Category Archives: kids

Laughter through the walls

Laughter through the walls

This past December, my husband and I took our two twenty-something-year-old kids on a vacation to St. Croix. I love vacationing as a family but the older your kids get the more opinionated they become on what is considered vacation worthy and what isn’t. Fun for laughter1my daughter is a beach.  Fun for my son is anything BUT the beach.  It gets a little heated between those two and telling them to face the wall and think about their behavior and tone doesn’t work anymore. My dream of being The Walton’s had faded long ago.

So in past vacations it usually came down to my husband and son claiming any activity with the word extreme in front of it, and my daughter and I sitting on a beach with an extreme tiki bar.

But this vacation was different. I thought someone had kidnapped my children, replacing them with siblings who could actually agree on something. When did this happen? It certainly hadn’t happened all through grade school when I paid my son to be nice to his sister for the babysitter.  It hadn’t happened when I paid my daughter to play NASCAR on GameCube with her brother. And for all of you who say bribery will get you no where… guess again. I was constantly asking my husband for $20.

laughter2It’s expensive trying to be the Walton’s.

During this vacation we went to tiki bars….TOGETHER! We went to beaches TOGETHER! Both wanted to ride wave runners and ride on ATV’s…TOGETHER!  I was dumfounded.  Was that my daughter covered in mud and laughing as her brother deliberately ran through every single mud puddle? When the Captain on a boat trip to an outer island invited my son to ride up on the bridge, his only question was, “can I bring my sister?”

Turning to my husband wide eyed, I said, “Did you bribe them to be nice to each other? Is that why you’re always searching for your wallet?  Did he really say, “Can I bring my sister”?

OMG we were the  freaking Waltons!

I always pictured a life with my grown children living close enough to drop in whenever they wanted, to come for Sunday dinner.  But my son was switching jobs and had accepted laughter4a position in California and my daughter, who would soon be graduating college, had accepted a job in Boston. Those sweet childhood years would be in my rear view mirror and my role as Mom was changing.  It’s a turning of the page, I guess.

At the end of our vacation both kids presented my husband and me with a thoughtful and generous gift; but they could have saved their money. Their friendship with each other was priceless. Their greatest gift to us was their laughter I heard through the walls long after we had gone to bed.  It filled me up with such happiness it’s hard to describe. Despite their bickering all those years it was evident they were their own biggest fans. My daughter told me it had always been so, that bickering and siblings go together.  Imagine the money I could have saved.

As we were getting ready to leave for the airport to catch our flight home and thinking we should be singing kumbaya, my son looked at my daughter and said, “You are not going to the airport in those shorts.”  And then my daughter looked at my son and said….facebookheart


I can’t really repeat what she said.

I’m not expecting perfection.

After all, the Walton’s aren’t a real family.








Because I said so!


I was standing in line at Dunkin Donuts behind a mother and her pre-school son, Thomas. They were discussing the family dinner plans. Thomas, like most kids today, was under the impression that his vote counted. Oh, I thought to myself, this should be interesting.

Mother: We will discuss what we are having for dinner when we get home and can include your sister in our decision.
Thomas: Jessica got to pick dinner last night; it’s my turn to pick dinner.
Mother: Yes, that’s true but we will discuss it as a family so everyone is happy.

And there is the first mistake…the discussion and subsequent negotiation over dinner plans made between a
40-something-year-old and her 5-year-old son.

When I was growing up my mother gave me two choices when it came to dinner: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. My takeorleave1happiness didn’t come into play. If I had friends over she never asked if they wanted curly macaroni or flat, crusts on or off, or this….which I swear one of my friends asked….do you want the napkin folded in a square or a triangle? If my mother had ever asked me how I wanted my napkin folded I would have run out of the room screaming thinking an alien had taken over her body.

One thing has become abundantly clear to me. From the time children are in pre-school, they are seasoned negotiators. We foster it. We allow it. I never negotiated with my parents. Their way or the highway? You betcha.

I didn’t learn how to negotiate until I was married.

Do you ever remember asking your parents “why” when they told you to do something? WHY? My mother would say. Now, let’s repeat all together people of my generation…WHY? BECAUSE I SAID SO! No negotiating, no family consensus,takeorleave2 no family hug. If my face showed that I wasn’t happy about the decision I would be told again folks, lets repeat together…STOP CRYING OR I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT.

