Moving to a New House: The Final Act

When she came home at the end of the school year in May to find moving boxes still on the floor of her mother’s office and pictures stacked against the walls, my youngest daughter finally realized she needed to take matters into her own hands.

By that point, we’d been in the new house for well over a year and had ample time to settle in. We’d bought it in the beginning of 2016 and officially moved in that March, but some remodeling continued through April. So, while there were new carpets and refinished hardwood flooring and pretty much every square inch of wall space and trim had a fresh coat of paint, I still couldn’t bring myself to hang pictures on the walls or find a home for boxes of knickknacks I’d dragged from our old house.

In the past, my home interior design aesthetic veered towards the busy; I loved color and patterns and whimsy and never met a picture frame or window treatment I didn’t love. But in the new house I was hoping to tame those baser instincts and instead go for a cleaner, more grown up (if you will) vibe. I painted all the walls a pale, pale greige and only put blinds on a few windows for privacy purposes. I had no problem unpacking boxes of pots and pans and office supplies, but had no idea what to do with all the sentimental doodads I’d amassed over the years, which then sat on the floor of my office for months.

I had a big moving box filled with all the photo albums I carefully curated throughout the 1990s to document my children’s lives — which they then thoughtlessly pulled apart in the following decade — leaving countless empty plastic sleeves and visual gaps between Christmases and Easters of long ago. There were smaller boxes filled with all the overflow photos from a time when you’d pay a little extra to get doubles when you got your film developed, and then ended up with more copies than you’d ever need of people looking away at the last minute or errant fingertips.

Another box contained binders full of news clips I’d written over the years. Carefully clipped articles I wrote for my college newspaper were stuffed in folders alongside pieces I’d written for journalism courses, typed on thin sheets of typing paper with comments along the margins from various professors who suggested stronger ledes or less adjectives when describing, say, the university’s mineral collection.

And then there was the box holding all the weird chatchkas I’d assembled over the last 25 years. The colorful collection of wooden cats my younger daughter and I had taken to bringing home for each other from trips; the street sign from the first house we lived in the town we’ve called home for almost 23 years; a jar of seaglass I gathered off Stanley Beach on our last day in Hong Kong, amazed that there could be so much worn down glass in one place – a seemingly never-ending supply – and wondering how exactly the Chinese people disposed of glass bottles and jars; and a weird amount of signs with positive affirmations folks have given me over the years ranging from “Don’t Forget to be Awesome” to “The Ocean Fixes Everything.”

As is my wont, I learned to accept the boxes and wall hangings that took up a fair amount of real estate in my new office and went about starting and abandoning a host of other projects. It’s pretty standard that I’d go through the entire moving process – from getting my old house ready to sell to packing up 13-years’-worth of Legos and hair elastics to overseeing a new kitchen and bathroom remodel – but stall at the very end. Like, after picking out cabinets and appliances, why was it so hard to hang things on the walls?

One of the things I love about our new house is that it has lots of nooks and crannies for people to get lost in. It’s a Tudor-style built in 1929 and unlike houses built today, with big open spaces, our house has lots of clearly-defined rooms separated by walls and doorways. And while we struggled in the bedroom department – I needed to figure out how to stuff 5 grown people into 3 bedrooms – there was a fair amount of living space to spread out in.

Initially, I thought I’d make the sunny room running along the back of the house another place to watch TV. The former owners took advantage of the great light the room gets at all hours of the day and used it as a kind of sun porch; a great place to sit and chat or read or watch TV. But I already had one or two of those rooms and really, who even watches TV on a TV nowadays? Then, when I was trying to figure out where to set up my writing desk and wondering whether I could squeeze it into this new sitting room, it occurred to me that THE WHOLE ROOM COULD BE MINE. I could make it my office and fill it with all the things I love: my books, my pictures and my doodads.

I bought a couple of bookcases from Ikea (the Liatorp) to hold all my books and my printer and some office supplies. A set of drawers from World Market to store smaller supplies and stuff like notecards and stamps. And a super groovy and comfortable Lucite desk chair from IKEA that balances the heavy desk that was from my younger sister’s childhood bedroom but that I’ve repainted and repurposed a number of times since I acquired it 25 years ago.

