What Freedom Tastes Like (Apparently: Porkroll)

It happened earlier this week: On Tuesday, my youngest turned 17 and left the house before sunrise, returning a few hours later triumphant, with his new driver’s license in hand. I often say that he’s not the worst teenager I’ve ever met, and generally cheery, but this new found independence sent him into a profoundly manic state.

“This is, like, the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said, sitting at the counter in our kitchen examining his new license. He couldn’t stop smiling and said it was the best birthday present, even though I’d just given him new AirPods.

We sat and chatted for a bit and then he ordered a porkroll-egg-and-cheese on a roll (no salt/pepper/ketchup) from a nearby deli, which — if you live in New Jersey — is apparently what freedom tastes like. Then I watched as he slid into the Honda Civic I’d leased a few weeks ago and backed out of the driveway to go pick up his celebratory sandwich and head to school and bask in all the birthday good wishes.

It wasn’t until later, when I was thinking about my youngest child’s new set of wings, that it occurred to me that for the first time in 27 years, I was no longer pinned to one of my children’s pick up and drop off schedules. That I, too, had been set free.

I’ve been towing kids around for so long that when I had my first baby in 1992, new parents were instructed to strap rear-facing infant seats into the front seat of the car. Like, a crybaby was my copilot for a good year until his sister came along and all of a sudden, all cry babies were mandated to be moved to the rear.

I shuttled my kids all over creation, like every other mom, in vehicles littered with crushed goldfish and empty juice boxes they’d stuff into cupholders, leaving a sticky residue on everything they touched. I can’t tell you how many times I had to disassemble a car seat to wipe barf from its every nook and cranny, and as this was well before the dawn of smartphones and iPads, we listened to a lot of Broadway cast recordings and could sing the entire libretto of The Music Man and Oklahoma at one point.

And as my four kids were spread out over 10 years, all that driving went on for a very long time.

The driving pinnacle came when I had four kids in four different schools, had gone back to work full time and was in the midst of a contentious divorce. I’d race to pickups muted while listening in on conference calls while the high school kids argued about who should have been picked up first. I even outsourced driving the youngest back and forth to preschool by signing him up for one that provided bus service. 

Eventually — meaning 17 years later — they started to get their licenses and we slowly began adding used cars to the fleet so they could get themselves where they needed to be (school, work, practice). When my third kid got her license, I finally had someone who could also help with errands and she gladly went food shopping and to Costco for a toilet paper haul. And she happily drove her little brother to and from wherever he needed to be.

But when she went away to college five years ago, that driving gravy train screeched to a halt and I was back shuttling the baby around. 

The upside to the fourth kid, though, is that he’s pretty resourceful and usually gets himself where he needs to be. My biggest driving responsibility the last few years has been getting him to school each morning, which I kind of strong armed my neighbors into sharing with me, dangling the promise that once my guy got his license, he’d gladly drive their kid to school until he got his own license. 

In fact, when I texted my neighbor on Tuesday to tell her the good news, that we’d NEVER have to be part of the terrifying drop off situation at the high school, she replied, “That’s a fabulous Christmas present for us all!!”

My third kid lives right outside DC now and she and I Facetimed on Tuesday after her little brother got his license and she joked that now I could just send him to the market to buy his own ham, which is what he eats every day for lunch at school and it seems like we’re always running out and I need to go buy more. 

“You just need to give Nick a credit card and you never have to do anything again,” she said, and we laughed at how true that was.

He’s lined up a babysitting gig for tonight — which means I can go out without worrying he’s going to throw a rager at our house and that I also don’t have to pick him up anywhere; and on Sunday he can drive himself to a 6 p.m. indoor lacrosse game a half hour away so I can go to my girlfriend’s holiday open house; and on Monday, he can be the Uber driver for me and my girlfriends so we can have a glass of proseco at our annual holiday lunch. 

Honestly, this kids growing older thing is really working out for me, and it was only 27 years in the making. 

Did you know I send out a newsletter on (most) Fridays, sharing all my faves-du-jour plus snippets from what’s going on in my life? Well, it’s true and you can sign up to get it plopped right in your inbox each week, by signing  yourself up.

If you are reading this on your phone, scroll down to the bottom, past my face, until you see NEVER MISS A POST.

If you’re on the computer, simply look to the right for the same form to plug your email into. 

The Importance of Being Alive

I was in the middle of doing a sit up when Dan asked me how I was doing after getting dumped last week. I’d actually been waiting to tell my friend about this romantic development until it felt a little more legit. My friend Dan is a lot of things — hunting advocate, sworn enemy to sugar, an occasional handyman when things are falling apart in my house — but he’s also skeptical of men and their intentions. He’s also often right, which can be maddening.

So, I didn’t really want to hear anything negative about this new dude. I was trying to use my own BS monitor to assess the situation without letting anyone else color my opinion. 