I remember actually asking my kids what time was fair for a curfew. Are you kidding me, my mother who always sits on my right shoulder was frantically whispering…Who is the parent here? While growing up, my curfew was never up for negotiation. Was yours? There was one choice only: be home by the designated time or, or else. No negotiation or consensus necessary. Was I happy? No. Did my parents care if I was happy? No. Was I home by the designated time? No. But that’s a different article.

When did we get to the point we are today where everyone needs to be happy or you feel like you have failed as a parent. Kids today don’t know what it’s like to be unhappy. They barely ever hear the word N0 and they feel they deserve the last word, or a word, in the ever-present family negotiations.

takeitorleave4Nothing was discussed with me or my siblings and guess what? We had awesome childhoods! We had plenty of our own decisions…kid decisions. Like, would I ride my bike to school or walk? Would my brother play baseball or soccer? Would my sister play with Sandy or Doreen after school? We weren’t asked our opinion on dinner, on where we went on vacation, or what color should our next car be. We heard the word no and lived with it. We expected it. And if you asked me to name one adjective to describe my childhood, it would be the word HAPPY with a capital H.

We were better off and better prepared for life’s disappointments.

So if I could have interrupted that mom I would have told her that her child isn’t quite a lawyer yet…that she can say no.

And that when she got home she should use another line from my awesome, happy, and filled with the word NO childhood….SOMEDAY WHEN YOU ARE MY AGE YOU WILL UNDERSTAND.







too busy 1I spent an afternoon with a few girlfriends and one of them asked me to help her load pictures from her camera onto her computer. I said, “Don’t you have 3 kids at home who can upload, download, share, and/or tag anything faster than you can say the word help?” “They have no patience for me,” she responded. Another girlfriend, “they only want to show me something once.” Then, “they are always putting me off…too busy.” Seriously, I thought? No patience? They’re too busy?

I’m wondering how these kids would have responded if their mothers had the same impatience when it was time for potty training. Can you imagine as they cried because they needed a diaper change if we rolled our eyes and
said ….Really? Again?

When it was time to teach them to ride a bike without training wheels how about if we said, “are you kidding me? too busy 2Didn’t I just show you this yesterday? Don’t you have a friend you can ask?”

I’m sure you fondly remember making yourself available to teach them how to throw a baseball, a football, a frisbee, to ice skate, swing a racquet, a golf club, do a cartwheel, a forward roll. Just imagine their faces if we had said, “does it have to be done right now?”

The list goes on and on of what we did with patience and smiles. We spent weeks explaining how to tie one’s shoelaces, sip from a cup, and then when it was finally accomplished we clapped like they had won the Pulitzer. You put your own socks on?! You pulled your pajama pants up?! YAY! Clap, Clap, Clap! I clapped so much I had calluses on my palms.

I can’t remember ever once rolling my eyes at my kids, can you?

I didn’t think so.

A friend had the best retort when her son complained about helping her with her iPod. “Look, she said, it took me months to potty train you. Sit down and show me this.”

Right on, girlfriend.

I admit, technology issues do need to be explained a few times before I understand enough to be proficient. But once I have it down I’m pretty good at remembering how to do it. And sometimes, after getting impatient waiting to be shown how to do it, I figure it out. Our kids must think that if they just ignore us, maybe we will have to figure it out on our own. Maybe it’s their way of showing us tough love?

too busy 3Maybe we should have tried the tough love approach when they wanted us to teach them to parallel park.

But what a feeling when on my own, I do figure it out.

Hah! I want to shout. I did it! I did it!

Who needs those uber-busy, hyper connected, impatient and oh so brilliant, incredibly fast texting children anyway.

After realizing nobody was coming home from college or driving 900 miles from Michigan to show me how to make an on-line photo album, I researched, did a few trial and error uploads to my computer, Photoshopped all the photos so that nobody looked better than me, got rid of red-eye, tagged people, I even added music! I cropped photos, made an album cover, and allowed people to post and share comments. Then I sent all the photos out electronically for printing to Snapfish.

All on my own thank you very much. too busy 5

As I hit SEND I secretly wait for someone to clap, to say YAY, to give me a prize, a ribbon, a trophy, anything as I had done for so many years.