And then, I proceeded to store anything I didn’t know what to do with in the room for six more months until I bought a reading chair from Ballard Design and needed to make room for its arrival. It’s my dream piece of furniture. Something I’ve lusted after for years. I fantasized about curling up on a cold winter afternoon to read a good book or propping myself up on pillows to work on my laptop. In other words, it would become my downstairs bed.

But to prepare for my beloved’s arrival, I needed to get hella boxes out of my office and this coincided with my younger girl’s arrival home for the summer, who helped get my butt into gear. She’s super a little bit bossy and a lot taller than I am so she uses that height to her advantage. She’s all about threats and intimidation. She said she’d help me create a picture gallery on the wall near my desk but told me that first, I had to get to work unpacking those final boxes.

So one weekend in May, I got tough on a lot of the crap I’d been hanging onto for years and filled up a number of contractor’s bags with signs about cats and picture frames I bought at Marshall’s in the late ‘90s. Then, I went to Target and bought a long storage piece with 8 baskets into which I shoved all the photos and wooden cats and other things I couldn’t figure out what to do with but wasn’t willing to part with, either.

And then we went through all the pictures stacked on the floor and finally found places to hang them on walls throughout the house. When we were done, all that was left was my collection of really special pieces that friends and family had given to me that I’d been dreaming of making a wall gallery out of for years next to my desk.

So that’s what we did. We spread them out of the now-clear floor of my office to figure out how they should be grouped and when it seemed a little finky (adj: a word used by a friend’s mother to mean not enough or sparse or just plain lacking in something), we grabbed things off my bookshelves to give a little oomph to the project. I threw in a sign my baby from another lady embroidered for me along with that old street sign and grabbed my favorite sign about teenagers that sat on the windowsill in my old kitchen for years. We finished it off with a random mirror I bought at an antiques store last summer in Woodstock when I had visions of recreating the amazing Airbnb we stayed in; and finally, we added a framed illustrated print my bestie gave me of all-time-favorite books from my childhood (hello Forever).

To make sure the display would transfer from the floor to the intended wall, my daughter traced each object on a big roll of brown paper, which she then cut out and arranged on the wall using blue painter’s tape. We moved them around a bit and adjusted the spacing and when we thought it looked just right, used Command Strips to hang everything up on the wall. That part was my girl’s job because she is all about measuring tape and a level and I am all about taking chances and regret.

We kinda think we killed it.

We were so impressed with ourselves, we made another gallery situation on another wall in the office, this time using picture frames I’d bought at Target, like, three years ago that sat in the basement of my old house. Sadly, they’ve been up for about two months and – true to form – I still haven’t put pictures in them. The daughter is not pleased.

And for our final act, we decided that all the remaining signs of affirmation and children’s artwork I’ve been clinging to all these years would look perfect on the stairway leading down to the basement.

And it does (although this picture is horrible due to the tight angle of the stairway).

We’ve taken a break from our mad wall gallery making and buying bulk packs of Command Strips at Costco. I’m thinking we might be at our gallery limit for one house but then again, I am a firm believer that you can never have enough of a good thing. I’ve got my eye on the wall along the stairway leading upstairs or maybe on one of the halls on our upstairs landing, which remain blank while I ponder my options.

Obviously, I need to hurry up and make up my mind about what I want to do before the girl goes back to school next month because I have no idea how to work a level. Or measure, for that matter.

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Where Does the Time Go?



Time management has never been my strong suit. I begin most days well-intentioned, with big plans to DO THIS and DO THAT, which mostly degenerates into watching videos on Facebook and taking quizzes to determine who was Rory’s best boyfriend on the Gilmore Girls.

So I was really struck by a recent piece in The New York Times called “The Busy Person’s Lies.” The author, Laura Vanderkam, is a time management expert who’s written a few books on the subject and suggests that we often think we are busier than we really are. In the essay, she shares her experience tracking her own activity for a full year, which included writing, extensive travel to give talks on time management and giving birth to her fourth child.

