Stick Skills and Dustpans Required

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Ready for the start of a new season

Grab your sticks and helmets, spring is here!

Despite the winter-like temperatures (and residual snow on the ground in some places), spring sports have officially begun.  For us, that means juggling youth lacrosse, youth baseball and travel basketball.  Never a dull moment with the Tarr boys, or should I say never a slow moment.

The new season means a new family schedule to get used to.  While it’ll take some time, and a few loud, sometimes frantic reminders to the boys about time management and responsibility, we’re slowly finding our rhythm (and by we I mostly mean me, as I’m the one who manages who needs to be where and when).  As we run out the door each night for practice, I routinely rattle off the checklist of items each son needs for whichever practice he has.  For lacrosse, the roll call sounds like this … Stick?  Check.  Helmet?  Check.  Pads and gloves?  Check.  Cleats?  Check.  Mouth guard?  Check.  Cup?  Check.  Water bottle?  Check.  Dustpan and brush?  Check.

Wait, what?!?

To play on my older son’s U11 youth lacrosse team, those are the required pieces of equipment.  Scratching your head over the dustpan and brush?  I’ll let you in on a team secret … it’s not literally a dustpan and brush, but rather a metaphor for the attitude that the coaches require.  Although, that said, an actual dustpan and brush would be wise, too, given the clumps of mud and dirt my boys track in from the fields all season long or worse, all those little black rubber pellets that seem to be everywhere after they play on the high school turf field.  But I digress …

You see, the boys (at least my older son who plays on the A squad of a U11 youth team) are coming off a losing season.  Last spring was rough and the kids started getting down on themselves and each other.  To combat that this year, the coaches are addressing proper attitudes early on.  Here’s part of an email I received yesterday from my older son’s lacrosse coach:

  • “Yesterday … we talked about mistakes with our … players … It is OK to make a mistake on this team.  We want [the boys] to learn from [their] mistakes and not let [it] discourage [them] from working hard.  We will have a [team] ritual saying of “Brush it off, next play” when [someone makes] a mistake.  I will [also wear] a dust pan brush necklace at practices and games to reinforce this.  This ritual will help [the boys] wipe the mistakes out of their heads, refocus and be ready for the next play …” – Coach Wes
When I read this email, my first thought was where does one find a dustpan brush necklace?  My second thought was thank you, Coach Wes.  Thank you for reminding the boys that in addition to honing their stick skills, it’s important to play hard, brush off mistakes, learn from those mistakes and move on … good lacrosse precepts and even better life rules (and if you read my March 13 post, you know I love a good life lesson).
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So this season, despite the fact that their oversized equipment bags are already stuffed with the necessary gear, every lax jersey and pinnie they ever wore over four seasons, a few extra balls and probably some stinky, wet socks and a few chewed up, old mouthguards, my boys will be sure to make room for their dustpans and brushes, too.  If their teammates do the same, I think it’ll be to be a very good season.

Sticks in, boys.  Team on 3 … 1, 2, 3, TEAM!

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My favorite part of lacrosse

-LJDT

How The Grinch Stole St. Patrick’s Day … and Easter, Too!

March 17, 2014 was the year without a leprechaun in our house.

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This morning, I decided to slow the usual school day pace down a bit because we had yet another 2-hour delay (yes, it snowed again!).  Apparently, my boys didn’t get the memo because not only were they awake at the usual time, but they rushed through the A.M. routine of getting dressed and making their beds in record time (something that never happens on a regular school day, of course).  As they came racing down the stairs, I heard my youngest shout out to his brother, “Don’t read the note without me!”

It took me a moment to realize that he was talking about the leprechaun’s note.

CRAP!  I forgot all about St. Patrick’s Day.

