My Country ‘Tis of Thee

I had planned on not posting this week because after Tuesday night’s election results, no other topic seemed relevant and frankly, I didn’t want to talk about it.  We have a new President-elect and while some people are celebrating, others are protesting.  Nothing I can say here will be different from what you’ve probably already read in your Facebook and Twitter feeds over the past few days, so I wasn’t planning on adding to the deluge of social media commentary.

There’s an old adage that says you shouldn’t discuss religion, politics or money with company because it’s impolite, not to mention uncomfortable, emotional and personal.  I generally follow that thinking and, as such, my blog is not a platform for political or religious debate.  Whether or not the toilet paper should come over or under the roll and if November 1st is too early to start preparing for Christmas — Yes, we can argue about that (although the correct answers are over and yes, respectively).  But who should be President?  No.  SIDE NOTE: I won’t be discussing my sex life or in-laws here either for two simple reasons: (1) My parents read this and if you ask my dad, he’ll tell you that I’ve had sex exactly twice, resulting in my two sons, and (2) my husband reads this and I’d like to remain married to him.

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Weird Al speaks the truth!

So back to the discussion at hand.  If the election is the only pertinent topic this week and I said I wasn’t going to discuss it, then why am I still posting today?  Because today is Veterans Day.  A day to recognize, honor and thank the men and women who serve (or have served) in the U.S. Armed Forces to protect our rights and liberties as Americans.  I will shamefully admit that I usually take this day for granted.  Other than not getting mail delivered, it’s usually just an ordinary day for me.  But this year, after all that’s transpired this week, it feels different.  Today, Veterans Day made me stop and think: This really is the land of the free because of the brave.  The land of opportunity, of democracy and of hope.  And my hope — the one that I shared with my children — is that human decency prevails.  That we start spreading love instead of hate.  That we treat everyone fairly and with respect.  That we fight for the people who can’t fight for themselves.  That we learn and grow from our differences.  And that we truly become “… one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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My little guy speaking this morning to his school about the history of Veterans Day. Based on all those wrinkles, it’s clear I exercised my right not to iron.

– LJDT

44 … Simultaneously Fabulous and F***ed Up

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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!

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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!

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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
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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.

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– LJDT

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

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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– LJDT

2016 Will Be “Good Enough”

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Yes, I know I’m over a week late, but it beats last year when I posted 17 days late.  That’s progress, people.  The 2015 me would have been disappointed, resentful and even pissed that other obligations kept me from writing these past two weeks (thus my lack of postings).  But the 2016 me says, “Whatevs!” … Okay, “whatevs” is probably a stretch, but this year I am setting more realistic goals and cutting myself some slack when I slip up.  It’s all part of my new approach to life:  I am embracing my slacker side, letting go of the guilt and declaring 2016 the year of “good enough.”

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Don’t get me wrong — It’s not like I’m going to become a full-fledged slacker, throwing the color-coded family calendar/schedule in the trash and serving TV dinners every night.  However, my recent realization that I’m more of a Type A-minus personality than a Type A has allowed me to let go of some of the ridiculous standards that I held and the anxiety that it caused me.  It’s liberating, really.  I don’t have to be perfect.  I don’t have to do it all.  And I certainly don’t have to do it all perfectly.  It’s taken me 43 years to catch on, but I think I get it now.  Good enough is my new perfect.

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Despite my new slacker love, I still like to set personal goals for the new year.  Thanks to my new outlook, my goals will be more pragmatic and attainable this year.  For example, I know I won’t actually stop yelling, cursing and complaining (it’s in my DNA, like it or not), so instead I resolve to scream, swear and bitch less in 2016.  See?  Much more practical.  It’s all about balance.  Some days I’ll be good and some days I won’t, but whatever happens, it has to be good enough.

Case in point:  Tonight, I fed the kids pizza and salad for dinner so I could finish writing this post.  It wasn’t the usual healthy, clean meal I prepare from scratch most nights, but you know what?  It was good enough.

– LJDT

Merry Slacker Christmas

Each year, when the Pottery Barn and William-Sonoma catalogs arrive in November, I have ideas of grandeur about how I will decorate for Christmas:  A big, beautiful tree, new tartan plaid pillows on the couches, fresh greenery on the mantels, holly in all the vases … But those thoughts are only fleeting because I soon remember that I don’t “do” the holidays anymore.  My kids have outgrown the over-the-top holiday hoopla, so I’ve scaled back in response … Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself to assuage any lingering guilt I may feel.

Last year at the Tarr house, it was The Year Without a Santa Claus — mainly because we were out of town for the holidays.  This year, it’s what I’m affectionately calling, “Slacker Christmas.”  You see, I really enjoyed our stress-free, minimalist approach to the holidays last year and decided to build on that in 2015.  Earlier in the year, we celebrated Slacker Valentine’s DaySlacker St. Patrick’s Day, Slacker Easter and even Slacker Halloween.  Now, it’s Slacker Christmas.  It’s all part of my attempt to live a simpler, calmer, better life.  To cut back on stress and cut myself some slack in order to be happy.