But then the new dude straight up dumped me while my dumb dog was snuggling in his lap, and I reported the situation to Dan the next time I saw him.

“It’s gotta be tough,” he said as I lifted my upper body off the ground to touch my right toe with my right hand in midair. “Now you’re never going to want to date.”

I sat up on my purple yoga mat and wrapped my arms around my knees and told him that in fact, thanks to Adam Driver, I was feeling quite the opposite.

“You’re not really going to understand this because you’re not a Broadway dork,” I told him, “but I watched the movie Marriage Story last night and Adam Driver sings a song from the musical Company at the end and it killed me but also reminded me what life is all about.”

The song, “Being Alive,” comes at the end of both the movie and the Sondheim show when the main characters come to realize that it’s the messiness of life, the complications of being in relationships, that means we’re alive. It’s not just standing on the sidelines and making sure we’re never going to get hurt, but getting in there and playing the game, whether we win or lose.

My therapist, Jennifer, had told me as much when I reported a few weeks earlier that I’d started dating someone. I’d told her there were some red flags, some things he’d said that were troubling. “What if he’s just a douche like all the guys around here?” I asked, pointing out that lots of dudes where I live are successful and have the giant egos to match their bank accounts, which confuses them into thinking they can behave badly. 

But Jen wasn’t having it. She told me that was like saying all women were gold diggers and that I needed to stop standing on the sidelines wringing my hands. She reminded me of a story I told a few years ago onstage about finding the courage to jump off a cliff with my young daughters at a quarry one hot summer day in Vermont. 

How we’d sat on our picnic blankets eating lunch and watched people get to the edge and jump, and it looked so easy. But when we got up there and I looked down at the cold water below, I panicked.

A few months earlier I’d told my husband of 17 years I wanted a divorce and that was a giant leap off a cliff of indecision I’d been standing on for a long time. It was terrifying but also propelled my life in a healthier direction. 

In the end, the girls and I counted to 3 and leapt off the ledge of the quarry and plunged into the icy green water below. The bracing temperature and thrill of flying through the air propelled us back to the surface where we floated on our backs for a bit and caught our breath. It had been scary, but worth it.

“What do you have to lose?” Jen asked. “Jump.”

So I did. And for a few weeks, I felt pretty alive. And it was nice, despite the outcome.

Then Adam Driver started to sing at the end of Marriage Story and I immediately knew the song, because I’d seen the show when it was revived on Broadway in 2006. By then, I understood the complexities of marriage and relationships — topics dealt with in the play with lyrics only Sondheim could write. And I remember sitting in the darkened theater listening to the words of the final song, “Being Alive,” which acknowledge how annoying relationships can be — partners can be needy and hold us too close, hurt us too deep — but also, remind us of being alive. 

“But alone,

Is alone,

Not alive.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I said to myself when Driver started to sing, my eyes starting to water. I’d been sitting on my couch feeling sorry for myself, when I impulsively started the movie two hours earlier. “You’re going to starting singing THIS song?”

But it was a gift. As was the whirlwind relationship. Because it reminded me that what I most want out of this life was to live it. 

And not alone. 

Take the plunge and sign up for my Friday newsletter where I generally overshare whatever’s going on in my life, and some things I can’t get enough of like books, podcasts, movies and sometimes: bras. 


Who’s Your Favorite?

I read in the Skimm this week that the actor Steve Carrell told Ellen he had a favorite child and I was like, “Wow, good for him.”

Unlike Carrell, I do not have a favorite kid. Much like my extensive shoe collection, each child is perfect under certain conditions. Whether I need practical or pretty or something that just gets the job done, I always have just the right footwear for the occasion. As such, having an extensive selection of children has had its advantages as well.

But my children would wholeheartedly disagree. The oldest three are convinced the baby is the apple of my eye. The older two also suspect their younger sister, the third child, also might be at the top of the family totem pole, because she’s weird like me. The oldest child might also think he’s got a special place in my heart, as my first baby, which leaves Child #2 – our very own Jan Brady – resigned to her supposed lower station in life.

“I know I’m nobody’s favorite,” she’ll say, in that, “I got a rock,” Charlie Brown voice of hers.

The truth is, when I need a shopping or wine drinking partner — not to mention makeup advice — she’s my go-to girl. There’s also no one who can build a fire like that woman. So I don’t know what she’s talking about.

Also, none of this angst actually applies to the fourth child. He is fully confident that my obsession with him, I’ve learned to appreciate grizzly teenagers, guarantees his top spot amongst his older siblings.

Growing up, it was clear that of the eight of us siblings, I was not my mother’s favorite child. That was obviously a younger brother who got to sit next to her in the front seat of our station wagon and accompanied our mom on her weekly Saturday food shopping expeditions while the rest of us were stuck at home watching sports with our father. Woe to the child of the 1970s trapped at home with one TV, 4 siblings and ABCs “Wide World of Sports” as your only viewing option.