I’m not sure if it was the previous week’s hectic schedule, the house guests we hosted over the weekend or the Sunday night snowfall that threw me off my game, but this year I just plain forgot.  There was no note with a catchy rhyme and smart riddle directing the boys to the hidden pot of gold filled with small treats and green trinkets.  There was no Irish music playing on the iPad (ok, we only have one Irish song — The Unicorn Song — but you get the idea).  There were no shamrock placemats, no leprechaun straws, no emerald decorations.  Just two young boys dressed in green, standing in the kitchen, waiting …

My oldest (10-1/2yrs.) seemed to take it in stride, deciding that leprechauns do not exist and that I was the one who decorated the house and bought the treats each year.  I must have forgotten, he reasoned.  Smart kid.  Maybe I had dodged a bullet.  Maybe the luck of the Irish was on my side today.  He didn’t even seem disappointed.  But my little guy (7-1/2 yrs.) was heartbroken.  He thought it was his fault because he forgot to set a trap.  To make matters worse, my older son told him his theory about leprechauns and moms.

Moment of truth … Do I lie to keep the dream alive for the 7-year-old, or do I come clean for the sake of the 10-year-old?  I decided to do both.  This was a golden opportunity for me to help my oldest, who will be entering middle school in the fall, mature.  I quietly pulled him aside and told him the truth.  He was ready, I thought.  I hoped.  I took it a step further and told him the Easter Bunny wasn’t real either (since that holiday is just around the corner), but I stopped short of killing off Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, too (I was able to ditch the Elf on the Shelf this past year, but that’s a post for another day).  The catch, I told him, was that he couldn’t tell any of this to his younger brother.

I felt good about my decision to tell the truth, but guilty at the same time.  Had I just pushed my 5th grader out of childhood?  Was my decision selfish?

You know what? It was the right decision.

It was the right time for both of us to turn a corner.  My son was beginning to question these mysterious holiday mascots and I was beginning to feel stressed by the pressure to outdo myself each year.  But not anymore.  Telling my son the truth felt like a weight had been lifted.  Freedom!  Whoo hoo!  He was growing up and I was now free from all this secondary holiday hoopla … or so I thought, until I remembered that my younger son still believed and he was just too young to have the rug pulled out from beneath him.  Argh!  Now what?

Thinking on my feet, I ran upstairs to hide a dollar bill under each of their pillows (hey, money is green, right, and who doesn’t love money?).  Then I told my older son, now in on the high jinks, to take his brother back upstairs for a moment so I could scribble a note, which I subsequently hid under his (not green) placemat.  Here’s what it said:

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The note that saved St. Patrick’s Day (and yes, I know the sticker spelled “Paddy’s” incorrectly!)

I tried to redeem myself with a green breakfast: dyed pancakes, omelettes and milk, plus green grapes — the usual St. Paddy’s Day fare in our house.  But it wasn’t until after breakfast when the boys were clearing their dishes and “found” the note that I was redeemed.  My 7-year-old was thrilled that he hadn’t ruin the holiday and all was right with the world again.

St. Patrick’s Day may have been watered down in the Tarr house this year, but we did manage to keep the magic alive for one more year … at least for one kid.  And an added bonus:  My 10-year-old told me that for the next holiday, he’d help with the surprises and decorations so his brother can keep believing.  Looks like I’m the one who scored the pot of gold.

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A MOTHER’S LIMERICK

Composed by Lauren Dewey Tarr, RosesandArmpits.com

There once was a mother of two boys

who sometimes struggled to see all the joys.

But she knew in her heart

they were handsome and smart

so she learned to live with the chaos and noise.

– LJDT

There’s No “i” in Team

Four tickets to a Harlem Globetrotters game: $175.  Arena parking: $15.  Snacks and souvenirs: $70.  Hearing my boys belly-laugh as a player performing a layup is stripped, not just of the ball, but of his uniform:  Priceless.  Having them learn a valuable life lesson at the same time:  Even more priceless.