So I called my mother.

And she clapped.

(Thank you DL for the inspiration, and for my Mom who always clapped the loudest)



group runners 4My dad looked at me and said, “That’s disgusting.” You’re wondering had someone neglected to pick up after their dog, a teenager getting sick in an ally after too much drinking, was it the sight of me in yoga pants? Nope. He was referring to the parents at a cross-country track meet for 10-12 year olds.

The track meet started out well enough. That is until the man standing next to me suddenly ran across the track, sprinted across the field to catch up with his son who was clearly struggling to finish. I thought he might be the coach until I realized he was obviously right off the NYC train in a suit, tie, and really nice shoes. He was running along side his son. Running backwards while his son ran forwards, picture it…in a suit, shouting, “C’mon Connor, don’t give up. Keep your head up Connor. Lift your knees Connor. Keep it up. KEEP RUNNING CONNOR!”

Are you disgusted yet? Wait. There’s more.

A woman seeing that Connor had a leg up on the competition (for 10-12 year olds, I remind you) had the same running-with-her-daughter reaction. “RUN KAYLEE…RUN FASTER…RUN HARDER!” Unlike running-in-a-suit-dad, Mom was not dressed for success but rather in yoga pants and let’s just say that um…maybe she should try exercising more regularly before she decides to run… backwards…in yoga pants. Anyway, I digress. group runners

I looked around wondering if every parent would suddenly run backward to their child running forward. Maybe someone was filming a You’ve Been Punked television clip. But these parents were serious and that’s when my dad said, “that’s disgusting.”

I could picture running-in-a-suit-dad thinking, “If Connor doesn’t win this race he won’t make the high school track team, which means that his HS resume for any college won’t be good enough, which means that he won’t get an internship and then he won’t get a job, and will probably not even go to college, and will be a failure and live at home for the rest of his life. Thus, “PICK YOUR HEAD UP CONNOR. PICK UP YOUR KNEES CONNOR. FINISH THE RACE!” UPENN DEPENDS ON IT!” OK, he didn’t say the UPENN part.

I’m out of breath just reading that last paragraph.

Why do so many parents think their kids have to be destined for Division 1? Can’t anything be just fun and not so $&#?ing serious?

I know there’s no “going back” because so much emphasis is on winning, competing, being the best, and of course that college scholarship that needs to be honed from the age of 8. I spent 7 years watching Sarah Mintz’s feet kick in front of me during competition swim meets. 7 years of never winning. Thank goodness my father never tried to swim alongside.

I’m glad I grew up when I did. The music was better and parents didn’t have a role in our sporting practices or group runners6competitions. We had terrific school coaches to facilitate and encourage us. No traveling teams, no sports that lasted 8 months, no personal trainers, no parents running backwards while we ran forwards. We played whatever sport we chose whenever we chose. Parents? They picked us up at the end of practice, they cheered during competitions, they stayed put in the stands.

Growing up, I was on many teams yet despite the absence of parents, I managed to learn to throw a football, field a baseball, out-swim my brother, execute a pretty good lay-up, play a decent game of tennis, and cheer on the sidelines for The West Orange Cowboys. Thankfully that was good enough for my dad.

The only time I ever remember my father stepping in was when horrified, he realized I was throwing a baseball with the wrong leg in front. After correcting that problem he went back in the house. Other than that, it was hands off. Go outside and have fun, and it WAS fun!

So back to Connor and Kaylee, both of whom were sitting on the track not finishing the race despite their parent’s athletic ability. Coming around the last turn was one little girl who was not struggling to finish. As a matter of fact, she was winning.

This little girl stopped her race foregoing her chance at a win and went over to Kaylee. Offering her hand she helped her friend up and they walked to the finish line together.

Need I say more? group runners 3

Tag or Dodgeball anyone?


Today, most of us will not allow our kids to be bored. It’s like the 11th commandment: Thou shalt not be bored. We quickly drive them to the mall, the movies, suggest they invite friends over, and wear ourselves out so that they don’t need to figure something out. They have pools in their yards, finished basements that are more fun than the boardwalk and yettag3 they can’t figure out what to do with themselves when they have some down time.