Even a couple of years ago, my mother and two of my sisters went to see a concert around Christmastime and stayed overnight in a hotel and when I heard about it, I was like, “Wait. I like music.” Some how I still hadn’t made it to the top of the invite list and even at 50, it hurt.

So I’m aware of what it’s like to feel left out. How it presses those old childhood wounds. Even if you are being crazy and not applying the Four Agreements, DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY, commandment (so simple and yet … ).

That’s the trouble with having a ton of kids. On the one hand, there’s always someone standing by to be your playmate and on the other, you really need to include everyone to avoid hurt feelings, which complicates everything.

A few years ago, I was at a little shop that had great greeting cards (I LOVE sending cards) and bought four that said, “I’m glad we don’t have to say out loud that you’re the favorite,” and mailed each one off to a child. And they were all pleased with themselves until a few months later when, over dinner one night, they pieced together that each sibling received the card as well.

Even now, it’s a sore subject, evidenced by my older daughter just calling me a “dick” in a text when I asked her to remind me what the card said.

Luckily, I don’t anticipate a “Sophie’s Choice” situation any time soon in my life. I can’t imagine having to chose one child over another. It would be like saying, “Amy, you can only have your Birkenstocks or your Hokas, but not both.”

That would truly be a tragedy.

A Public Service Announcement

On Sunday morning, I woke up with a pain in my side, right where my ribs would be if I had ribs (am convinced I was born without them). After a little poking, I determined it wasn’t coming from the inside, as if I’d done too many sit ups or was presenting with appendicitis. It was more of an external pain, like I’d been bruised although how I would have bumped the area kind of under my right boob is beyond me.

I lay under the covers and pressed down on the spot where I felt the discomfort and rubbed my hand along my torso under my shirt. Nothing seemed out of place.

Eventually, I had to go to the bathroom and when I was finished, walked over to the super sonic magnifying makeup mirror on the counter and lifted my shirt up.

I almost fainted.

There, on my super white torso, was the dark spot of a tick burrowed into my flesh surrounded by a ring of reddened skin.

To complicate matters, my boob totally obscured the tick from view and required me to put on reading glasses and use the magnifying mirror to pull the tick out of me with tweezers. Oh, did I mention my shaky hands? So when I finally did get the tweezers around the bug and pulled, I kind of did it on an angle and could see the dark head still lodged inside me as I yanked the body away.

As this is all happening in my bathroom, the cat and the dog are pacing in the bedroom wondering when I’m going to stop carrying on in front of the mirror and go downstairs to feed them. I alternated between trying to dig the rest of the tick out of my torso and having to go lie down on my bed in my underwear to compose myself and finally decided to get into the shower to try to open things up and release the bug’s remains that way and slammed the bathroom door in the cat’s face.

When I went to a walk in clinic the next day to try to get on antibiotics, I lifted up my shirt to show the nurse practitioner the scene of the crime and told her how I’d worked hard to dig the whole tick out of me. “I can see that,” she said, examining the scabbed and reddened skin I’d picked at for 15 minutes with a tweezer before every last bit of bug was out of me.

On Saturday, I’d taken my goldendoodle for an early hike through the woods to get him some exercise before the predicted rain came on Sunday. We marched up and down hills and over trails covered in yellowed leaves and I listened to my latest self help audiobook and we stopped to admire the sun shining on the river. I wore a vest over my long sleeved tshirt and Old Navy leggings and thought I’d been smart to put a hat on right before we headed out the door.

I came home and ate lunch and ran some errands and later, sat on my couch in the same hiking clothes to read (Lady in the Lake, which I am loving) and even nodded off for a bit. I was staying in that night so it wasn’t until later that I changed into yet another athleisure-type outfit and—am sorry to report—never showered before bed.

After the whole tick discovery on Sunday morning, I had plans to meet my older daughter in Manhattan for brunch and to see a show we’d been hot to see, so there really wasn’t any time to address the implications of having been the host of a very tiny bug for a day.

So on Monday, I brought the critter to our county’s Mosquito Commission to have it identified and handed over the Ziploc sandwich bag to a woman who did not seem even remotely freaked out by my story (unlike just about anyone else to whom I’d relayed my sordid tale over the previous 24 hours). She very calmly handed me a number of brochures and papers about the types of ticks we have here in this part of New Jersey and told me that they’re especially rampant in September and October. Who knew?

The emailed report that arrived early this morning from the county research scientist did not come as any surprise, since I’d been scouring the internet to try to identify my attacker and intuit the possibility that I might have been infected with Lyme Disease. The bad news is that it was, as I suspected, a teeny tiny female deer tick. The good news is that it was “flat” in appearance, which indicates it had not really started to feed. A tick generally needs at least 24 hours of feeding to pass along any diseases.

So, what have I learned? Great question.

