The Circle Of Life: When A Beginning and Ending Collide

Yesterday was the first day of school for my boys. Eighth grade and fifth grade, respectively — Their last year in middle school and elementary school, also respectively. And from what I hear, it started the same way that last year ended … With each of them chasing down the school bus before it left our neighborhood. Sigh! At least they’re consistent.


First day of 8th grade — Yes, he ran after the bus with his shoelaces untied (photo courtesy of my husband).


Pre-bus chase smiles on the first day of 5th grade (photo courtesy of my husband).

I, too, am consistent. Last year, I cheaper out went green and sent the boys to school with the previous year’s backpacks, lunch boxes, clothes and unused school supplies. I did buy them new underwear and get them fresh haircuts as part of a family tradition, but this year, I didn’t even do that. I know, I’m a horrible mother. I did replace their moldy, torn lunch boxes, but other than that, the start of the 2016-17 school year looked a lot like the end of the 2015-16 school year. At least that’s what my husband tells me. I don’t really know for sure because I wasn’t there. I was in Boston.

As my boys were saying hello to their new teachers, I was saying goodbye to one of mine. Virginia Delaney was truly a remarkable woman who taught me, through her life example, that it’s not your situation or circumstances that define you, but your attitude. She lived life to the fullest every day, laughing, joking and making the people around her feel loved. From the outside looking in, she lived a storybook life: Married for over 60 years with 5 children, 13 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren, all of whom loved her dearly. A world-class traveler, veteran theatre-goer and the consummate hostess, my Aunt Virginia was simultaneously sophisticated and casual. She was a true beautiful soul. But beneath all the joy was a fair amount of darkness. From caring for a husband with Parkinson’s Disease to six separate battles with cancer and a few other challenges along the way, my Aunt Virginia never let on when she was sad, angry, hurt or grieving. Her approach was to always remain positive while fighting like hell. She was as tough as nails and as sweet as they come until the very end.

We all have our burdens to bear in life and Virginia Delaney had her fair share. But she handled every one of them with grace, dignity, class and strength. My father, her youngest brother, is the same way. I only hope that it’s hereditary because this is a life lesson I want to master and pass on to my kids. You may not be able to change your situation, but you can always alter your attitude about it.


Yesterday was both a beginning and end for my family and me, filled with both great excitement and even greater sorrow. But if I know my aunt, she would want me to focus on the joy instead of the sadness, so that is what I’m trying to do.

Rest in peace, Aunt Virginia.



I Used To Be Fun

I recently read an article in the New York Post (so take it with a grain of salt) about how parents (at least those from Manhattan and Long Island) are letting loose while their kids are away at sleep away camp.  And by loose, I mean wild.  As in no-clothes-allowed rules at home, sex in the kids’ bedrooms and drug-fueled threesomes, wife swaps and orgies … You know, the usual.  Wait, what?!  Are people my age really doing this?  According to those interviewed, yes.  They see it as their second chance to do all the things they didn’t get to do before they had kids.  Um, okay.  My boys have been away for two weeks (big ups to Mom and Dad, Denise and Peter — thank you, thank you, thank you!) and the wildest things I’ve done are triple workouts, an afternoon massage and dinner out with friends.

I used to be fun.  Not coke-and-Molly-laced-sex-party fun, but stay-out-all-night, dance on bars, ride mechanical bulls fun.  You know, normal fun.  But that was B.K. — before kids.  I think when I gave birth, my fun genes came out with the placenta.


That’s me, riding a mechanical bull in Texas back in the day … See, I really was fun.

If you ask my kids, I am not the “fun mom.”  I’m a “rules mom.”  My sister’s a fun mom.  My friends Paula, Mary Liz and Kathy are fun moms.  But I am not a fun mom.  I’m too serious, too scheduled and too strict.  In a (hyphenated) word, I’m high-strung.  Every now and then, I let my freak flag fly and the boys, after the initial shock wears off, love it.  Embarrassing dance moves in the kitchen, randomly thrown flying rubber pigs in the family room, spontaneous trips to the creamery — that’s about as crazy as it gets for me.


Fun these days means old-school roller skating under the Ben Franklin bridge in Philly with my kids.

Truth is, I don’t want to be the fun mom.  It’s not who I am and I’m okay with that.  At 44, I’m not trying to impress anyone or be someone I’m not.  I’m just trying to be the best version of myself, one day at a time.  Some days I succeed and some days I fail, but I’m always trying to be the best mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter and woman I can be.

I hope my boys know that I’m trying.  Even on those days when my yelling sucks all the fun out of the room, I really am trying.