Ok, so the lesson wasn’t exactly learned during the layup stripping (although having your shorts tied tight enough so they can’t be pulled down is a good life lesson), but it was realized at the Harlem Globetrotters game this past weekend.  Amidst the flurry of corny jokes and childish gags, and in between the fancy ball-handling and trick shots, was the not-so-subtle message that if you dream big and work hard — despite your circumstances — you can achieve your goals.  Just ask Kevin Grow, the Pennsylvania teenager with Down Syndrome who suited up and played with the team on Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

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Kevin Grow with the Harlem Globetrotters

I was prepared for the night’s expected fanfare of smelly armpits, noisy gas and silly dances (hmmm … this sounds a bit like our house on a Saturday night), but I wasn’t anticipating the inspirational message about overcoming adversity.  It got me thinking … what other positive life lessons can a simple game of basketball teach kids?

Not wanting to miss a teaching moment (heaven forbid!), I asked the boys yesterday on the way to practice what they thought basketball teaches them.  My youngest is only 7 and quite literal, so his initial responses included, “Keep your hands straight up on defense” and “You can’t pick up your dribble.”  Both true, but not what I was looking for (A+ for effort, though, buddy!).  After further explanation, a little prodding and even some leading, this is eventually what they came up with …

The five (5) life lessons that basketball teaches, as told by my sons:

  1. Basketball is a team sport and there’s no “i” in team – Translation:  Learn to work as a team and be interdependent, not independent.  Selfishness never wins (just like cheaters never win and winners never cheat).
  2. Sometimes calls don’t go your way – Translation:  Life can be tough; if you get knocked down, get up, dust yourself off and keep going.   You don’t always get your way (you get what you get and you don’t get upset).
  3. You win or lose on the foul line – Translation:  Be prepared by practicing (or studying).  Learn from your mistakes and improve upon your performance yesterday.
  4. Keep playing until the whistle blowsTranslation:  Never give up.  Do your best, give 110% and work hard to achieve your goals (it’s not over until the fat lady sings).
  5. It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play that gameTranslation:  Always display good sportsmanship.  Play competitively, but fairly.  Be a good loser and a gracious winner.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  If my boys practice these five teachings as much as they practice their crossover dribble, reverse layup and fade-away jumper, they will be victorious on and off the court.  I may not be raising the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James, but I am raising the next generation of men, so it’s important that I get it right.

Will my sons continue to play basketball?  Will they make the high school basketball team?  Play in college?  Be drafted into the NBA?  It’s much too early to tell, and the odds are not in their favor, with just over 1% of college players making it to the pros.  But little boys will dream, and if they work hard enough, you never know … just ask Kevin Grow.

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P.S.  If style counts for anything, my boys — with their throwback headbands, big hair and high socks mixed with the current-day trends of oversized shorts, armbands and shooting sleeves — are already on their way.

– LJDT

Resolution Do-Over

January was not a very successful month when it came to my #3 Resolution — to be a better version of myself.  Let’s just say that if screaming burned calories, I’d be shopping for smaller pants now.

Maybe it was the post-holiday food hangover guilt.  Maybe it was the bitter cold and all those extra days home with the kids (between holidays and snow days, I think they had only one full week of school in January!).  Or more likely, it was the self-imposed, unrealistic pressure to live up to all my resolutions in the first month (I know — crazy.  This is why I’m rehabbing.).  Whatever the reason, I failed miserably in January.  I yelled too much, cursed too much, and stressed too much.  If you live anywhere near me, I’m sure you heard me.  It wasn’t pretty.  [I am, however, giving myself a pass for that one week I was on a detoxing cleanse (hungry + angry = hangry!), but even that was my decision so I have to own it and my bad behavior, too.]

Depending on which article you read, researchers indicate that anywhere from 33% -to- 95% (!) of all resolutions will be abandoned by the end of January.  So should I join the ranks of those who throw in the towel after round 1 and keep on screaming (I am really good at it), or do I stand strong, start over and learn to use my “inside voice”?

Turn the page on the calendar because I’m calling for a do-over.

It’s now the beginning of February and I say bring it on! My head is in a different place and hopefully my mouth will follow.  I am encouraged and motivated by all the kind messages I received this week after my inaugural post.  Having this blog and announcing my intentions publicly makes me accountable.  I thrive on accountability.  No hiding, no excuses, just do it.