  1. It turns out, I am not above getting bitten by a tick. I was kinda under the impression all that tick talk was a lot of hype and if I wore a baseball cap, I’d be fine. This is also how I used to feel about concussions until I got one and then my son.
  2. Those fuckers are small. The one on me was the size of a sesame seed and I’m wondering A: how the heck did it make its way under my shirt? That must have been one hell of a journey and B: how would you even be able to find one before it’s too late if it attached to your scalp under all your hair?
  3. Bug spray (like Deet) and hats are now mandatory for walks in the woods.
  4. Upon returning home, one needs to remove clothes, check for ticks and shower and not wallow in hiking apparel.

I now need to go pick my tick up from the Mosquito Commission to send it to a lab to be tested and in four week, go get a blood test of my own. In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for symptoms that might be signs that I’ve got Lyme, which is really a bullet I hope I’ll dodge. I’ve seen so many friends struggle over the years with diagnoses, symptoms and treatment of Lyme and dread having to walk that same, frustrating path.

Fingers crossed.

The silver lining of all this is that it finally inspired me to write a little diddy like this again. I’d been going through a dry spell. And the little critter has also given me an idea for an even bigger writing piece, so there’s that. When I see her later today, floating in a little plastic container filled with alcohol, the first thing I’m going to say to her is: “Fuck off, you should have found one of the grillion hairy deers lurking in the woods to latch onto instead of me.” But then, I’ll have to thank her for the inspiration, because a writer never knows when it’s going to come and in what form the muse will appear. Even if it comes burrowed–ass up–in her side.

The trick is to recognize it when you see it.

Thanks, girl. I owe you one.


Friday Faves: Creating Good Habits

One of the good things about being 52, aside from not being 53, is having a handle on what makes you tick.

I’ve got to tell you though, for about the first 40 years on this planet, I had no idea what made me do the things I did and feel the way I felt. Ladies and gentlemen, this is why therapy was created. After about a dozen years of staring at my bellybutton on Jennifer, my therapist’s, couch, I have a pretty good idea why I can’t really cry (except during The Blind Side) and what made me think having hella kids was the right move during my 20s and early 30s.

Last month, I brought up to Jennifer how I couldn’t seem to knock things off my to-do list — everything from not finding a significant other to getting rid of the pile of clothes on top of my washing machine (I couldn’t decide what to do with it, vacilating between selling the mound — like my son’s fairly new and outgrown Vineyard Vines dress shirt and a pair of NWT denim Bermuda shorts from Old Navy I thought would be cool but instead just made me look like a dork or donate). And then where to sell and/or donate? Or should I just give the whole pile to my cleaning lady and let her send it all to a church in Honduras.

I relay all this to Jen, who does a really good job at not rolling her eyes while I’m looking at her, and she starts to say something about habits — which intrigued me. I am a very habitual person. I was a committed smoker for about two decades — because how could you not end a meal or enjoy a cocktail without a cigarette? And for a long time, I’d brush my teeth after dinner so I wouldn’t eat before bedtime. They were things I didn’t even think about.

Later that night, I found myself heavily stalking writer and happiness guru Gretchen Rubin’s website, in particular posts about her book Better Than Before, which is all about habits. She says, “Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40% of our behavior almost daily, so if we change our habits, we change our lives.”


I downloaded the book and listened while walking the dog and driving out to Penn State, and was really inspired to adopt habits that would help me accomplish goals and check things off my list. Rubin says that when it comes to habits, there are four types of people, and after a quick quiz, I learned that I was an Obliger. I need accountability in order to make me do things, and that’s totally true (except sometimes, even letting people down doesn’t stop me from rampant procrastination).

One of the biggest things that have helped is Rubin’s suggestionto eliminate decisions. Like, I know when I wake up, I am going to go downstairs and meditate for 10 minutes and then write in my journal. I used to lie in bed and wonder what to do when the alarm went off early, and sometimes just snoozed until I had to get up to get my 16yo off to school. Now, the alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and I am heading downstairs to sit on my couch in the dark listening to my meditation app and surrounded by animals licking themselves (Airpods help).

In the last two weeks I have:

  • Pitched a piece to the Washington Post
  • Signed up to take a class with a writing teacher I’ve been stalking for years
  • Gotten rid of household items that have been cluttering the corners of my not-so-new-house for 3 years
  • Meditated 20 days in a row
  • Gone on a date
  • Donated the pile of clothes

I also love Rubin’s Happier podcast, which she does with her sister (Liz Kraft, a tv screenwriter) and Liz’s podcast Happier in Hollywood. I now refer to Rubin as “Gretch,” which is what her sister calls her, and tease her while listening to her podcast.


