Mother Knows Best

If you know my mother at all, you know her favorite things in life are black coffee and anything chocolate, Home Goods and Lord & Taylor, oldies music and the Sunday funnies, her friends and family — especially her two daughters and five grandsons (her husband and sons-in-law pull a close second. Sorry, guys). She’s a devoted grandmother who drives three hours to Pennsylvania for 24-hour visits on the regular, always with cupcakes and some new kitchen gadget that she “thought [I] might like” in hand. She’s a supportive mother who lets me vent without judgement, complain without correction and brag without limitation. And she’s a faithful wife who has survived over 49 years of marriage and almost as many years of coaching with my dad. She’s not without her flaws, but I wouldn’t trade her anything — on most days, anyway.

She’d do anything for her grandsons — even don a turkey hat in public. I’m sure I’ll pay for using this photo, but how could I not?

I’ve written in the past about my mom and identified the traits I’ve inherited from her — everything from her hair color and big hips to the inability to tell a succinct story. I’ve also received sage advice and useful life skills from her, like how to pluck my eyebrows, make sauce (although I’ve since altered the recipe to accommodate food allergies/sensitivities) and where to find the best deals. But some teachings go deeper than basic hair removal and savvy shopping tips; They offer life lessons worth their weight in gold. Here are the five that resonate with me the most:

  1. Lick the spoon. When cooking, baking or making chocolate milk … It’s the best part. Translation: Treat yourself and do what makes you happy.
  2. Dress the part. Even if you’re not the best tennis player (runner, yogi, etc.), you can still look cute in the outfit. My interpretation: Be confident in who you are.
  3. Never arrive empty-handed. A small gesture goes a long way. Meaning, be kind and generous to others.
  4. Your house, your rules; My house, my rules. Decoded as setting and respecting boundaries, both your own and others.
  5. Try your best and know that you’re doing a better job than you think you are. No explanation needed, just words to live by. #believeinyourself

Is Grace Dewey the next Tony Robbins? Not exactly, but she is one smart cookie. I’m not gonna lie … She can also be a hot mess and a huge pain in my ass at times (thus the short, 24-hour visits), but her heart is usually in the right place. Today is her 75th birthday and Thursday is Thanksgiving — what better week to tell the blogosphere how wonderful my mom is and how grateful I am to have her?

Happy Birthday, Mom! Chocolate cake and Motown to celebrate tomorrow when I see you.

c. 1973. One of my favorite photos, but why am I dressed like a clown at the petting zoo? So much for dressing the part!

– LJDT

Fourth Time’s a Charm? Not Exactly

Last Friday, I spent six hours at my son’s middle school for Parent Visitation Day. I think this should negate at least six of my bad mommy moments (one for each hour ) — am I right?

This should be on my next Mother’s Day card, for sure.

Since this is not my first rodeo, I’ll shed a little light for those unfamiliar with the concept: On Parent Visitation Day (PVD, as I like to call it), parents follow their student(s) around from class to class in order to get a feel for what their day is like. Spoiler alert: it’s long, chaotic and exactly as you remember middle school to be.

When it comes to this shadow day, there are three types of parents: The super excited class participators who think this is the best idea ever (most likely, they’re with their first-born child and this is their first experience with PVD); The badass rebel who’s been through it before and says, “Nope. Been there, done that,” so they skip it (hey, no judgement here!); And the reluctant rule-follower who’s there begrudgingly and will most likely cut out early. I fall in the third category, although I wish I was in the second.

Having already gone through this torture three other times with my older son, I swore I’d never do it again. The first time, when my oldest was in sixth grade, I naively suffered through a full day of classes. The following year, I bailed before lunchtime. And last year, I arrived late and only made it through a couple of classes before I ditched. Does this make me a bad mom? Maybe. If so, just add it to the list. But I’m also an honest mom and Parent Visitation Day is sheer misery for me. The chairs are uncomfortable, I pee too much and I think I have adult ADD. Or maybe I’m just too old and uptight to enjoy it. Either way, PVD is my tenth Circle of Hell.

When I read the calendar last week, for a brief moment I though I was in the clear now that my older son is in high school. I actually thought I had dodged a bullet — until I remembered that my younger son is only in the sixth grade. As a newly minted middle schooler, that means I have three more years of visitation days ahead of me. Ugh! So I held my breath and secretly prayed … Maybe he wouldn’t want me to go. Surprisingly, not only did he want me to go, he was excited about it. Despite my best intentions to avoid a PVD four-peat (is that what follows a three-peat?), mom guilt won out. So there I was last Friday, suffering through yet another middle school experience.

I know I should have been happy that my eleven-year-old was excited to spend time with me, but I also knew it wouldn’t last. Sadly, I was right. My son’s excitement petered out midway through first period when I made mistake #1: Offering my help in Spanish class. To ease the embarrassment, I bribed him with the two mini muffins that I grabbed from the parent visitation lounge (a.k.a., the library, where they were conveniently hosting a book fair and spirit wear sale). Crisis averted  — at least until lunchtime, when I committed mistake #2: Asking a few of his friends to pose for a photo. It went downhill from there.

Product of my mistake #2: Photo evidence of my middle school “freshman” and some of his buddies.

If the past four years of attending parent visitation days have taught me anything, it’s that I know my kids and I know my limits. My kids like the idea of me being with them at school, but not the reality of it. And my limits no longer include six hours of middle school … Or wearing a name tag.