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I’m on a mission to “do better” this month.  February is all about love (and chocolate, my vice), so what better month to start over than February.  Maybe I’ll reward myself for each successful day with a small treat like I did for my boys when they were being potty trained.  Instead of stickers, lollipops and Matchbox cars as enticements, I’m thinking more along the lines of a (gluten-free) cupcake, a mani/pedi, or even new workout clothes.

Then again, the satisfaction of knowing that I’m setting a good example for my boys will be reward enough … but if I do see a cute pair of yoga pants on sale, I might just get those, too.

– LJDT

The 41-Year Old Virgin

Hello, my name is Lauren and I’m a recovering perfectionist and Type A control freak.  Phew!  It feels good to get that off my chest!

This is my first-ever blog post, so I guess that makes me a 41-year-old virgin.  Please be gentle.

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I used to be a working mom, commuting into Manhattan from the suburbs every day, juggling a career and family.  Now I’m a stay-at-home mom living in the country, driving my school-aged boys from one practice or game to the next.  It’s a different kind of juggling act these days, and just as challenging.

I left the corporate world back in late 2006, after the unexpectedly complicated birth of my second child.  In the three years that followed, I started my own novelty business (bad timing), suffered three mini-strokes (misdiagnosed by three doctors as migraines and postpartum depression), underwent heart surgery (to fix a congenital problem I never knew I had) followed by thyroid surgery (to remove a massive tumor), was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s Disease), and moved from my familiar suburban NY home near family and friends to the unknown countryside of Pennsylvania where I knew no one.  For a control freak like me, this was all a bit overwhelming, to say the least.

Fast forward four+ years to today.  I’m healthy, strong and (mostly) happy.  I love raising our two school-aged boys in the bucolic countryside of Chester County, PA.  I love the great new friends we’ve made here.  I love that we live only a half-mile from horses, cows and cornfields in one direction and Pottery Barn, J. Crew and Target in the other.  I love that you can still buy fresh milk from the local dairy farm and warm french bread from the country baker — both on an honor-system basis.  [Somehow I don’t think the idea of writing down what you took and leaving cash in an old coffee can would work well back in NY!]

I love my life and I love my family — truly, with all my heart.  But frankly, sometimes they all suck.

Why can’t they just do things my way so we can all just get along?  I like to plan, organize and control.  They like things spontaneous, disheveled and chaotic.  I like things to be perfect.  They like things to be fun.  Unfortunately for all involved, my Type-A personality makes it hard for me to just roll with the punches.  I demand too much, yell too much, curse too much, and stress too much.  But I’m working on it.

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My New Year’s Resolutions this year are to (1) start a blog, (2) learn how to sew, and (3) be a better person, specifically by yelling less (or at least softer and less often) and praising more; cursing less (or at least under my breath better) and laughing more; complaining less (or at least not aloud) and appreciating more; planning less (at least when the family schedule allows) and living in the moment more.

Resolution #1 … achieved, as this first blog post proves (yay, me!).  My goal is to post thoughtful musings and funny rants weekly, and I’m sure there will be plenty of “bad mommy moment” confessions sprinkled in for good measure.

Resolution #2 … started.  My mom gave me her old sewing machine (actually, she gave it to me months ago and it’s been collecting dust in my laundry room ever since) and I just ordered a mobile sewing cart.  Soon I’ll have no excuses.  Watch out, Martha Stewart — mended clothes and fabulous new pillow covers coming soon!

As for Resolution #3, that is a work in progress.  I mean, we’re only a few weeks into the year, people!  Things take time.  I will admit, if parenting was football, I would not be headed to the Super Bowl this weekend, but I’m hoping to at least make it to the playoffs next year.  Little by little, step by step, I will learn to give up control and let life be messier and more fun.  As one of my favorite children’s books says, “… remember to stop and smell the roses … [and your] armpits, too!”

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So please come back often to stop and smell the roses with me on the crazy journey of life, motherhood, and parenting.  Just be prepared to smell some armpits along the way, too, because my life is the “perfect” blend of both.

Oh, and for my first time, how’d I do?  Was it as good for you as it was for me?

– LJDT