I’ve done a few rounds of this meditation app’s courses — guided by Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe’s amazing Australian accent — but then found solace for a while in more woo-woo loving kindness meditations. What I love about Headspace is that there’s nothing to think about, you just continue on the course you’ve chosen (currently I’m working on Prioritization, before that: Productivity) and press play. For accountability junkies, the app also congratulates you for your streak. Recently, I’ve even been doing some of the sleep meditations — there’s tons to choose from — while listening to the storm coming from my sound machine (see below). It’s quite lovely.

iHome Zenergy Sleep Machine

I’d been using my iPhone as my alarm for the last year or two, but hated having it right there next to me, tempting me to get lost in its hypnotic blue light when I was up at 3 a.m. Then, Jennifer the Therapist told me about this baby, and I bought it the next day. The sound options are amazing. I do not love the light situation although I kind of like being awoken by the soft “Dawn” whitish/bluish light that accompanies the sounds of waves crashing on the beach and seagulls squwaking. You can try to adjust settings on a Zenergy app, which is not very good, but gives you the option of waking up to the various sounds, the radio or connect via bluetooth to your phone. Just don’t do what I did when I pulled it out of its box, which was to immediately cut the wire for the radio antenna off the back of the machine. It annoyed me and was weirdly impulsive and unusual for me. Maybe the universe didn’t want me listening to any more NPR.

Killing Eve

ARE YOU SO EXCITED for everybody’s favorite cat-and-mouse duo to return this Sunday? I cannot wait and if you haven’t yet watched Season 1, start bingeing today.

Get in the Groove


Finally, I just discovered In the Groove, a A Lifestyle Destination for Age-Defying Women, and — with articles like “20 Stripe Tshirts You Can Wear All Season” and “Welcome to the Vagina Revolution!” — I have a feeling there are some long and deep internet rabbit holes I’m about to fall into this weekend.

One Year Later: Remembering Italy

One year ago today, I was speed walking down the endless halls of the Vatican Museum — past hundred-year-old tapestries, the colorful Gallery of Maps frescoes and the ornately gilded painted ceilings — hoping my four kids wouldn’t kill me.

It was the second time that morning we’d traveled the endless corridor until we reached the Sistine Chapel. We’d arrived for our guided tour at 8am to meet inside a storefront just outside the Vatican’s walls. As fellow tourists poured into the office, we were separated by the language that we spoke — French speakers take this purple ticket and wait over here; Spanish speaking folks with the orange tickets over there, and so on. Finally, we were sent outside to meet our tour guide with what seemed like a million other Americans, and we slowly pushed out way through the crowds and through the gates.

It was our first full day in Italy. We’d arrived at our hotel in Rome late morning the day before and I had planned for us to roam around and check out the Trevi Fountain and Piaza Navona — plus dig into big bowls of pasta — before a tour in the afternoon touted to take us off the beaten paths of the city. We were joined by a friendly mother and daughter from Norway, and our guide — an endearing 20-something Italian hipster — showed us a flower market, took us for cappuccinos and introduced us to the narrow streets of Trastevere. It was late afternoon by the time the tour was through and we were exhausted from the time change and all the walking and asked our guide to recommend a nearby place for us to eat an early dinner.

So that’s how we came to eat hot dogs and sauerkraut for dinner on our first night in Italy. By the time we realized the type of cuisine served at the restaurant the guide had suggested, we were too tired to go look for something more “Italian.” Instead we slid into the roomy booth, order big mugs of beer and wolfed down traditional German food before the long walk back to our pensione.

Day 2 had us hitting the Vatican first thing in the morning and then a tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum in the afternoon. I know, ambitious. But I knew that my kids were not good wanderers or spur-of-the-moment travelers. I knew they needed an itinerary and preferably a steady low blood alcohol level to keep them happy.

But the Vatican tour was boring (even I agreed), our guide — a middle-aged Italian woman who ran her tour like a classroom lecture — was humorless and was required to stretch her spiel out in the museum a little more than usual as our tour fell on the Thursday before Easter and the St. Peter’s was off-limits to us as the pope was holding a mass.

I was crushed.

I’d visited the cathedral 30 years earlier on a whirlwind European jaunt with a high school girlfriend and the day we visited the Vatican, was after a night in a Trastevere bar were we learned Italian beer was much stronger than the Coors Light we were used to at home, and that the locals could get frisky — like, aggressively follow you into the bar’s bathroom for a groping — if given the opportunity.

We arrived at St. Peter’s hungover and covered in hickeys and took pictures of each other pretending to enter the confessional, gauzy scarves draped around our necks in deference to our Catholic upbringings.

In the late 1980s, you were allowed to walk up narrow windy steps to walk around the interior of the cathedral’s dome, which is the first time I realized I suffered from horrible vertigo. To this day, I dream of sliding my way around the dome’s circumference, my back pressed against the wall and trying not to look at the knee-high wall separating me from the church’s abyss. Later, we made our way to the top of the dome and recreated the horror of circling the dome, only this time from the outside and — since it was at the tippy top, a much smaller diameter to slide around. I also learned that day the Italians weren’t keen on safety measures.