And I was like, what is my problem? My fourth child is 13 and I have a hard enough time just getting to the food store, much less traveling for work or writing a book.

I have come to understand that I need structure in my life and without it, I flounder. I can’t have too much time on my hands and find the more I have to do, the more productive I become.

So, when I left work to care for my first child many moons ago, I had a lot to figure out. With just a newborn at home and tons of hours to fill in the day, I’d often spend much of it shuffling around the house in my pajamas carrying my little crybaby and waiting for his dad to get home.

But then more kids came and the crybaby got a little older and the days became more structured. Breakfasts and coloring and story time at the library, mid-day naps and maybe a walk around the neighborhood followed by chicken nuggets, tubbies, a story and then – blissfully – bed.

When the older kids were in high school, I went back to working full time and although things were bonkers – four kids in four different schools – it was kind of impressive what I was able to accomplish each day. Not only was I doing the regular parenting stuff – making meals, food shopping, back-to-school nights – but I also launched and managed a local news site — reporting on and writing, like, five stories each day — and attending grand openings, school assemblies and municipal meetings a few nights each week. Somewhere in between all that I also started a blog.

To get that job, I had to take an intense three-hour long writing test, which happened to fall the day before Thanksgiving. I went up to my office (really a desk pushed next to my bed), instructed my children to stay out of my way, ploughed through all the writing, was told I got the job, came downstairs and started cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people.

No sweat.

Fast forward three years and a company-wide layoff later and I found myself once again with not only hours of unstructured time each day but also wondering how I ever managed to fit a full-time job into all my mothering duties.

But now, about three years after that conference call layoff, the kids are that much older and self-sufficient (well, in theory, anyway). Now that a year of moving and renovating a new house is behind me, I kinda find myself floundering again. I mentioned this to my friend Dan the other day and he said, “I hear that a lot from my clients who don’t have jobs. They can’t seem to get anything done.”


But I don’t really want a full-time office job. I mean, I do, don’t get me wrong. But I still have a seventh grader and three months to fill during the summer. There’s only so much Netflix I’m willing to let him watch each day.

I really want to develop freelance opportunities and work on a bigger writing project and am tired of trying to figure out how to squeeze that in between cleaning the kitchen and trips to Trader Joe’s.

According to Vanderkam, the first step is keeping track of how you spend your time, which I started doing a few days ago and it’s been an interesting exercise (you can print out or download a spreadsheet here). I’m trying to approach the process with positive intentions and not as a way of beating myself up.

Vanderkam, whose most recent book is aptly titled I Know How She Does It, writes, “Keeping a time log is not about figuring out how much time we waste. It is about making sure we are not telling ourselves stories about our lives that are not actually true.”

I mean, I know that being a single mom with four kids can be time-consuming, especially in the summertime with everyone at home. There are a lot of distractions. But I also know that I could manage my time a lot better. Like, do I need to check Facebook every 15 minutes? I think not.

Working from home can be challenging, but rather than scrolling through photos of kindergarten graduations and cat videos — and man, I love a good cat video — I’d really like to concentrate on more productive activities. Like, maybe writing or starting a meditation practice. Or food shopping, for that matter.

“Just because you know where the time goes doesn’t mean that you need to punish yourself for wasting it or feel bad about spending it the way you do,” Vanderkam said in a recent interview with KJ Dell’Antonia for the NYTimes Well Family blog. “Are you happy, or not? If you’re happy, celebrate that. There’s nothing wrong with sitting on the porch drinking a glass of wine and staring at the trees.”

Vanderkam was able to keep track of her days in 30-minute increments for an entire year. That’s 8,784 hours. And she had a newborn. How hard can it be for me to do it for a week?

I’ll keep you posted.

Do you know where all your time goes? What are some of your time management tips? Share in the comment section below.

When I’m not trying to figure out where all my time goes,  I write about being a mom to grown, and almost grown, kids. Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. 

