very often, and when I do, it’s pretty short-lived.  Usually just a twenty-four-hour bug.  But on those days when I am infirmed, I do what all moms do … I bitch about it, then suck it up and go about my business.  Miserably, but I go.  News flash for those not in the know:  Moms don’t get sick days.  Have you seen the new commercials for Vick’s DayQuil and NyQuil?  Spot on!  … Except for the Dad version.  Penises, remember?

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As a kid, I don’t remember being sick all that often.  I do recall having mono and getting the chicken pox, but those were biggies and hard to forget.  What I remember most about being sick during my childhood was the “routine.”  I’d stay in my parents’ bedroom, propped up on pillows with a wet wash cloth across my forehead, surrounded by old bath towels and a vomit bucket (a.k.a., small bedroom trash can).  I’d sleep and watch TV, and when I was hungry or needed something, I rang a small bell to get my parents’ attention.  The “menu” was always the same, too: Warm, flat ginger ale (through a straw), buttered toast, custard from Ziggy’s Deli, jello (if I was lucky, I got to drink some of the gelatin before it hardened) and my grandma’s homemade chicken soup, made from scratch straight out of Brooklyn.

I don’t have a “routine” for my kids when they are sick.  It really all depends on the circumstances.  Sometimes they stay in their own rooms or the guest room (definitely not my room!), and they have been known to venture downstairs to the family room as well (which I disinfect the second they leave).  I don’t give them a bell to ring (are you crazy?!), but I do surround them with old towels and a vomit bucket.  Two, actually, because you can never be too careful (I really hate touching vomit).  As for food, that, too, depends on circumstances.  I don’t usually keep soda in the house, I can’t find custard anywhere in PA and the boys don’t really like jello.  Toast is easy, so I’ve got that one covered.  And I’m working on perfecting my own chicken soup recipe — It’s not as good as my grandma’s, but I’m sure it’s much healthier.

Now if I can just find that secret ingredient to make my little drama kings handle their illnesses like a woman …

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– LJDT

Love and Cupcakes

This time last year, I was stressing out about baking homemade, allergy-free cupcakes and designing creative, perfect Valentines for my boys’ classmates … Until a snowstorm canceled school, postponed the class parties and my new attitude about letting things be messy and imperfect finally kicked in.  [Click here and here to re-read my two posts about last year’s Valentine’s Day debacle and subsequent save.]

Today, with one in sixth grade, the pressure to be creative and fancy has been cut in half because middle schoolers do not exchange Valentines or have class parties, so I am told.  But third graders do, so I am not totally off the hook yet.

With one kid “celebrating” and the other not, this seems like a good time to start downplaying the Hallmark holidays.  I’ll still make red, heart-shaped waffles and serve pink milk tomorrow morning, and of course I’ll still give my boys heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and plenty of hugs and kisses … But I won’t fret over homemade class treats and unique cards for 20+ kids I barely know.  Instead of signing up to bake some fantastic, Pintrest-inspired cupcakes, I’m sending in red and pink sprinkles for the class party.  Am I a slacker?  Some may say so, but those sprinkles were on the request list so I don’t feel guilty.  I did my part.  As for the cards, I tried to convince my son that store-bought cards were the way to go this year, but he wasn’t having it.  Solution: We made 22 tags that read: “You Rock!” and attached them to packets of Pop Rocks candy.  Not very original (in fact, this idea was rehashed from last year’s list), but my little guy liked it and that’s really all that matters.

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Simple and easy, albeit not too original, Valentines

I’ve come to learn that all the stress, anxiety and pressure I feel around these lesser holidays, like Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, is self-imposed.  I agonize over making every minor holiday a wonderful, memorable events for my kids.  I make grandiose mountains out of what should be fun, little mole hills.  But not anymore.  Those days are over.  2015 Lauren is cutting herself more slack and living a less-stressed life.  Calmer, happier, better.

This doesn’t mean I’m boycotting all upcoming holidays.  Nor does it mean I’m killing off all our family traditions.  I sort of took care of that last year anyway.  [Click here to reread my post about the end of St. Patrick’s Day leprechauns and the Easter Bunny.]  But it does mean I’m downsizing.  Toning things down … way down.  Red waffles and chocolate truffles for breakfast?  Sure thing.  But pulling an all-nighter to bake two dozen beautiful treats that won’t be appreciated by the under-9 set?  No thank you.  This year, it’s colored sprinkles and Pop Rocks … and simple love for my boys (big and small).

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– LJDT