Aside from the vertigo and hickeys, my long-ago visit to St. Peter’s inspired such awe — and it’s such an iconic Roman landmark — I just couldn’t leave without at least trying to get my four children to see it.

Our guide had told us that the only way into the cathedral, without having to stand on the long line snaking outside, was to enter from the Sistine Chapel. There are two doors there to choose from: one that leads you back into the museum and the exit, and the other into St. Peter’s.

Since we weren’t going to be allowed to go into the church once we were through with the Sistine Chapel the first time, the guide said that once we got back to the main entrance, we should turn around and walk down the approximately 7 miles of hallway back to the Sistine Chapel, and then try getting into the cathedral from there.

When I asked my kids what they wanted to do, they were like: “We’re good.” They were ready to move on from the Vatican and go get some pasta and wine for lunch.

But then they saw my face.

It was like all those times I’d start to count to 3 to get them to do something, and even though — once they were old enough — they knew nothing was really going to happen once I hit 3, they complied. They were just conditioned to do, or stop doing, whatever it was I wanted by the time I hit 2.5.

“We can tell you’re gonna be disappointed,” said their spokesperson, my younger daughter. “So let’s just get this over with,” and they turned from the Vatican exit and began to speed walk down the hallway that earlier that morning took us about 2 hours to traverse to the Sistine Chapel at the end. And the place, as you can imagine 3 days before Easter, was mobbed.

I am by far the shortest person in my family, so every once in a while the kids would have to pull to the side to wait for me. Back in the Gallery of Maps, I tried to stop and admire a fresco of Sicily, but was quickly pulled away by my oldest son and told to keep walking. Even when we hit the Sistine Chapel and I tried, just one more time, to look up at the majesty of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, I got snarled at and told to move.

The whole time, I worried about what would happen if we got back to the cathedral door and found it was still locked for the pope’s mass. I wondered if the children murdered me, who would tell them what to do next that day?

Luckily, as we approached the 2 doors, the entrance to St. Peter’s was opened to the public and we strode through and I said a silent prayer of thanks. But by the time we entered the holiest of spaces, my kids were completely over it. We speed walked down the aisles and past the Pieta. We stood and looked up at the soaring dome, but I didn’t even dare to suggest we see if we could go upstairs for a walk around. Without an official tour guide, we were probably through the church and walking through St. Peter’s Square towards lunch in about 10 minutes.

Yes, my children were kind of dicks. But also, kinda sweet for not wanting me to be disappointed. I probably should have just been happy they went along with the museum tour and let them rest up before the tour that afternoon. #hindsight

The next morning we’d be on a bus to Siena to explore the Tuscan countryside for 2 days before taking a train to Florence for Easter and then back to Rome to fly home Wednesday.

There were plenty of highs — the meal we had the second night in Siena and the rooftop of the place we stayed in Florence overlooking the river, with the Duomo in the distance — and lots of lows, too (the fight two of the kids had in Florence while I tried to eat the best pizza of my life and ignore them).

I guess that’s what family vacations are all about: the good, the bad, and the irreplaceable shared experience. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Do these stories make you feel normal? Do they help you hate your children a wee bit less? You can sign up to get more tales just like this one, delivered straight to your inbox.  And you won’t even have to ask your children’s permission. Subscribe today!


Friday Faves: InstaPot Banana Blueberry Oatmeal

I am a gadget person. When something new comes out and everybody is talking about it, I have to have it. Just ask my kids about my AppleWatch.

Around this time last year, the InstaPot seemed to be everywhere. My friend, Dan, was always talking about what he’d cooked up in his pressure cooker (he’s very inventive with beans and sweet potatoes) and it was all over my Facebook feed (mindreaders that they are). Also, a food writer I really like, Melissa Clark — whose sheet pan dinners are in constant rotation in my oven — had just come out with a cookbook of InstaPot dinners (Dinner in an Instant).

Naturally, I needed one.

Finally, for Mother’s Day, my two older kids got me one, and even though they’d spent their hard-earned money on the appliance, that did not prevent them from rolling their eyes and joking about how I’d never use it.

And they were kind of right. I’ve experimented with a few dinners, but nothing really stands out for me to tell you about. And once, I used the InstaPot to make jammy eggs (but using the stovetop is much simpler and you don’t have to haul anything out from a shelf in the closet).

But the one thing I make consistently — maybe once a week — in my InstaPot is oatmeal. It’s pretty much the same recipe I used to make in my slowcooker overnight, but instead of 8 hours, pressure cooker oatmeal is done in about 30 minutes.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even use a recipe anymore (and I always need a recipe). I just throw everything into the pot and seal the lid. It makes a bunch so I keep it in a container in my frig to eat for breakfast and force it on my 16yo, which triggers a different kind of eye rolling.