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Our New Neighbor

mrgrsI was standing in the kitchen talking to my 17yo daughter this weekend when I noticed her looking over my shoulder. This is nothing unusual. Nobody really pays any attention to what I have to say around here unless it’s what I’m making for dinner or that I don’t have $300 lying around to help fund a spring break trip to the Keys.

Anyway, I was probably saying something like, “Do you think you’re going to college next year?” or “If you don’t clean your pigsty of a room you’re not going out tonight” when she shouted, “Look what’s inside that tree!”

She pointed out the window over our kitchen sink to a giant maple tree in our neighbor’s yard, right on the other side of the chain link fence that separates our properties. Its trunk splits into two like a “V” as it reaches up towards the sky and then each half splits again. About 20 feet up, the whole shebang starts bending towards my house so all the limbs, branches, twigs create a canopy over my narrow back yard. It actually used to have a sister tree about 10 feet to its north, also right at the edge of the fence, and the two of them had been the bane of my existence since I moved into this house over a dozen years ago.

It turns out, maple trees generate a variety of little pieces of crap that they drop throughout the year — you know, those helicopter things we used to call “Pinnochio noses” when we were kids that fall in late summer, and bright green blossoms in the spring. And then there are all the leaves. And all of it — the buds, the leaves, the helicopters and all that ensuing pollen — float right into the swimming pool that takes up about half of my backyard.

I really wanted that pool when we were trying to buy the house. I really thought it was going to be so great to have it for the kids to swim and play and invite their friends over and our friends over. But I have learned after taking care of the 30-year-old thing over the last 12 years that swimming pools should be filed under “Things That Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.”

Like getting married at 24.

Ironically, the tree closest to the pool came crashing into our back yard the night Hurricane Sandy blew through, its giant limbs tearing through the dark green pool cover that had just been pulled on top a month earlier. The power had already gone off when the tree fell but the wind and everything going on outside created such a racket, we never even heard it come down. We eventually noticed the branches, which earlier that day were 40 feet above our yard, lying on the steps outside our back door later that night.

Now, the remaining maple tree is not looking in much better condition than the other one did before it keeled over. A pretty big limb fell off a few years ago, leaving it looking a bit like an amputee, and there’s a big hollow in one of the trunks that indicates that the tree might not be in the best of health.

If this one goes down any time soon, it should probably be filed under “Things I Should Have Taken Care Of.”

Like that weird lump on my finger or the sinking concrete deck around the pool.

So I looked out the window at the tree my daughter was pointing to and inside the hollow was a raccoon, just sitting there staring back at us. It looked almost fake, like someone had put a muppet inside the hole, with its pointy snout and little black mask across its eyes.

And we were like, “Awwwwww.”

And now, for the past two days, we have been absolutely obsessed with the thing. We even named it.

I initially felt strongly that it was a girl and suggested we call her “Rhoda” or “Rhianna.” When those ideas were shot down, I began referring to it as “Bandit” or “Badger” but that ultimately pissed my 12yo son off, as he kept insisting we could not call our raccoon “Badger” since that was, like, the name of another kind of animal altogether.

Okay, whatev.

Then my daughter was like, “It’s definitely a guy,” and suggested we call him “Kenneth” and we all agreed that name fit him perfectly. He is such a Kenneth.

Standard raccoon meme.

Standard raccoon meme.

Lately, I spend most of my days at my kitchen table sitting at a chair tucked into a bay window area that looks right out at Kenneth’s tree about 20 feet away. All day yesterday, while I should have been doing other things, I watched him dozing in his hole and occasionally would see the top of his head moving up and down as he groomed himself. Every once in a while, he’d stop and push his face out of the hole a little to enjoy a rush of cold air going by. A few times, he actually stretched his body out of the hole and basked in the afternoon sun, closing his eyes and luxuriating in its warmth, and then he’d go right back to scratching himself. I decided right then and there that more than anything else, I wanted to come back as a raccoon in my next life. I wouldn’t mind spending my days napping and grooming myself and taking a break to feel the sun on my face or the breeze in my fur.

