How I am Becoming My Parents

I don’t like to admit this, but I am turning into my mother.  Worse yet, I’m turning into my mother AND my father.

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I’ve always been a genetic mix of my parents.  I have light, freckled skin and a narrow upper body (complete with a small bust), thanks to my dad, and dark hair and eyes (not to mention a bigger tush and ample thighs), compliments of my mom.  I could have been a tanned, buxom, long-legged hottie, but that damn Punnett Square had other ideas.  My personality is a complete mix as well:  I’m sarcastic and hardworking like my dad;  Emotional and perfectionistic like my mom … And stubborn like both of them.  Yep, genetics at it’s best and worst!

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My parents and me, c. 1977

I will probably always be a flat-chested, freckle-faced, tenacious, Type A girl.  It’s who I am and I’ve made peace with it.  Sort of.  But parts of me have changed as I’ve gotten older.  Some for the better, on purpose:  I’m stronger and healthier, less selfish and more confident (I’m still working on being less emotional and more easy-going);  Some other changes have been less intentional and eerily like my parents.

Here are the top 4 ways I’m becoming more like my mother as I age:

  1. I find myself in Home Goods more often than I’d like to admit.  Browsing, sometimes buying stuff I don’t really need, and always using their restroom (I told you in my last post that I have a small bladder).
  2. I am mildly obsessed with kitchen gadgets and flavored balsamic vinegar.  I’d be lost without my NutriBullet, veggie spiraler, pineapple corer and citrus mister (Not sure those are the official names for any of those items (except the first), but that’s what I call them).
  3. My magazine subscription habit is growing out of control.  I blame my mother for this, though, because many are gift subscriptions sent from her.
  4. I can’t hear.  I swear the people around me (mostly my husband and kids) mumble and whisper.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself … Right, Mom?

And the top 4 ways I’m becoming my father:

  1. I am a master of back roads and side streets in my area.  Drop my dad in Brooklyn and he knows six different routes back home.  He is the original Rand McNally.  For me, it’s Chester County, although I’m not quite as good as my dad.
  2. I am very picky and extremely precise about the length of my shorts.  Five inches — not three.  Not seven.  Five.
  3. I cannot read a sign, article, email or post without correcting the grammatical mistakes.  This is definitely my dad’s fault.  He used to have me help grade papers, red pen and all.  Guess old habits die hard.
  4. I can’t sit still.  If I do, I fall asleep … Just like my dad.

The truth hurts.  Thankfully, my parents each have a good sense of humor.  And while I do seriously wish that they had combined genes differently so I got a smaller bum and bigger boobs instead of the other way around, I am grateful for all they’ve given me.  If others consider me half as loyal, loving and generous as my parents both are, then I know I’ve hit the genetics jackpot, for sure.

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My super loving, wonderful parents, c. 1968

– LJDT

Summer Lovin’

Believe it or not, summer is half over already.  Six weeks from now, the kids will be back at school, complaining of homework, tests and projects.  This harsh reality slapped me in the face back on July 3rd, the day I received the first “Back to School Sale” email of the season.  It was wedged between an email from “horny Becky” (by the way, the “h” word is on my gross words list, along with the “f” word and “m” word) looking for a good time and one from Target promoting all things red, white and blue for Independence Day.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, yesterday I received the first catalogue featuring Halloween decorations.  No joke.  Halloween promotions on July 21!

As a planner, you’d think I’d appreciate these early offers.  I don’t.  I prefer order and schedules.  One holiday at a time.  Mixing back-to-school with the Fourth of July or introducing thoughts of pumpkins, witches and ghosts when I’m just getting used to the summer heat stresses me out.

I’m the first to admit that by the time we reach the end of August, I’m happy to see the kids return to school (click here to read last year’s post on this very topic).  I say it (and write it) all the time:  I love my boys, but I need my space.  That said, I’m not ready to shop for, or even think about, school supplies.  Sale or no sale.  Flip flops and sunscreen, strawberries and summer squash … That’s what I want to see on sale now.  Not pens and pencils, costumes and faux cobwebs.  It’s just not time yet.

So I, for one, am boycotting thoughts of school, autumn and its subsequent holidays until at least August 31 when my boys go back to school.  Bring on more sunny days, warm nights, fireflies and barbecues.  Backpacks and lunch boxes can wait a few more weeks.