A Shout Out to My Sideline Sisters and Bleacher Bros

Anyone with kids who play youth sports knows that in order to survive a long season on the sidelines, you need to have your network — a group of like-minded parents who make sitting in the stands more enjoyable.  Whether it’s sharing an umbrella in the rain or snuggling under a single blanket in the cold, cheering our kids to victory or commiserating about yet another loss, having a good set of parents on the sidelines can make even the most unbearable season bearable.

Let’s be honest.  Youth sports isn’t all fun and games.  Long hours, extreme weather, crazy parents, unbalanced teams … It can be downright brutal some days.  And because alcohol is frowned upon at youth sporting events, you need a good group of sideline friends to get you through.  This circle of companions often varies with each team, although there can be some overlap, which only makes it stronger.  If you’re lucky, your network remains unbroken as the kids get older and friendships are forged in the off-season.  For me, with two sports-loving, athletic boys who play a variety of sports for a multitude of organizations, I spend my fair share of time at a host of fields, courts and tracks.  Consequently, I currently have 13 respective networks to get me through the year:  Two football networks (two kids, two teams), six basketball (depending on the team and the kid), four lacrosse (again, depending on the team and kid), plus a track and field network that I’m still developing.  Some groups are big and some are small, but each provides me with a sense of camaraderie and community that I cherish.

Case in point: U11 spring lacrosse — my younger son’s team.  Despite having played lacrosse since he was in kindergarten with pretty much this same group of boys, my fourth grader’s team isn’t very good this year (for a variety of reasons).  With double-digit losses each week, we’re off to a rough start.  I’m not one of those parents who makes a big deal about wins and losses, but one win would be nice … or at least a smaller deficit loss.  Honestly, some games have been painful to watch!  And while it’s no fun to lose, it is fun to watch with my sideline sisters who’ve been with me for the past five years.  In the words of Billy Joel, “We might be laughing a bit too loud, but that never hurt no one…”


Me (second from right) with some of my U11 spring lacrosse sideline sisters — Emily, Mary Liz and Tonia. (April, 2016)

So as the spring sports season chugs along, be sure to bring your sunglasses, water bottle and support system to each game.  It really is more fun that way!


Sorry, Not Sorry … The “No Post” Post

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that my posts are sometimes serious, sometimes snarky and sometimes nonexistent.  Occasionally, I miss a week here or there (like last week).  I’m sure you’re disappointed when you don’t get to read some pithy piece by me each week, but while I won’t apologize, I will explain.  Missing a post usually falls into one of four categories:

1. I’m busy (sort of) – Running the house and kids’ schedules is hectic, but manageable most days.  In between getting the kids off to school, going to the gym, running errands, chatting with girlfriends, shuttling kids to practices, cooking dinner and doing housework, I usually have time to write.  But things are heating up around here because I’m bringing home the bacon once again with a new freelance gig that has me on a deadline.  Let the juggling begin!


2. I’m distracted – I’m not sure if I’ve become a master procrastinator in my 40s or if I have developed adult-onset ADD, but either way, I have days when I jump from one thing to the next (depending on my mood) and have trouble completing anything I’ve started, including blog articles.


3. I’m negative – As the saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.  Well, some weeks that’s why I don’t post.  My goal is always to end each piece on a positive note, but sometimes I’m in a funk and that silver lining is harder to find.  Sometimes, silence is golden.


4. I’m uninspired – Simply put, sometimes I’m just not feeling it.  Some weeks are very mundane.  Nothing exciting happens and nothing grabs my attention enough to write about it.  If a piece feels forced, I won’t publish it.  My heart has to be in it.


* BONUS EXCUSE – The kids are home.  Snow days, flood days, in-service days, half days, vacation days … These are all synonyms for “No Writing Days.”  ADVANCED NOTICE: Next week is Spring Break around here, so I doubt I’ll be writing/posting.


When I started this blog two years ago, I was determined to approach it like a (part-time) job.    I wanted to be taken seriously as a professional writer, so  I set up my “office” in our home study, parceled out a desk drawer for my files and bought a slew of pretty notebooks (I’m an old-school, pen-and-paper kind of girl).  I scheduled set working hours and established weekly deadlines to keep me accountable, focused and on task.  This was my plan and it worked for a while … until it didn’t.