Maybe next year he won’t be embarrassed, or maybe he’ll tell me to stay home. A girl can dream, right?

– LJDT

Graduating on the Down Low

It’s graduation season! Since the middle of May, social media feeds have been populated with pictures and posts of smiling kids — from college students down to preschoolers — wearing their ceremonial caps and gowns, waving their hard-earned diplomas. There’s usually a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding graduations, at least for most kids. Not mine. My boys “graduated” from middle school and elementary school, respectively, a few days ago without much fanfare. No caps and gowns. No moving up ceremonies. No commencement speeches. No leather-bound diplomas. No big family parties or expensive gifts, either. Nope, not here. We marked the occasion with haircuts and pizza before running off to basketball and lacrosse. Woo, hoo! Do we know how to party or what?!

Post-haircuts, pre-pizza (6/14/07)

I’m not complaining. As a matter of fact, I’m grateful that my boys’ schools didn’t make a big production out of it. Less pressure for me. While I am proud of my boys for successfully completing their respective levels of education, there’s really no need to over-emphasize it. Everyone “graduates” from elementary and middle school, don’t they? Do they really need a long, drawn-out, formal ceremony? I mean, three-year-olds in mortar boards are cute and all, but like everything else, it’s all a bit much. Preschool proms and grade school graduations have become the equivalent of participation trophies in youth sports. In my humble opinion, if we over-celebrate all the little achievements, the big ones are diminished. Shouldn’t an ice cream cone and a “Way to go, buddy!” suffice? But high school and college graduations, those are each a much bigger deal in my book. Those are accomplishments worthy of grand celebrations.

Both my oldest niece and my oldest nephew graduated from high school last week. This is a milestone to honor and of which both should be proud, given their individual experiences. Both experienced the traditional splendor that accompanies many high school graduations: the processional, a few speeches, a musical performance, awards, more speeches, diplomas and finally, the recessional. The only marked difference was the clothing: My niece went to a public school in Chicago, so like everyone in her graduating class, she donned the customary cap and gown in her school colors; My nephew, on the other hand, graduated from a small, private school in New York and was dressed akin to his male classmates in white pants, a navy sports coat, white dress shirt and blue school tie (girls wore long, white dresses). She was stunningly beautiful. He was tall and handsome. Both were happy, excited and relieved as they accepted their hard-earned diplomas in front of jubilant family and friends. Definitely a day worthy of more than just a pat on the back. But for my kids, finishing 8th grade and 5th grade, respectively, haircuts and pizza was enough.

My handsome nephew, surrounded by his brothers and cousins (6/16/17).

My beautiful niece, proudly displaying her HS diploma (6/15/17).

Some of you may think our school district is lame for not holding elementary school proms and middle school gradations. Some of you may think I’m a slacker mom for not making a bigger fuss about my kids’ “moving up” from one school to the next. You may even think I’m too negative or jaded. Maybe, but I’m thankful to UCFSD for not forcing my hand into something more elaborate and expensive. I believe everyone should do what works for them (this is my motto in life) — For me, that was pizza for dinner. For others, it was sending a limo to pick up their kids on the last day of preschool or hosting an all-out house party to celebrate the end of 5th grade. To those parents I say, your kids are luckier than mine. For real (no sarcasm intended).

So despite my belief that we should save the big festivities for the bigger triumphs, I do wholeheartedly congratulate all those who graduated this spring — be it from preschool or college or somewhere in between. Way to go! … Now go eat some pizza.

– LJDT

Keeping it Real … My Mother’s Day Wish List

Back in the day with the two who call me “Mom.”

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day — or as I call it, Sunday. In my world, there will be no breakfast-in-bed served or brunch reservations made. No homemade cards with glitter and still-wet glue to read or towering piles of extravagant gifts to open. No bouquet of fresh flowers to smell or surprise facial and much-needed massage booked at my favorite spa. And there definitely won’t be any sappy slide shows showcasing my most loving mom moments while Bette Midler’s song, “Wing Beneath My Wings,” plays in the background. Nope, not here … And I am perfectly fine with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d happily accept any of these gifts or gestures. But as the mother of two moody growing boys (a tween and teen whom I simultaneously cherish and want to strangle on a daily basis) and the wife of a more pragmatic than romantic man (whom I love dearly, despite his shortcomings), I just don’t expect such things …. And I really am okay with it. Really.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t confess to having a few lofty wishes, but I’m too much of a realist to think they’ll come true; I know how to lower the bar and set my expectations accordingly. So what’s on my Mother’s Day wish list? I wish to sleep until noon, but I’ll settle for 7AM. I wish to be smothered with hugs and kisses all day, but I’ll settle for a single, unforced hug and kiss from each of my boys. I wish for a full day of zen and blissful relaxation, but I’ll settle for a peaceful hour of gentle yoga and unforced help planting my vegetable garden. I wish my husband and kids could read my mind and get sh*t done without me, but I’ll settle for them doing what I ask when I ask and how I ask without attitude. I wish for world peace and human kindness, but I’ll settle for a single day without eye rolling, arguing or back talk.

Bonus points if someone buys me flowers. I prefer tulips or peonies (hint, hint).

Preach!

Happy Mother’s Day!

– LJDT