Sounds perfect to me.

(The above is a terrible video that really doesn’t show anything except how sick my daughter was when she went outside to try to film Kenneth this weekend).

There was a bit of debate as to whether Kenneth had always been living in that hole, watching us going on with our lives while he nipped at the bugs on his belly, but we ultimately decided he must have moved there more recently. Our real neighbor, the man who owns the actual property behind us where Kenneth is living, recently had a whole crew of tree dudes in his yard chopping down most of the trees back there (other than the one that’s eventually going to kerplop into my yard).

“Kenneth was probably living in one of those trees,” my daughter deduced, and that seems like the best explanation to me.

She came home from school yesterday and walked over to where I was sitting, my chair angled to get the best view of Kenneth’s activities, and we both sat and watched him for a while. Every time he stopped his grooming and looked up towards us, so we could see his pointy little ears and the mask, we’d stop mid-conversation and say, “Ohhh.”

As the sun went down and we could no longer see the tree through the window, we speculated over dinner as to what Kenneth was up to. We joked that he had made his way up to my daughter’s bedroom and was in her bed (she doesn’t even like me in her bed, much less a hairy wild animal) or that we would come down in the morning and find him sitting at our kitchen table with a mug of coffee.

Alas, when we did come down to start our day this morning, there was no sign of Kenneth anywhere. He’s not in his hole and we’re beginning to get a little concerned.

“GO LOOK FOR HIM,” my daughter texted from school earlier. “DO SOMETHING.”

But I really don’t think there’s much I can do when it comes to looking for a lost raccoon. It’s not like I can call the police or the SPCA. I can’t imagine, even though he’s really cute, that anyone is going to call to report that they found someone’s raccoon. Even one with a proper name like Kenneth.

So, because I couldn’t stare at our raccoon this morning, I took to looking at my son instead. I told him how handsome he looked wearing the same husky Gap corduroys — the kind where you can cinch in and let out the waist as needed — that he wears about four out of five school days during the week and his standard soccer jersey on top. I followed him into the mudroom as he went to grab his sneakers and he finally said, “Okay. You don’t need to watch me put on my shoes.”

Maybe that’s why I liked watching Kenneth so much. I’ve got fewer people who let me stare at them around here. I miss when they were little and I could marvel at how they could speak and move all on their own and their perfect little bodies. Now when I try to admire them for any length of time, I’m told I’m acting like “a creeper.”

Not to fear, though. I’ve been vigilant today, on the lookout for Kenneth, watching to see if maybe he crops up in a new nest or maybe in the next yard over. It seemed like he had such a good set up though. I’m struggling with why he would leave. Maybe all our staring got to him after a while. Maybe it was all a little unsettling.

And I mean, if worse comes to worse, I could always just go and stare at my cat.

She’s just no Kenneth.

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Getting a head start on my future career.

Here’s another exciting fun fact I learned about myself the other day, something I think we can add to the list of interesting tidbits we already know about me, which include my oft-noted thin ankles (dudes, it’s the only naturally small part of my body) and that I am a skilled armpit farter (truly, another gift).

It turns out, ladies and gentlemen, that I also happen to be a dislocated worker.

Who knew?

I learned this nifty item about myself while filing our annual college aid applications this week. You know, those onerous forms that ask questions cooked up by the government like: what was the net worth of my business/investment farms and whether I’d received any free/reduced priced lunches the previous year.

So, I was plowing through the questions – a daunting task for any English major who’s adept at commas and spelling but struggles with counting – and then comes Question #84 on the FAFSA form: Is parent a dislocated worker?


I never really paid attention to that term when filling out the FAFSA before. I guess I thought it was asking me if I was, like, a migrant worker or perhaps a foreign national in need of special working papers. But that was back when I had a job and knew I was a lot of things at that time (overworked, undercompensated), but not dislocated. But unlike other years when I’ve jumped through all those financial aid hoops while working full time, this year I’m doing so unemployed.