Missing a (self-imposed) deadline to post a new piece used to upset me a lot.  It caused me stress and anxiety, made me bitter towards my family and disappointed in myself.  Not so much any more.  I may be momentarily disappointed and briefly annoyed, but I’m learning how to move on from the negative feelings and cut myself some slack.  Accepting my Type A-minus personality and embracing my slacker side has made this task easier for me.  I recently met a fellow blogger (shout out to the Hyphenista) who told me she hadn’t posted anything new since October.  And while she wasn’t happy about it, she also wasn’t sweating it.  Her declaration made me realize something:  This blog isn’t just another obligation on my “To Do” list.  It’s my passion.  My joy.  My outlet.  It makes me feel sane and connected, and it gives me purpose.  It’s because of Gina that I remembered my resolve and now give myself permission to miss a week here and there without the old guilt or resentment I used to feel.  Life happens and no one’s going to die if there isn’t a new RosesAndArmpits post.  There may be tears, but no bloodshed.

So while I’m learning to cut myself some slack, I’m asking you to do the same.  I’ll do my best to post my weekly rants and life observations, but if I miss a week here or there (as I know I will next week), know that I’m sorry … Kind of … Well, not really, but I still love you for reading my blog religiously — as you should.


44 … Simultaneously Fabulous and F***ed Up


Happy birthday to me!

I stopped making a fuss about my birthday sometime in my 20s when it was no longer feasible, reasonable or acceptable to celebrate for an entire week.  Thus, last weekend when I turned 44, it read like most of my Saturdays in February — an early morning workout at home followed by a partner workout at the gym, two basketball games before a quick lunch and two more basketball games, family dinner with my guys then home by 9PM.  The birthday bonus: My mom drove down from NY to take us out to eat … and she brought cupcakes and presents.  Yeah, my mom rocks!


A little sad, but true.

I’m not one to get upset about turning a year older, yet when someone asks how old I am, it takes me about six months to answer correctly.  Not out of duplicity or embarrassment, just habit.  Remembering a new age/number takes me awhile.  The truth is, I’m glad I’m not younger.  I like being in my 40s.  I’m more comfortable in my own skin now … and my jeans, too.  I’m healthier, stronger and can do things that I couldn’t do 10 years ago — hell, even 5 years ago — like, bench press over 100 pounds and deadlift over 200 pounds.  I can even do a handstand!


Learning new tricks in my 40s — check me out!

Despite kicking ass in my 40s, it’s far from all roses all the time.  There are definitely some armpits mixed in that make 44 feel old, such as:

  • having to scroll waaaaaay down to find my birth year online
  • being called “ma’am”
  • having to pee as soon as I stand up
  • forgetting why I entered a room, opened the cabinet or opened a drawer
  • needing my glasses to read anything and everything
  • not being able to hear when people talk (but thinking a TV volume over 7 is deafening)
  • wrinkles!
  • needing to dye my roots every week and a half
  • having to check for chin hairs (thanks, early menopause)
  • fighting a slower metabolism (thanks again, early menopause)
  • being too tired to stay out past 10PM
  • catching myself singing along to Hall & Oats and Lionel Richie in the supermarket

Seriously, which is it?

But grooving in the grocery store and plucking chin hairs doesn’t make me wish for younger days.  I really like being in my 40s.  I may be older and have more gray hair, but I’m also wiser.  I know what (and who) I like and what (and who) I don’t.  I know my strengths and my weaknesses, and I don’t care what other people think because I’m no longer trying to impress anyone — including myself.  I’m learning to embrace my imperfections and celebrate my Type A-minus personality in order to become a better version of myself.  I know I’m a work in progress and 44 is just the mid-way point.  I may not be looking forward to turning 50 in six short years, but if I can make it through early menopause and puberty with two boys, I can handle a silly little number.  Besides, I’ll probably keep saying I’m 49 anyway … out of habit.



Playing Favorites … Thank You, Harper Lee

I don’t have favorites.  My kids used to ask me all the time:  “What’s your favorite color?  Your favorite food?  Favorite flower?  Movie?  Song?  Band? …”  Their inquiries were relentless, but my boys know better than to ask anymore.  Not because I told them to stop asking, but because my answer is always the same:  I don’t have favorites … Although, some days I do prefer one child over the other, depending on who’s pissing me off less.  Just keeping it real, people.  Don’t judge.



But as I write this, I know that I’m lying.  I do have a favorite.  A favorite book — To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I read it for the first time when I was 11 or 12 — a little young, given the theme, but my dad (an English teacher) knew I could handle it.  I watched the 1962 movie adaptation with Gregory Peck soon thereafter (also phenomenal) and it only cemented my belief that To Kill A Mockingbird was the best book in the whole wide world.  It still is.  The story, the characters, the language, the message … It was so artfully written, so realistic, so engaging and so insightful that despite the fact that it’s setting, characters and conflict were paradoxical to my own childhood in every possible way (Long Island, NY v. small town Alabama, 1980s v. 1930s, girly girl v. tomboy, etc.), I could relate to it.  I could understand and empathize.  I admired Atticus so much that I considered naming my first child after him.  Atticus, or possibly Scout.  Ultimately, neither name was chosen for either of my kids, but that’s a different post for another day.  Back to the book.