I always do blueberries and bananas, since I am a creature of habit. But you could do apples or other kinds of berries. I toast up some unsweetened coconut to sprinkle on top or add a dollop of plain greek yogurt.

It’s all very yummy and filling.

My friend, Susan, keeps raving about her new air fryer, so guess what I have my eye on for this Mother’s Day?

InstaPot Blueberry Banana Oatmeal

1c. steel cut oatmeal

4c. almond milk

1 glob coconut oil

1/4t. nutmeg

3/4t. cinnamon

2 ripe bananas

1 pint blueberries

4 swirls of honey (or 5, depending on how sweet you like it)

Mush bananas and add rest of ingredients to pot. Set porridge mode for 12 minutes. Enjoy!

*To slow cook, mush bananas, add rest of ingredients and set on low for 7 hours. Yummy waking up to the smell of oatmeal waiting for you in your kitchen.

Got an InstaPot recipe to recommend? Please do in the comments below! You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter to see what other things I am in love with at any given time (which is changing all the time, except when it comes to Game of Thrones, to which I am dedicated).

Things I Suddenly Care About

Things I Suddenly Care About:

  1. High school sports.
  2. Chrissy Teigen.
  3. Stretching.
  4. Habits (both the good and bad variety).
  5. Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach’s cello suites.
  6. Acceptance.
  7. Mascara.
  8. Poetry.
  9. My upper arms.
  10. The meaning of life.

Got anything to add? Feel free in the comments below. If you want to stay in the loop, sign up over there to the right for my weekly newsletter for a roundup of things I do and don’t care about. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Gucci. (That was for my kids to see if they actually read this stuff).

Friday Faves: All. The. Food.

This was a fast week for me as I spent Tuesday and Wednesday driving the four hours to/from my daughter’s big state university. She’s a graduating hospitality major and one of her classes this semester is to work with a team to plan/budget/execute a themed dinner at the school’s restaurant, which they refer to as a “living lab.” It requires a lot of planning and meetings to discuss everything from creating centerpieces to marketing and promoting to developing a chocolate mousse recipe to serve 140 people and clever ways to plate all the dishes.

After hearing so much about the class all semester, it was fun for me to see and taste the final results. I also got to meet a bunch of her hospitality pals and even the professor, who I’d heard so much about. When do you get to meet your kid’s professor?

The next day, my daughter gave an extensive campus tour to her brother, who’s a high school sophomore, where he got to see new dining halls and dorms, classrooms that accommodate a couple of hundred students and the giant mountain lion statue that’s literally referred to as a “shrine.” He even got to see some lacrosse guys walking to practice, which — for a total lacrosse bro — was way more exciting than dorms and dining halls.

Obviously, no college visit is complete without the obligatory trip to the grocery store, which we did so she could load up on healthy dinner fixings, like zoodles and bags of cauliflower rice. Her friend, Michael, came along to do his own shopping, and I laughed when he met up with us at the end to pay and saw his cart full of boxes of mac and cheese and a super-white loaf of bread. “I’m so excited to have some real food,” he said as he lifted his bags into our car. (#boys)

But that food shopping, along with my own weekly haul, had me thinking a lot about what we are obsessed with eating right about now.

Trader Joe’s Miso Soup

So good. I can’t believe it took me a year to find this out.

I actually had two of these 32-oz. cartons in my lazy susan forever and during a recent purge of expired items from those shelves, saw that these were pooping out this month (or maybe last month, but don’t tell me kids who think my food safety parameters are a little soft). The 20-somethings were all home last weekend, so I decided it was the perfect opportunity to use the broth and whip up one of our staples, Chinese Brothy Noodles. In the past, we’ve used chicken broth, and it was always yummy. But the Trader Joe’s Miso Soup made the soup AMAZING. I want to make again next week. (Tip: I used almost two cartons since the noodles absorb a lot of the liquid and we liked ours a little more broth-y than noodle-y.)

Trader Joe’s Chili & Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips

Mouth-puckering goodness.

My favorite section at Trader Joe’s, hands down, is their new product section. I am a sucker for all the stuff they come up with (truly, I am a marketer’s dream), and always stop to admire their ingenuity. My daughter came home with these last week and they are really dangerous, both in terms of the way they will make your mouth pucker and that you won’t be able to eat just one.

Wegman’s Farro

Finally! Wegman’s is carrying a big bag o’ farro.

If there’s anything I’m more obsessed with than Wegman’s, it’s farro. Have you tried it? It’s got a nice texture, with a little heft, and I throw it into salads or maybe eat it with an egg on top. But I could never find farro at Wegman’s, until now when I grabbed it while shopping with my daughter this week. (Tip: while it’s fine cooked in water, it’s even better when you let the farro simmer in chicken stock or bone broth. I make a bunch to keep in the frig and eat throughout the week.)