What does Slacker Christmas look?  It’s simple:  No family excursion to find the perfect tree and cut it down ourselves with a hand-held saw.  No color-coordinated, professionally shot Christmas cards mailed to 200 of our nearest and dearest.  No catalog-inspired decorations or grandiose outdoor light display.  No Elf on the Shelf, mistletoe or homemade cookies for Santa either.  Not at the Tarr house.  Instead, it’s a store-bought tree displayed in the only decorated room in the house, a small wreath on the front door with simple outdoor lights and an e-card that uses a nearly year-old family photo because it’s the most recent decent one we have.  Practical and understated, with just enough holiday cheer to keep my boys happy and me sane.

I admit it’s easier for me to accept Slacker Christmas now that my kids are older and don’t believe in Santa Claus or the Elf on the Shelf.  When they were younger, I went all out decorating for the holidays.  I felt obligated to create a picture-perfect scene and tradition-filled memories.  I became a lunatic for weeks, spending tons of time and money on something that really only excited them for all of 10 minutes before they were on to the next thing.  Now that they are older (and I’m older), I feel less obligated to make my home an over-the-top, Pottery Barn-inspired wonderland.  I have two boys.  They don’t care about tartan plaid pillows.  All they want is a tree with cheesy, colored lights, their stockings by the fireplace and an endless supply of candy canes.  Easy, peasy.  Slacker Christmas, I think I love you!

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Our tree: cheesy and simple, just like the boys wanted.

I do get a little envious momentarily, opening all the beautiful holiday cards we receive from family and friends.  And I still get occasional pangs of guilt, wondering if I’m cheating my kids out of lifelong memories or pushing them to grow up too fast.  But like my grandiose decorating ideas, these feelings are fleeting because I know that forcing a 9-1/2 and 12-1/2-year-old to sit on Santa’s lap at the mall or finding time to host a gingerbread house-making party amidst our already packed winter schedule is just too stressful and, frankly, not worth it.  The same goes for filling the yard with plastic skeletons and styrofoam tombstones in October or dying and hiding three dozen eggs that no one will eat once found.  I’m learning that less really can be more.

So whether you’re a holiday powerhouse or a holiday slouch, do whatever works for you in order to have a very Merry Christmas, stress-free!

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– LJDT

This Thanksgiving, Balancing Gratitude with Complaints

I have a confession to make:  I struggled writing this post.  It’s Thanksgiving, so naturally I wanted this week’s post to be about giving thanks.  I started writing about all the things for which I am truly grateful — my supportive family, my good health, my comfortable home, etc. — but I felt like a fraud.  The kids were fighting, my head was aching and my house was a mess.  Instead of being grateful, I was screaming at the boys, whining about a head cold and bitching about having to clean crumbs off the kitchen counter for the fifth time in one day.  The more I forced myself to write, the more I felt like a liar … So I stopped writing.

Then this morning I woke up, worked out and got over it.  I put on my big girl panties and moved on.  Some days suck and it is difficult to see the blessings through the bullshit, but deep down I know my life is pretty good.  I am lucky to have so much to complain about.  It’s all about perspective.  As bad as you think it is, it can always be worse.

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Don’t get me wrong — this “revelation” doesn’t mean I’ll stop complaining.  Complaining is part of my charm.  Give me an hour and I’m sure I’ll have something to kvetch about (traffic, unruly kids, a stomach ache perhaps).  But at the same time, I’ll do my best to look for the silver linings.  For example:

  • I may complain about not being able to see, hear or control my bladder, but I will be grateful for my health.
  • I may groan about gray hair and wrinkles, but I will relish my maturity.
  • I may moan about sore muscles, but I will be invigorated by my morning workouts.
  • I may grumble about never-ending housework, but I will be appreciative of the roof over my head.
  • I may whine about having to drive the kids all over Southern PA for practices and games, but I will feel blessed that they are healthy, happy and engaged.
  • I may bitch about the mundane crap that fills my days, but I will be thankful for not having to work to make ends meet.
  • I may bellyache about feeling under-appreciated, but I will be humbled when readers tells me I’ve helped them feel less isolated and more understood.

Bottom line: This Thanksgiving, I feel lucky.  Lucky enough to complain and even luckier that the people and things I was grateful for last year still hold true this year.  Today I’m going to hold on to that lucky feeling and try really hard not to complain about anything.  I’ll go back to complaining tomorrow.

47efb9633bb2eddf5fa0c9db748431a8– LJDT

A Mother’s Day Poem, Inspired by L.L. Cool J

To all my mom readers, Happy Mother’s Day!

Whether you were pampered by your kids with breakfast in bed this morning or left alone to enjoy a day at the spa, I hope you were treated like a queen.  Mothering is tough and even thankless at times, but it is also the most rewarding job in the world.  Today is our day … Enjoy it!  In lieu of a Facebook shout out, I wrote my very own Mother’s Day rap.  Deejay, gimme a beat …

Around the Way on Mother’s Day

written by Lauren Dewey Tarr, to the tune of L.L. Cool J’s  “Around the Way Girl

I want a day with a few extra hours,

sunshine, smiles and some pretty flowers.