The greatest novel of all time.

There’s another reason why I love this classic so much, beyond its academic excellence.  It’s because of my dad.  To Kill a Mockingbird was/is one of his literary favorites, too.  Sharing his love of this book makes me feel connected to him.  In some ways, I see him as Atticus and me as Scout (I guess that makes my sister Jem and my mom Calpurnia!), but it’s more than just a father/daughter association.  Our bond over the love of this book, it’s characters and it’s message is unifying on a different level.  It’s cerebral.  It’s mature.  It’s ideological.  It’s special.

Harper Lee died this morning, peacefully in her sleep, at the age of 89.  She gave the world a literary classic that will stand the test of time.  She gave me my one and only favorite — and a bond with my father that I will always cherish.  Thank you, Nelle Harper Lee.  Rest in peace.


Eloquent and colloquial at the same time.


My Lenten Promise … “At Least” I’ll Try


Christian humor at it’s best.

Wednesday was the first day of Lent.  For my non-Christian readers, Lent is a holy period of fasting, praying and almsgiving.  In layman’s speak, it’s the 40 (or 46, depending on how you count) days when Christians are supposed to give up something they love for the weeks leading up to Easter.  I usually give up chocolate and cursing … By day #3, I fail.  But not this year.  This year, I’m doing things differently.  This year, I’m going to eat as much chocolate as I can and curse all I want because instead of abstaining from these physical vices, I’m going to focus on the intangible.  This year for Lent, I am giving up my negative attitude.  For the next 46 days, I will be Positive Lauren.

I’ve given this a lot of thought (after all, Lent is a time of reflection).  I know I should probably eat fewer dark chocolate covered almonds and swear less, but truth be told, I really don’t want to and my disapproving disposition is a much bigger sin.  Simply put, I complain too much.  I can be pretty negative at times … and by at times I mean often … and by often I mean usually.  It’s not that I’m unhappy or ungrateful, just mostly overwhelmed — which is kind of ridiculous, considering I have it pretty easy compared to others.  But I do tend to err on the side of pessimism instead of optimism, and that needs to change.  So from now until Easter, I am focusing on the positive.  I’ll be keeping my glass half-full, looking on the bright side, finding the silver lining, blah, blah, blah … Oops, that was probably a little negative.  Oh well, it’s a work in progress.


That Eeyore was one smart ass.

I wish I could say that I’ll stop complaining overnight.  Go cold turkey and all that.  But I’m a realist, so my plan is to reduce the bitching little by little and temper my criticisms with the phrase at least.  For every gripe I bemoan during Lent, I will pause and add “at least (insert something positive here).”  My grandmother used to call this “offering it up.”  It’s a way to remember that things could always be worse.  A way to see the bright side.  For example, Wednesday morning when the superintendent robo-called at 4:57 AM to announce a two-hour school delay, my response was, “Sh*t, now I have to miss boot camp!”  But then I  remembered my Lenten promise and quickly added, “At least we all get to sleep in a bit longer.”  See?  Silver lining … Although truth be told, I was still a little bitter about missing class that day.


A wise “Grandma-ism.”

Hopefully, over the next 40-someodd days, I’ll be able to squelch the surly thoughts before they leap from my lips and the phrase at least won’t be necessary.  Hopefully, feasting on positivity and fasting on negativity for a few weeks will become a habit.  At least I’ll try …



Suck It, Old Man Winter!

Some people love winter.  I am not one of them.  I despise being cold, don’t enjoy winter sports and resent being inconvenienced by school closings and slow driving conditions.  I am not made for winter so needless to say, I did not welcome Jonas last weekend.  It was just too much.  Too much snow, too much work, too much forced togetherness.  The Blizzard of 2016 was literally a pain in my ass (and back), thanks to an entire day spent shoveling nearly three feet of snow!  I know I shouldn’t complain because until last weekend, our winter was actually pretty mild.  But I’m good at complaining, so I will.