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– LJDT

Heaven and Hell and the New Jersey Turnpike

Last weekend, I drove up to New York all alone.  That’s right, alone.  Two and a half glorious hours blasting my radio, singing the R-rated lyrics to songs I usually have to censor, chatting with girlfriends on the phone without interruption (thank you, Bluetooth technology) and generally enjoying my solitude.   A couple of hours without anyone calling me “Mom,” asking me for something, complaining, arguing or whining … It was like heaven on Earth!

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The thing is, heaven starts to feel a bit like hell when you’re stuck in traffic alone for nearly four hours and you have to pee.  That extra time did, however, give me a chance to reflect.  Having driven the PA-to-NY route dozens of times over the past six years, I am an unofficial expert and, as such, have made the following observations en route:

  • Mapquest, Google Maps and Waze are all liars.  Despite what they say, it never takes 2-1/2 hours to drive from my house to my parents’.  Maybe at 2AM it does, but I’ve never tested it to be sure.
  • About 30 minutes in, my right leg cramps and my bum goes numb.  Every time.
  • Because I drink tons of water and have a small bladder, I am intimately familiar with every rest stop along the NJ Turnpike.  The “Molly Pitcher” stop should probably be renamed for me.
  • The “Trucks and Cars” lane is generally faster than the “Cars Only” side of the Turnpike.
  • The Staten Island Expressway sucks and the Belt Parkway blows!  Both are virtually parking lots all the time.  Seriously, ALL THE TIME.
  • There is at least one nose-picker in every traffic jam.
  • The New York City skyline is still my favorite, hands down.
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NYC skyline … breathtaking!

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One of my favorite pictures, c.2010

Despite these travel shortcomings (which are compounded by my impatient personality), I will continue to make this trip — repeatedly — out of love for my family.  I just wish I could fly.  Or teleport.  Or at least not have a (literal) pain in my ass when I arrive.

Next month, I have to do it again.  I’m gearing up now … Extra squats in the gym to prepare my tush and maybe a black window shade so I don’t have to see the nose-pickers.  Think Target sells those?

– LJDT

That’s What Friends are For

I’ve been sitting in front of the computer for well over two hours now, surfing Pinterest and Facebook, procrastinating.  I decided not to publish my original post for this week because it seems too trivial today … My oldest childhood friend is about to bury her father.  He was sick for only two weeks.  It came on suddenly and swiftly, and it seemed like only a matter of time before the inevitable would happen.  In the days leading up to his passing, Sharon and I communicated mainly through text message, but the one time we spoke on the phone, I was struck by how calm she was.  Pragmatic and strong, almost at peace with what was happening, but heartbroken nonetheless.

Sharon and I have been friends since we were four years old.  That’s almost 40 years!  We’ve always been very different, but it’s worked.

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Pre-kindergarten, c. 1976

In second grade, I used to bring a jelly sandwich to school for lunch and she’d bring a peanut butter one so we could swap one side of each sandwich to make two new, less-squishy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — one for each of us.  In junior high, our friendship took a hiatus (typical pre-teen girl stuff), but by high school graduation we were close again.  Post-college, we both moved back to the city — I lived on the West side, she lived on the East.  We got married two months apart and had our first babies three days apart (in the same hospital).  We shared many milestones together, even after she moved to Connecticut.  But when I moved to Pennsylvania a few years later, something changed.  Visits became rare, phone calls sparse and even emails and texts have been limited over the past couple of years.  I didn’t realize how far we had drifted until my last two birthdays passed without a card, call or text from her.

We’re all busy.  Life with kids is hectic.  But it’s more than that.  People change over time.  Friendships change, too, and sometimes they even end.  My connection to Sharon has certainly been altered over the past few years, but it’s still there.  It hasn’t ended, it’s just different.  I was sad at first, even a little angry at this revelation.  But now I can appreciate how we’ve both grown and changed (it has been almost four decades) and I’ve come to accept what we have now.  We may not be as close as we used to be, but the relationship is still important and worth holding on to.  So in the morning, I am driving up to New York to pay my respects, lend a hand and show my support for an old friend and her family.  I hope my presence strengthens our bond.  I hope it brings back memories of happier times.  I hope it helps ease the pain, even if only a little bit, because that’s what friends do for one another.