And thus, it seems, dislocated.

The kind people at FAFSA describe a “dislocated worker” as such: “a displaced homemaker. A displaced homemaker is generally a person who previously provided unpaid services to the family (for example: a stay-at-home mom or dad), is no longer supported by the spouse, is unemployed or underemployed, and is having trouble finding or upgrading employment.” 

I have never had my whole life summed up so succinctly in one sentence.

I’m actually moving towards my one-year anniversary of being dislocated. I had been worrying about a layoff at the beginning of last year but when the axe finally fell via a conference call in January, I mostly just felt relieved that I didn’t have to worry about late night meetings a few nights a week and working on the weekends. And most importantly, that perhaps I’d stop leaving my little guy in the wrong place at the wrong time because I had so many balls flying through the air. The kid was getting really tired of that. 

And overall, it’s been a really nice year of dislocation. I’ve been much less distracted. I’ve gone back to cooking real meals (which include ingredients like faro and beets) and not just ordering takeout a few nights a week (although in the perfect world I’d eat pizza every day). And I can’t remember the last time my eye twitched from stress. 

But most importantly, I think I’m giving the kids a lot less of a reason to discuss abandonment issues with a therapist someday. I’m around a lot more nowadays now that I’m underemployed and can be found on my couch most nights watching TV with a kid (“Fixer Upper” last night, yo, which we are obsessed with) or trying to read a book without falling asleep. I’ve scaled back from relying so heavily on the older kids to prepare meals and drive their little brother around. And maybe that’s good or maybe it’s not such a terrible thing for kids to help out around the house but for a while there, I really depended on them to keep this puppy of a family running while I was out playing Brenda Starr.

I was happy to reclaim the role of the mom in the house (a position that my 17yo daughter often tries to assume). And it’s a job I know well. For 18 years that was my primary function around here as a stay-at-home mom. The first time around, no one really valued what I did behind the scenes while they were off doing the real work. Folks took it for granted when they found clean towels in the linen closet or their favorite chocolate chip muffins in the pantry. Or that they could pick up and go golfing all day and someone would be around to watch the kids and make dinner.

Talk about feeling displaced.

But this second go-round as a full-time mom, I do feel a little more appreciated. And I appreciate it a lot more now, too. I appreciate the flexibility I’ve had over the last year, where I can pick up and go emergency bra shopping with a daughter at 1:00 on a Wednesday afternoon or spend the day sitting on the beach with my 11-year old and watch him ride wave-after-wave in on his boogie board. And when he asks if I can take him and a buddy to go kick a soccer ball around on some turf field in the next town, I don’t mind sitting in my car in the parking lot knitting and listening to NPR while they try to score goals off each other under a late December afternoon sky.

I’m happy to help a brother out.

I used to feel bad about being a stay-at-home-mom. I felt like I wasn’t living up to my potential. Or that I was just being lazy.

Being a mom takes years of practice.

Being a mom takes years of practice.

But now I know that there is no easy answer for moms. Working full-time can be hard but rewarding and the same can be said for staying home. Finding something flexible that lets you balance raising your kids while nurturing your brain, that there is the tricky part. And this doesn’t even take into account the generating an income part of the equation.

I applied for a loan this week from my local bank to help pay for some home repairs that need to be addressed pronto, regardless of how much money is in my checking account. My sinking pool deck does not give a shit whether or not I can afford keeping the pool from collapsing. I chatted with the bank guy on the phone and gave him all my details and explained that up until last January I had been employed as a news editor.

“Cool,” he gushed.

Then he emailed me some of the paperwork I needed to sign and I noticed that in the space under “current employer” he’d typed: homemaker.


But unlike a few years ago, when I’d see that title on my tax return and feel kind of ashamed about the path I’d chosen in life, this time I shook my head and laughed.

I’ve been called worse.

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Weekend Warriors

File:Viele Einkaufswagen

File:Viele Einkaufswagen

During the many years that I stayed home to care for my young children, I made it a point to avoid any and all supermarkets/warehouse clubs on Saturdays and Sundays. I could do that because I had the luxury of being able to hunt and forage for pantry staples like Pop Tarts and Tostitos while everyone else was at work during the week.