When growing up if I ever told my mother I was bored, she simply said, “well then you’re boring. Figure something out or I’ll give you something to do,” which usually meant clean the bathroom, organize my closet or clean out the garage. I learned quickly to find something to do.

tag2 My childhood was heaven because I was lucky enough to live on a cul-de-sac with 4 other families all of whom had kids within a year of each other. Our mothers had the same mantra: “don’t bother me, just be home for dinner.” So I had 4 mothers, 11 friends, and 2 dogs at all times willing to walk to school, ride bikes, play tag, baseball, hopscotch, hide and go seek, play with Barbie and GI Joe, and chalk the sidewalk.

No boredom and no parental intervention. Well, I take that back…with 4 mothers someone was always lifting a window to tell one of us to get a sweater, but they never intervened unless Sandy was crying or Val had a tooth knocked out. Aside from that, we were on our own.

I was reading an article about how today’s children have a problem with self-regulation. I think that’s a new way of saying that kids today don’t know how to “figure it out.” I don’t think they know how to self-regulate because we regulate and figure it all out for them. Take this conversation I had with a friend of mine to try to find the time for their family to come over for a bar-b-que:

“Andrew (16) will have very little time this summer because he is volunteering at the Goryeb Children’s Hospital, and he will need to start his SAT prep classes, tag7 then he is taking a 4 week course at Cornell, then some one-on-one pitching training with a private baseball trainer, then perhaps a follow-up with another SAT prep class.”

I’m guessing little Andrew would love to be bored. As a matter of fact with this sort of summer he may even enjoy cleaning the bathroom or organizing the garage.

My summers were a bit different: Volunteer? I volunteered to weed my grandfather’s garden. SAT Prep? We didn’t even have summer reading back then and besides, IT WAS THE SUMMER! A college course at an Ivy? No comment available that could be printed. Training to excel in a sport? My brother went 0-99 at bats one summer. My dad’s solution: try soccer.

Then to make matters worse, I read that many schools are banning the game of tag and dodge ball during tag1recess. My friends of a similar age, I ask you…can you even believe this? Too many kids left out, they say, too many kids with hurt feelings when they aren’t picked for a team. Really? How about when they’re not picked for a college, for a job? And judging from my high school reunion, those kids who weren’t popular enough then to be picked first for a playground team are now titans of their industries. It all comes around sooner or later so relax.

I admit…I’m not much better with down time. Usually when I find myself with nothing to do I exert myself in Nordstrom and I was just as intent on making sure my kids built their college resume with the best of them. But I’m forcing myself to embrace the down-time without drinking too much wine.

I’m trying to figure it out, as my mother would say. Funny thing is, yesterday I spent an entire day cleaning out my closet! My grandfather would sometimes say he was “watching the air.” I’m trying to do that too. It really is lovely on my back deck. I’ll try and stay out of Nordstrom when I have nothing better to do and instead pick up a book. Maybe even pick up a pan which would make my husband very happy.

And I think the tide may be shifting… My daughter just texted me from college to say she was named captain of her intramural team. “What sport,” I asked. “DODGEBALL,” she replied.

I love it!!

The Drop-Off



This was the first article I ever had printed in the paper and given the subject matter and the time of the year and the fact that it’s all happening again, I thought I would add it to my blog

During a trip I recently took, I both sent and received the following texts from my friends: “it takes time to get over it, there is nothing worse, you will have good times and then you will be a crying mess again”. At the same time my daughter sat in the back seat of our car texting her friends and giggling. Later, she answered her phone and I heard her say, “Yeah, both my parents are crying too.

dropoff6Thankfully this is nothing as serious as death, divorce, or cancer, but rather the yearly trek that some of us make taking our kids to college…the drop-off. And if one more person tells me “I’ll be fine,” I think I will throw up. Of course I will be fine and I’m hopeful I will love my new life, but I’m not quite ready to be on the road to recovery just yet. I’m thinking of starting a support group like AA for those of us recovering from the drop-off. We could call ourselves DOA – Drop-Off Anonymous. We no longer would have to tear up alone…in the car, in the bathroom, making a bed, hiding our tears behind sunglasses, ashamed and alone. We could all do it together – once a week for as long as it took to get a grip. We would recognize and deal with the stages of recovery. We could have sponsors who are fully recovered and would give us hope.