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Rest in peace, Mr. McLaughlin.

– LJDT

The Summer of Responsibility

Summer vacation started for us on June 12, but with sports camps during the day, travel lacrosse practice at night and lacrosse tournaments on the weekend, it hasn’t felt much like a vacation.  I’m still waking the boys up early for (camp) carpools, still packing daily (camp) lunches, still rushing through dinner to get to practice on-time and still yelling my head off about their lack of cooperation.  A few days ago, I realized that the boys still hadn’t emptied their school backpacks.  Know what I found inside?  Their summer reading lists and math packets, about ten pounds of crumpled class projects and ripped notebooks, an endless supply of broken crayons and dried out markers, multiple capless pens and highlighters, the missing house key, two slimy water bottles and — here’s the best part — a half-eaten, rock solid brownie and a moldy, turkey sandwich.  Are you kidding me?!  Later that same day, I read a fabulous piece on Huffington Post by M.Blazoned that made me feel better.  It was an open letter to her kids, sarcastically inviting them to be lazy, messy and inconsiderate sloths for the summer.  She’d pick up their slack, no problem.  It was hysterical … and right on point.

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I do a lot for my boys.  As a mom who doesn’t work outside of the home (note: I despise the term, “SAHM”), it’s my job to take care of the house and everyone in it.  I get that.  But I do require a certain amount of cooperation and assistance.  Both boys are expected to make their own bed each morning, set and clear the table each night, bring down their dirty laundry on wash days and take out the trash when asked.  They do not get paid for these “chores,” just as I don’t.  They also do not receive an allowance.  In the Tarr household, we all pitch in out of love and respect.  But lately, I haven’t been feeling the love or the respect and, frankly, I’m spent.  That moldy, 2-week-old sandwich sent me over the edge so I have declared this “The Summer of Responsibility,” or TSOR for short.  My kids are not thrilled, but they are on-board … mainly because they don’t have a choice.

During the school year, I often go easy on the boys when the schedule is crowded, cutting them slack if their beds aren’t made before school or if they skip setting the table to finish homework.  But as we enter the fourth week of summer, with less on our schedule now that travel lacrosse has ended, we are taking it up a notch.  TSOR is a simple concept, modeled after the famous “Just Do It!” Nike slogan … If you want it, just do it yourself.  It sounds harsh, but this is the only way I see us surviving the remaining eight weeks of summer togetherness.

On one hand, my TSOR concept is selfish.  Everyone needs to pitch in more so I can relax more (and bitch less).  On the other hand, it’s completely unselfish.  I am giving the boys an opportunity to grow and mature.  They’ll learn how to scramble eggs, sort laundry and maybe even use the vacuum properly.  The way I see it, TSOR is really a gift, and it’s not even their birthdays!

So despite my positive spin, just how bad will it be at the Tarr house this summer?  Depends on who you ask …

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Mainly, the boys will be responsible for feeding, cleaning and entertaining themselves.  While I’m generally not a supporter of the “every man for himself” approach in life, I am encouraging — no, demanding — that everyone pick up after themselves for the next eight weeks.  And not just when they are asked.  Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Did you just use a glass?  Don’t leave it in the family room, please.  It’s only a few steps to the dishwasher.  Besides, I know you won’t reuse that glass anyway.
  • Were you reading a book?  Fantastic, but please put it back on the shelf in your own room.  I won’t be reading it, so no need to leave it out for me.
  • Watched TV?  Be sure to turn it off and put the remote control some place we can all find it.  And if you really want to impress me, straighten up the couch pillows afterwards.  My mind will be blown!
  • Hungry for a snack?  Help yourself, but please don’t leave the evidence.  Our house is big, but I can find you without having to follow your trail of crumbs, I swear.

It’s not like I’m asking the boys to scrub floors or wash windows in place of swimming and playing.  TSOR is not code for The Summer of (Mom’s) Revenge, despite what the kids may tell you.  Our summer will be filled with tons of fun activities, including a beach vacation, a whitewater rafting trip, a week in NY, a surprise MLB All-Star weekend, plus two more weeks of sports camp and countless hours at the pool club.  By summer’s end, the boys will be tan, tired and (hopefully) more self-reliant and independent.  Sounds like the perfect summer to me.

– LJDT