Being snowed in because of the blizzard sucked.  I will admit that it was kind of nice at first.  Nowhere to go, nothing to do … although I was a little miffed that I couldn’t get to boot camp.  The boys had fun sledding, there was football on TV and we had a fridge full of food.  Life was good … until it wasn’t.  Quality time together quickly dissolved into a forced imprisonment.  Too much togetherness (one day is nice, but five?) and too much work (an entire day spent shoveling and snow blowing almost 3 feet of snow is back-breaking work!) killed all the joy that could have been.  And don’t get me started on the mess!  From piles of wet clothes everywhere to white rock salt stains on the hardwood floors, I was not a happy camper.  So after a weekend of digging out from the storm, I went a little over the edge when the robo-calls came in announcing school closings for Monday and Tuesday and a 2-hour delay on Wednesday.  Let’s just say that a few colorful profanities were used to express my displeasure.


I know it could have been worse.  We never lost power (thank goodness) or ran out of food, and the boys finally put on pants for the first time all winter (at least while they were outside sledding).  Jonas created a beautiful landscape that reminded me of why I love living in Chester County, but unfortunately, the beauty is now gone.  What’s left is a pile of dirty snow, filthy floors and lots of laundry.  Plus, I’m still sore and very cold.  So I say suck it, Old Man Winter.  It’s time for you to go because I am officially done with winter.  Anyone else ready for spring?


Calgon, Take Me Away!

Yesterday, I read in the February issue of Prevention magazine that washing dishes can lower your stress level by 27% (according to a recent Florida State University study).  If this is true, then I should be in a complete state of zen 24/7 … but I’m not.  Since I practically live at the kitchen sink and am still perpetually stressed, I’m calling bullshit on this study.

Apparently, the trick is to focus on the sensory details — the sound of the water, the smell of the soap, etc. — instead of the tedium of the chore itself.  Really?  I usually wash dishes for three basic reasons:

  1. They’re dirty.
  2. No one else is doing it.
  3. No one else does it well, or at least not the way I want it done (Okay, that’s not fair to my husband — it’s really just my kids who do a crappy job).

I do not wash dishes to relieve stress.  I do not wash dishes to feel good.  Washing dishes is a household chore, like folding laundry and taking out the trash, that just needs to get done.  That said, I will admit that some nights I relish the time it takes me to clean the pots and pans because it means I don’t have to supervise the kids’ nighttime routines.  Plus, the sound of the running water drowns out their voices so I can’t hear their bedtime protests or brotherly squabbles.  So maybe FSU is on to something … It’s really all about perspective.


Unfortunately, as positive as this study may be, I doubt dish soap will be replacing wine any time soon for most moms I know.  But as someone who doesn’t drink, maybe I need to start viewing my sink time as “me” time.  Dawn dish soap can be the new Calgon … take me away!


Fundraiser Overload

I love autumn.  The weather gets cooler, the leaves turn colors, football season is in full swing and fundraising season is winding down.  Yes, I said it — the dreaded “f” word (and this time I’m not talking about the 4-letter “f” word that rhymes with ‘art’ and makes my skin crawl).  If you have kids in school, be it elementary, middle or high school, then you know what I’m talking about.  ‘Tis the season for school spirit wear sales, book fairs, magazine drives, wrapping paper campaigns, team car washes, mattress bargains (yes, that’s a real thing) and boosterthons (be it a run-, jog- or walk-athon).  Even the annual fall class picture day event is a fundraiser.  Multiply these activities by the number of kids you have and the requests become overwhelming.


I get that these fundraisers are necessary in order to provide our children with cool and unique experiences not covered in the school budget (insert commonly expressed, “What do I pay taxes for?” remark here).  And while I appreciate that most of these campaigns are highly localized, reaching only our school community, it’s the larger appeals that stress me out.  The drives and -thons.  The ones for which teachers bribe students to guilt out-of-town family members and friends into ponying up money for a magazine subscription or pledging $1.00+ for every lap they run (knowing full well that every kid is encouraged to complete 35 laps) in exchange for some small prize.

Problem is, those of us with kids (or those of you with grandkids, nieces, nephews or even just friends with kids) are inundated with the same requests.  Every kid in every school comes home with the same magazine drive, the same boosterthon campaign, the same candy/wrapping paper/tchotchke sale.  Maybe if schools started selling wine or raffling off useful commodities like a night of free babysitting or a reserved parking spot at Back to School night, they’d see a better return.  I, for one, do not need any more wrapping paper and will most likely never buy my mattress from the high school football team … and I’m pretty sure neither will my parents, sister or friends.


So if you recently got an email from me about a school fundraiser, know that I sent it against my will and do not expect you to contribute.  Really.  But if you are so inclined, thank you, thank you, thank you!  I’ll try to return the favor so your kid, too, can come home with a new boomerang or wrist band he’ll never use.


P.S. This hysterical Texas middle school fundraising letter (shown below) has been making its way around the internet to the delight of parents everywhere … Genius!