My youngest left last Thursday for college and I am no longer a sack of drippy emotions. For the last 3 weeks, most of my friends have also been dropping their kids off at various colleges and so we are all in different stages of recovery. We’re like emotional cheerleaders for each other. “Hang in there!” “As long as they’re happy you can be happy!” Nobody really expects to feel happy, but just knowing that we are all being ridiculous (You’re probably thinking “pathetic”) is helpful.

Those of us who have been through the college drop-off before are familiar with the first stage: denial. We knew what the “first timers” were in for and tried to warn them. But like children with no point of reference, they had no idea what they were in for and happily went on their way buying bedding, microwaves, fans, and USB ports. The denial stage made them blissfully unaware of what this spike on their VISA bill really meant. Those of us all too familiar with this stage started with the tears weeks in advance of the actual drop off. We wistfully looked at mom’s walking their young children to school, wondering, where did all the time go?

The depression phase started the last 2 weeks in August when were all walking around in different stages of duress. Everywhere I went I saw women who were usually rushing through Shop Rite in yoga pants, sweaty from their most recent workout of Guns, Buns, and ABs clutching a phone in one hand and a food list in the other, instead, acting sort of weepy and slowly ambling down the aisles. We were like zombies anxiously awaiting THE DATE as it loomed ever closer. “When is your date?” I would ask. “August 15th, August 21st, August 30th” they would mumble. You would think we were sending our kids off to slaughter. Get a grip, I kept telling myself, your new life awaits! My mother to me, “get over it Tracy, you will cry for a week and then you will be fine.” Gee thanks, mom.

It’s been 2 weeks since the drop-off and I’m in the transition phase of my recovery. During this phase the worst is over. You are calmer and go most of the day without tearing up. It helps that I hear from my kids regularly. Texts will come in at 3 in the morning so my sleep is interrupted but I force myself to remember that I love and miss them so much that I don’t mind searching for my glasses, turning on a light, picking up the phone to read, “hey” on my dropoff3phone. “Hey?’ How do you answer a “hey?” From this profound and well written message I can see that they are up at 3 in the morning, and I tell myself the university library is open 24 hours so I know they are studying. I get pictures of food so I know they are eating, pictures of school mascots and 60,000 of their friends so I know they are getting social interaction. No pictures or texts of getting an education, but I don’t want to dampen their mood.

The side effects are receding and I believe I am into the acceptance phase of my recovery. I am getting used to putting myself first and there is considerably less laundry. I find joy in the fact that my daughter can no longer use the laundry basket as a drawer. The laundry fairy has been freed. It makes me smile that my son, a college senior, has to get up before noon and that it will occur to him (on his own, and not by a nagging parent) that if he wants to stay up till 3 in the morning it may be difficult to function. I practically beam to think that one of the stops in his day is finding time to go grocery shopping. And that guess what? Dinner just doesn’t appear every night at 6:30! Do I sound giddy? You bet.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do miss them…every day. I was never one of those mothers who cheered when the bus came in early September to pick my kids up for their first day of school. But instead of having until 2:30 to do anything for me only, I have until Thanksgiving. I’m doing things I have thought about doing for years. I’m taking a writing course, I’m volunteering, and I’m only doing the food shopping once a week! But the best thing about being home alone is the fact that my husband and I no longer say to ourselves…can we do this? Because, YES WE CAN! We saw the Eagles in Atlantic City and Madonna at Yankee Stadium and we didn’t have to worry about who was home or who may need us. As a matter of fact, upon getting home at 3 in the morning I did something I’ve always wanted to do…I texted my kids, “hey!”

Recovery is sweet.dropoff4



My son, my first born, just graduated from Georgetown University, and a word I knew he had no idea the meaning of was about to become his reality. S.T.R.U.G.G.L.E. Even if only just a little, I think to myself with a hint of a diploma

It’s not really his fault that he doesn’t know the meaning of this word. Are there any kids in my neighborhood or any of his friends who know what it means to “struggle”? I think not. (My husband will say that I don’t know what it means either, but this isn’t about me.) Thanks to us insane parents, everything has always been easy for them as we have done everything to make their lives struggle free. And it’s been exhausting. “Batter up!” as they say, and it’s no longer my turn!

Georgetown had been rigorous and competitive, but this wasn’t the struggle I was hoping for and smiling about. I was thinking of life’s struggles: rent, car insurance, dealing with the cable company, withholding tax.