Monday through Friday, there were no lines at the Costco and Wegman’s that I frequented. I could park relatively close to the store entrance and move freely about the cereal aisle and could even – when necessary, and sometimes,  it’s totally necessary for the good of the shopping trip – easily navigate one of those carts with the little Cozy Coupe attached to the front to keep wily toddlers occupied while I stocked up on ground turkey and hamburger buns for dinners during the week.

But when I started working full time a few years ago – and even though I worked from home and was not necessarily shackled to an office desk – I was forced to join the ranks of the weekend warriors.

Once stuck with having to do my food shopping/errands on Saturdays and Sundays,  I observed something that, at least where I live, is seldom seen at Foodtown or BJ’s during the week: men.

And no offense to you guys, but from the looks of things, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, almost like you’re on an episode of “The Amazing Race” and have just landed in a foreign county and you do not speak the language. You’re either staggering around the produce section trying to discern the difference between a shallot and a scallion, or clogging up the baking aisle while calling your wife to see whether she wanted the dark or light brown sugar.

Just buy both. Please.

It’s like when I had to send my then-husband to the supermarket to pick up some Kotex for me when I had my first miscarriage and apparently he looked so pathetic standing there in the feminine hygiene aisle — I mean this was a guy who couldn’t even stand to hear the word “period” — that some older woman took pity on him and helped him find the necessary lady products.

So imagine my consternation yesterday while doing my weekly food shopping and found myself waiting on a line of shopping carts trying to snake through Wegman’s bakery section on Super Bowl Sunday when I realized I DIDN’T HAVE TO SHOP ON SUNDAYS.

I could have waited until everyone went back to work on Monday, especially the jackass that held up checkout lane 7 yesterday afternoon because he wandered off to find something while his wife did the checking out and then reappeared about five minutes after the checkout girl had finished ringing up the order. He was all, “Huh? Huh? What? What?”

There is a place in hell for you, sir.

Sure, I’ll miss the free samples at Costco on Saturdays – who hasn’t made a meal out of those freebies? – but am willing to make that sacrifice if it means I don’t have to stand behind couples arguing on the checkout line or park the length of two football fields away from the store’s entrance.

Being unemployed has its advantages.

The Polar Vortex Has Frozen My Sense of Style


Brrrrr. The handy thermometer outside my kitchen window read about 2 degrees early Tuesday morning.

By now, we are all well-versed on the potential hazards posed by the record-breaking temperatures that have plunged the country into a deep freeze.

Just turn on the TV for a couple of minutes and you’ll be immediately terrified by the mighty wrath of the polar vortex.

There’s hypothermia and frostbite to combat and slipping and falling on icy surfaces to be avoided.

Power lines are falling and cars, trains and even airplanes are zigzagging all over the place.

Just this morning, I watched a clip on Good Morning America of cars skidding across highways and one video of a vehicle careening off an overpass and crashing onto a frozen pond below.

But perhaps the most critical issue that has been impacted by the subzero temperatures here in the Northeast is my sense of style.

It seems to have frozen.

I have gone from trying to look cute (well, most days) to trying to stay warm and cozy and I am here to report that those two criteria do not go hand-in-hand.

Case in point: I returned home from picking my little guy up from school yesterday afternoon and tried briefly to sit and work in the jeans and turtleneck sweater I was wearing. That lasted about 10 minutes.

I could not deal with the button, the zipper, the funnel gripping my neck or even my bra.

It’s like it’s so cold outside that I just want swath myself in fleece and eat pot roast.

So that’s what I did.

Since about 3:00 yesterday afternoon, I have been wearing this:


My glamorous cheetah suit even has a handy pouch in front, perfect for holding dirty tissues and your cell phone.

I ate soup in it, did some work in it, wasted time on Facebook in it and watched yet another episode of “The Americans” (which everyone needs to watch) in it and drank wine in it.