Loving children with no attitude,

that’s all I need to get me in a good mood.

No laundry, no clean-up, no yelling today,

just a helpful family who does it my way.

Standing in the kitchen, listening without bitching,

are these really my kids or did someone do some switching?

Playing together on their best behavior,

while my husband lets me nap – now he’s my savior.

They’re following directions, doing exactly as I say,

let’s hear it for the boys, they’re gonna make my day!

I want a calm and happy day,

no fanfare or cheer.

I need a happy Mother’s Day,

just one day a year.

Okay, so maybe L.L. Cool J won’t be calling me to collaborate on his next song any time soon, but my kids enjoyed it.  At least I like to think they did.  Happy Mother’s Day!

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Mother’s Day love, 2015

– LJDT

Staycation + Re-Lent = Spring No Break

Last week was Spring Break for my kids.  It came on the heels of three half-days, so by the time Monday rolled around, I had already had my fill of “kid time.”  It was also the first week of our “Re-Lent,” or “Lent, Part II” … What was I thinking?

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First, let me explain what “Re-Lent” is since I made it up.  Every year, like most practicing Catholics, the boys and I give up something for Lent.  Exactly what the kids sacrifice for 40+ days is their choice, but it has to be something that they will actually miss.  Like their iPads, phone or sweets.  Not homework, chores or vegetables as they offer up each year.  I usually give up cursing and chocolate … I’m not very successful, truthfully.  Anyway, this year we forgot to give up stuff for Lent.  Feeling like a bad Catholic, I decided to redeem myself and save the boys’ souls by declaring March 30th the beginning of “Re-Lent” in the Tarr household.  Like my “Resolution Do-Over” of 2014 (click here to read that post), we’d simply start over.  The plan was this:  Start Lent on March 30th and add twenty extra days to the end as a penalty.  “Re-Lent” (or “Lent, Part II) would be a 63-day sacrifice period, lasting until Memorial Day.  The kids were going to hate me, but my stomach and conscience were going to love me.

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As for Spring Break, we decided not to travel this year.  Last year’s road trip to South Carolina was (mostly) fun, (click here to read last year’s four-part blog series about our spring break escapades), but a vacation getaway wasn’t in the cards this time.  “Staycation” here we come!  Or is it, here we stay?  Anyway, I had a few fun activities planned for the boys, mixed in with a few not-so-fun things, like dental cleanings and Easter shopping, to make the week stress-free and enjoyable.  We started out strong, but quickly lost steam as the week dwindled and the togetherness grew.  It wasn’t the worst week, but it wasn’t the best either.  Here’s what I learned from Spring Break, 2015:

  • A break from our routine is good, but nine days is too much for us
  • Observing Lent (or, in our case, “Re-Lent”) sucks when the kids are out of school
  • Staycation ≠ Vacation.  Can you say, Spring No Break?!
  • Trying to write while the kids are home is nearly impossible, thus my blog silence last week
  • I NEED my morning gym time to stay sane
  • My kids love each other … until they can’t stand each other
  • Adding friends to the mix makes everything more fun
  • Sometimes the best days are the unplanned days
  • The week would have been worse if my boys were still toddlers
  • I love my kids, but I love them more when I get a regular break from them
  • Next year, we are going away!

Only 44 more days of “Re-Lent” and just 65 days until school’s out for summer break … Will we make it?

– LJDT

Happy St. March 17th

Just when I thought it was safe to put away the glue sticks after last week’s book report t-shirt task, my third grader came home with a  letter from his teacher detailing the fun, family project that was to be completed over the weekend — a leprechaun trap.  Are you kidding me? Obviously, his teacher doesn’t read my blog and clearly we have different ideas of what constitutes family fun.

Like I said last week, I don’t do third grade arts and crafts (click here to read the post), so the leprechaun trap was not going to be a family venture.  Luckily for me, my older son volunteered to help, so I got off easy without looking like a mean mom.  Score one for me!

I also don’t do the messy, mischievous leprechaun thing.  The leprechaun is the Irish cousin to the naughty Elf on the Shelf, and I don’t do that either.  St. Patrick’s Day at the Tarrs does not include green toilet water, tp’d kitchens or tiny footprints everywhere.

What did we do to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?  Green clothes and green food.  That’s it.  It was a very watered-down St. Patrick’s Day.  No tricks, no messes, no mayhem.  No gold coins, no trinkets, no treats.  No parades, no parties, no bar crawls.  Okay, those last three haven’t happened in almost two decades, but you get the idea.  Last spring, when I somewhat accidentally killed the St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun and the Easter Bunny (if you missed it, click here to read), I felt like I dodged a bullet.  But really, I turned a corner.  No more elaborate games or over-the-top decorations to celebrate, and no guilt about it.  St. Patrick’s Day is now simply St. March 17th, or “Green Day.”  And you know what?  It works for us.

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My leprechauns

So to all those moms and dads who didn’t stay up all night making leprechaun traps, swapping kids’ blankets and leaving gold, chocolate coins in the cereal bowls, I hope you had a happy St. March 17th — however you celebrated.

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– LJDT

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