I had been preparing him for months that in today’s precarious economy (a) he may not graduate with a job, and (b) he shouldn’t expect to love it. He would need to struggle along with many other college graduates, to find one.
It wasn’t that I didn’t think he was job worthy, it’s just that when you have HR people asking what type of animal he thought he would be instead of asking about his credentials, It was clear finding a job wouldn’t be that easy.

So what happens? He lands a dream job before he graduates in an industry he loves and wanted. (I guess he answered the animal question correctly). One minute he’s clinging to my leg in Kindergarten and the next thing I know he’s packing up and heading for Michigan. My husband and I looked at each other and wondered what just happened? What about the struggle to land a job, the terrible economy? Who would take out the garbage? I was sad to see him go….sort of.

tp beachUp until this point the struggle for him and his friends was wondering if they should come back from the shore on Sunday or Monday. Now, no matter what they decided, they needed to get to work on Monday.

Before, the struggle for them was making a decision on which of 1000 channels they should watch rather than caring how much money it cost. Now, with having to pay for those channels, suddenly any channel over 13 may not be worth it.
And do these channels just magically appear? No. They will need to be in touch with the cable company where I’m hoping he will be put on hold for 30 minutes and struggle to remain sane after he is cut off a time or two. Am I smiling? You bet.

Now he will have to deal with a boss. Would he be able to first look him up on a “rate my manager” internet site and pick who he wanted to work for, like the “rate my professor” site he used at college? NO!

My son was appreciative of his life at home, but there was no way he knew how good he had it. I could picture him saying at a very inopportune time…”what do you mean there is no toilet paper?” OMG I am rolling on the floor.

So he’s been there for a month and every time he calls I am waiting for him to say how much he misses us and that he wants to come home…that the struggle to be on his own is more than he can handle. But guess what? He’s not
struggling – at all.

Turns out the folks in the Midwest are wonderful and friendly and everyone wants to know why he doesn’t sound like Snookie and her friends. The cable representatives are in fact very competent and their prices are cheap so he still has 1000 channels to pick from. His neighbors have invited him to dinner. Gas, food, and rent are cheaper. Maybe it’s just NJ that sucks.

His weekends aren’t spent studying and catching up with projects. He’s not exhausted from the rigors of college. He likes his boss and co-workers and finds the job challenging. He’s getting paid to work and he loves it. He’s, shall I say…happy? I keep thinking, well just you wait till its February in Michigan, Mister, but I don’t want to sound bitter.

I miss him, but clearly he’s not struggling which should make me proud. I am. tp heart

We are visiting soon and guess what? He says he will be cooking for me and just because I can’t help myself and because I can’t think that he’s totally self-sufficient, I tell him that I’ll do the dishes.

VACATION? Not so much.


VACATION? Not so much.

I was sitting in Newark Airport with my family getting ready to board a flight to our vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico. Sitting next to me was a family with 2 kids, ages 2 and 4. They had strollers, car seats, crayons, coloring books, teddy bears, sand trucks, blankets, juice cups, goldfish crackers, etc. I had 2 kids in tow, ages 18 and 21 with 2 iPods. I smiled to myself thinking my vacation would be a real vacation. I could relax and I wouldn’t have to haul anything. baby stuff 1

What I soon came to realize was that it’s never a relaxing vacation unless you leave your kids home.

Having breakfast the next morning at our hotel, I heard a mom of toddlers say, “let’s go to the pool! “Yay!!”, the kids replied. “Let’s go to the beach!” I heard another young mom say. “Yay!!” her kids replied. At this age you speak, they listen. You go, they follow. Not once did I hear, “mom your wearing THAT on the beach?” There are smiles all around.

I tried for the “smiles all around” effect but the pool is boring for my son yet sounds great to my daughter. Swimming at the beach is too cold for my daughter but my son is all for it. ATVing is great for my son but my daughter would prefer to go horseback riding.

My husband and I both felt like King Solomon. Which child do we get rid of?scales

I wondered if we just dug a giant hole in the sand and gave them shovels and trucks if that would make them happy like it used to. But then I remembered…I didn’t bring any shovels or trucks.

Going on a family vacation with adult children is quite different from a vacation with young children. With young children you are all going down the same road. Yes, you probably need a U-Haul trailer just to get to the beach, but it’s the same road and most importantly there is no negotiation.