Bon Appetit Jammy Ramen Egg Recipe

Bon Appetit’s Jammiest Ramen Egg recipe is perfection.

I’d pinned this recipe a while ago and finally got around to making it last night for dinner and wish I’d stopped to take a picture before I devoured it. I put the perfectly cooked — not too hard, not too runny — egg on top of some smashed roasted sweet potato and quickly-sauteed baby spinach, and it was delicious and filling. Super hard boiled eggs freak me out for some reason, but cooked this way the yolk is still soft and a little runny like poached eggs but maybe a little easier to make.


My 21yo daughter was watching this HULU original last weekend and eventually, the rest of us drifted in and started watching Friday night. The creators, who are in their 30s, star in the comedy playing dorky middle schoolers set in 2000, with other middle schoolers, and even though it sounds improbable, it totally works. It’s funny and awkward and poignant and often wildly inappropriate. My older kids are just a bit younger than these kids, so we could relate to the music, gel pens and Calico Critters. (Tip: Do NOT watch Episode 3 with your kids, even if they are adults, you will all be mortified.)

Reagandoodle & Little Buddy

If you know me, you are aware that anything I know, I learned about on CBS Sunday Morning. It is the highlight of my week and one of my greatest joys is when my kids come in and sit to watch with me when they’re home. My 16yo came in to where I was watching it not long ago as the trumpet began to play its theme song at the start, and said, “Now I know it’s Sunday.”

We all saw this story about this boy and his dog recently, and are now thoroughly obsessed with them and follow their exploits on Instagram. Once you watch, I bet you do, too.

Happy Friday!





Friday Faves: Grab Bag Edition

This week’s assortment of things I love run the gamut from happy, to sad, to life-changing. This also seems to be the rhythm of my life, where every day I’m not sure into which emotional basket to dump my state of mind. Some mornings I wake up and pour all the rainbows and unicorns in my head into my Everything is Awesome container, while the following morning, I’ve got to scrape out the dark, sticky goo of despair into the All is Lost bucket. I really wish I was the kind of person who could be a little less extreme. How I long to be even-keeled.

Here’s what I love:


The trailer for the 8th and final season is everything. I have been committed to Game of Thrones since Episode 1 and cannot wait for the season premiere next month. In the meantime, watching it reminded me that I couldn’t remember one thing that happened last season (was that, like, 2 years ago?), so my daughter and I started re-watching last night and were reminded Daenerys Targaryen’s badassness. #shallwebegin?#cansomeonegivemeadragonplease?


Better Things

I think I’ve referenced the season premiere of my current favorite show about 20 times in conversations this week, and I know, already posted the trailer the other day. But I love creator/director/writer/star Pamela Adlon’s HONESTY about being a 50-something year old woman. How our bodies change seemingly overnight. It’s like a science experiment but it’s happening right there, in your mirror. I feel sorry for women who are so freaked out by it. It’s just life (she says fanning herself through gritted teeth). I already watched the first episode twice (once with each of my 2 daughters) and can’t tell you how lovely and real it is.

Color WOW Spray

COLOR WOW Dream Coat Supernatural Spray Slays Humidity and Prevents Frizz


I bought this after seeing a video while scrolling through Instagram of Hoda Kotb raving about this hair product, which I know is pathetic and just what the man wants us to do, but what can I say? Hoda could sell me goat cheese (Note: I hate goat cheese). I don’t know about you, but after about 15 years of heavy duty coloring, my hair ain’t what it was. It can be puffy and frizzy, especially when it’s humid out. So you spray this stuff on and blow your hair dry with a brush (read the directions) and it lives up to its name: WOW. Can’t wait to try it if it ever gets warmer than 35 degrees here in New Jersey.

Leaving Neverland

Okay, here is the very sad part of my recommendations this week, but I cannot recommend this 4-hour HBO doc enough (plus the hour-long Oprah follow up). I worried at first I’d feel like a voyeur, looking for all the unsavory bits and pieces of these 2 men’s relationships with Michael Jackson. But Oprah says it best when she interviews them, “This has nothing to do with Michael Jackson.” The sexual abuse of children is rampant and we need to know what it looks like, how it happens and how its perpetrators gain their victims’ silence. You will leave Neverland with all of your questions answered, including what he did to them. Also, and this part is staggering, ONE IN SIX MEN HAS BEEN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED OR ABUSED. I think that’s why it’s so important to watch and talk about, to help lift the shame from them. Honestly, I can’t stop thinking (and talking) about it. Also, THE WORLD NEEDS OPRAH BACK.

Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs

Let’s leave each other on a happier note this Friday. To all my dog lovers, here’s something that is one of my most favorite fave:

If You Are Holding This Book

You may not agree, you may not care, but

if you are holding this book you should know

that of all the sights I love in the world —

and there are plenty — very near the top of

the list is this one: dogs without leashes.

Finny Doodle sans leash, pretending to be a good boy.