With our vacation everyone wanted a different road. Some wanted to take the extreme ATV road while others wanted to take the snorkeling road. Some chose the off-road racing on the Baja road while others chose the sunset cruise road. There was the deep-sea fishing road instead of the spa road. How about LETS TAKE A NAP ROAD? Do I hear a “Yay?”

Why was I so smug as I watched that young couple wrestle with their strollers and car seats. Surely it’s easier when a coloring book and a juice box make them happy. Throw in a few goldfish and they’re ecstatic.

Then there are the night time activities. With young children the nighttime activity is a bath and a book. Bedtime is 7:30.nap

Night time activities with adult children are quite a different story. They want to go out…INTO THE NIGHT….ALONE….IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY…AND DRINK MARGARITAS….

When the clock strikes midnight and my kids still haven’t returned, I find myself thinking of that young family probably all snuggly in their hotel room. The parents are probably relaxed and sipping wine on their balcony.

I hate them.

Meals thankfully were not an issue. Nevertheless, with 4 decision makers there was always a debate over when to eat and what to eat. At one point (possibly dreaming of pre-school days), I suggested we pick from a hat.

When they were little the meal time discussion went something like this…”let’s have noodles with butter for dinner!” “Yay” they would reply.

And then the incredible happened. With so much left over food in the refrigerator and all of us tired from traveling down our many different roads, we decided, AS A FAMILY, to stay in and eat the leftovers. We pulled all the food out, set the table up on the patio, put the iPod in the docking station and actually agreed on the music (Bob Marley). We laughed looking at all the pictures we had taken; we talked about hoping to do this again next year. margaritas

“Let’s have margaritas!” my husband said. “Yay!” they replied!

You can follow Tracy on facebook at Tracy Buckner: aging, kids, and why we self-medicate, or at

They’re BAAAAaaack!



Both of my kids are home from their respective colleges for their winter break.  I’m not sure why they bother to call it a winter break.  It’s more like a sabbatical, or a leave of absence. It’s A MONTH LONG.  When looking at the academic calendar I realized that they start school on September 4 and end on May 20th.  In between there are about 5 weeks of holidays. No wonder the entire world has better test scores…funny what happens when you actually go to school.

This is the first holiday season my husband and I are empty nesters. This means that instead of unloading 12 boxes of decorations for 3 trees, 7 wreaths, two 25 foot garlands, 15 holiday pillows, Santa’s that sing, reindeer that dance, and one Christmas village complete with lights, roads, cars, trucks, trees, houses, churches, planes, snow, ladders and lights, we will have one beautifully decorated tree and holiday pillows.  Will my kids be happy with this toned down look?  Of course not, but that’s what being an empty nester means…you no longer care.back tree pic

My job as resident nag/Queen of Worry is over.  I am biting my tongue.  I am shutting up. Clearly if they don’t want to eat breakfast, ( “Oreos are not breakfast.”) dress appropriately for winter (“you’re going out wearing that?”) or get 7 hours of sleep, (If they want to stay out till 2 in the morning I can hand out the aspirin when they wake up). It’s now their decision and they seem to have fared fine without my nagging.

When they go out for the evening I no longer  have to ask if the parents are home, if there is the right amount of kids to legally ride in the car, if homework is finished, gas in the car.  It’s like I had a clip board every time they left the house.  I don’t remember my mother ever asking me so many questions.  I was lucky if I got a, “what time will you be home for dinner” question.   For 3 glorious months I haven’t had to care, worry, Clipart Illustration of a Red Pencil Marking Of Items On A Checkor comment. What I don’t know won’t kill me. I feel freed.

So yes… they’re BAAAaack and gone is the cash in my wallet and once again I’m up till all hours of the night as their friends come and go.  I’m food shopping for the constant stream of high school friends who must not eat much in their own homes given how much they eat in my home.

And unbelievable as it sounds I’m doing the late night pick up again! My son is now 21 and his friends want to go into Morristown and try out the bar scene. But guess what? They need rides back and forth to Morristown.  It’s like déjà vu.  I get the late night call, stumble out of bed, get into a cold car, drive to Morristown and deliver the little darlings safely home.  All the homes are dark because THEIR PARENTS ARE SLEEPING.  It’s like all his friends have parents who don’t cook or drive.winecookies

But let me just say that even though I’m sleep deprived, cash poor and cooking for a crowd I am so happy they’re BAAAaack. And I’m happy their friends are back too and dropping in.  They used to come with sleeping bags.  Now they come with wine and cookies for me.  They’ve grown up and have been raised well. I don’t need to be worried. Happy Holidays!

Shana Tova/Buon Anno…it’s all the same, let’s eat!


My father is Jewish and my mother a Catholic Italian, so religion didn’t play a very big role in their courtship (much to both their family’s chagrin), or in their marriage (can I say much to my delight? Probably not a good idea, so scratch that). With my diverse and particular family history I had some experience being “stuck in services”.  Whether I was saying shana tova or buon anno it was all the same. Happy New Year….let’s eat!

Having been on both sides of the religion and holiday fence I can see that there are many similarities. Jews and Italians alike gather around a table, go to church/temple, are exhausted for a week afterwards and everyone regardless of their ethnic or religious background complain relentlessly. Too much cooking, too much company, too many dishes to clean, not enough time in the day, kids who get sick, in-laws who can’t cook, husbands who don’t do enough, blah blah blah. It’s part of the tradition in both cultures and I both love it and look forward to it.

There were many similarities between the time spent in church and at temple. First there was the fidgeting. All of us cousins fidgeted. There were 9 of us at church and 8 of us at temple. We giggled at the wrong moments and our giggling always got stronger and more uncontrollable at which point an aunt or uncle would shoot us a look and the giggling ceased without a word being uttered. It didn’t matter if it was my Jewish Aunt Esther or my Italian Aunt Adele…THE LOOK was THE LOOK. It meant “knock it off” and it was recognized in all religions.

Priest or Rabbi, the guilt was always front and center. You just can’t be a good Catholic or Jew without being told to feel guilty about something. My Jewish relatives listened to the Shofar blown during lengthy prayer services, ate holiday meals and refrained from work. It’s wasn’t much different for my Italian relatives. They listened to Frank Sinatra, ate holiday meals and refrained from work too.

For the Jewish holidays we went to my Aunt Rose’s house where we had to “open the door” for someone…I think it was Elija and for the Catholic holidays we went to my nanna’s house where she would gladly open the door to anybody with an appetite. My Italian mother’s motto: If I don’t recognize it, I’m not eating it. My dad’s motto: If I can’t spell it I’m not eating it which made the holiday a bit daunting with things like scungilli, calamari, and baccala being served. It’s not surprising he stuck with the shrimp.

The dining room tables in each home were huge and beautifully turned out. The food was wonderful, the wine sweet for the Jewish holiday and homemade for the Italian holiday. The marching orders were also similar: women in the kitchen, men in the family room. Or as I later came to realize, women cooking, serving, cleaning up. Men were eating, watching television, snoring on the couch. All my cousins were happy to be under the radar and not asked to do anything but to sit quietly at the table. Thankfully, it was never quiet at the table. There was conversation and no hand held devices. AlI we were asked to do was eat, which we gladly did. No cell phones, no tablets, no gameboys. We made eye contact. We ate, we drank, we spilled, we ate some more.

It doesn’t matter what is being served: brisket or linguini with clam sauce and can you even believe that my father now eats calamari? The similarities are what bind all of us: family, the eating, the drinking, the coming together, and even the walk to church or the ride to temple. Even the fidgeting is a happy memory for me. And to this day, my father still attempts to put his American Express card in the basket when it comes around at church. And guess who is giving him THE LOOK? ME! Talk about role reversal.

I wonder if the reason none of the cousins in either family – Italian or Jewish, were asked to help much was because the adults knew that soon enough our time would come to serve 20 plus for the holidays. That time is here and now it’s these same parents, aunts and uncles who sit at our beautifully turned out tables, with wine and amazing food while we cousins prepare, serve, clean, and of course, complain. (I’ve raised the complaining part to an art form). The people around the dining room table may change as some have passed on but the tradition is the same and I don’t ever want it to change. Well, I take that back. There is one thing that had to change… at least in my house. There is no such thing as women in the kitchen, men in the family room. If you can eat, you can clean up. Some change in the tradition is a good thing. Let’s eat!