I took it off to sleep and put it back on this morning. I suppose I’ll have to change out of it again to exercise later because that would be weird.

When I received the classy Forever 21 jumpsuit as a gift this Christmas, I wore it for a day and then hung it up, considering it more of a gag than a critical new piece to add to my daily wardrobe.

But now I’m thinking that if the weather this winter stays as cold and snowy as it’s already been, it could just become a fashion staple. My go-to work-from-home ensemble.

My older children were a little more skeptical when they saw their mother emerge from her room wearing essentially a onesie.

“You’re a grown woman,” observed my 21 year old.

There could be some downsides, like, I almost had a heart attack when the doorbell rang yesterday afternoon (thankfully just the UPS guy who drops and goes). And then I was slightly mortified when some of the items I was grabbing out of the mailbox slipped and fell to the ground. I had been trying to just reach my arm out the front door so as to not have to expose my neighbors to the horror of the cheetah suit and then found myself dashing down the front steps and diving through shrubbery to grab the errant mail.

Is this what things have come to? If this is what cold weather does to me, I can’t imagine what I’ll be wearing during the Zombie Apocalypse.

Michonne will have nothing on me.

Back in the day, I would be slightly concerned about what I wore to drive the kids to school each morning. What if I got into an accident or was stopped by the police? Forget clean underwear. At the very least, I always made sure I was wearing a bra. Or a very big coat.

But had something gone awry during this morning’s early and icy ride to the local high school, the paramedics would have had to have sliced through this getup:


And it makes me wonder, as I pass all the other parents carting their kids to school, am I the only one who has foregone style, and a bra for that matter, for comfort?

Has style taken a backseat to staying warm for you this winter?

Because God knows, my former sense of style is sitting in the third row today. Wearing headphones.



November is the Cruelest Month for Moms

DSC04220Anyone who agrees with T.S. Eliot’s assessment that “April is the cruelest month” has obviously never spent time trying to be a mom in New Jersey during November.

This week alone, my fifth grader has three days off. Three days. I didn’t even know about one of them until this weekend.

Out of the possible 20 full days of school this month, in our district the kids have five of them off and there will be early dismissals for another four of those days to accommodate conferences at the end of the month.

What am I doing with my 10-year-old all those hours when he should be sitting at a desk in a classroom learning about ancient civilizations or fractions or something?

As a former school board member, I understand the challenges of scheduling all those things that need to be squeezed in throughout the year, like professional development for teachers and holidays, and still end up with the mandatory 180 school days. It’s like squeezing Jello into a tube and having it ooze out the other end.

For the first time since I can remember, the kids have off Tuesday for Election Day.  In our town, residents use the two schools as polling places. In the old days, that used to coexist with the school day, with voters filing into the schools’ libraries to cast their votes. But now, no one wants folks to be able to just wander in off the streets into the schools in the wake of Newtown.

I get that.

Then at the end of this week, school is closed Thursday and Friday for the annual NJEA Convention, something I’ve had to attend in Atlantic City for mandatory board member training but have never really heard of any teachers I know attending. That used to make me crazy when the kids were younger, probably because I just wanted them out of my hair and to stop asking me what’s for dinner. But now with just two kids at home, I’m feeling kinder and gentler about the whole thing. It’s really just an excuse for the good people of New Jersey to take their kids to Orlando for a long weekend.

Then we have half days for conferences beginning the Friday before Thanksgiving and leading up to Turkey Day and Black Friday. That is what we call it now, isn’t it? It’s its own weird holiday celebrating consumerism.


If I was to stop trying to be funny for a second, I’d admit that I don’t mind having the kids around. Really. Not usually.

But I’ve got this day job that helps pay a portion of two college tuitions and the off-the-charts taxes I need to fork over to Uncle Sam quarterly.

I just don’t have the time to police the TV watching/XBOX playing/YouTube searching that some people I know like to spend as much of their free time as possible pursuing.

As fate would have it, I’m heading out of town for the long weekend to meet up with college friends and party like it’s 1988. Well, minus the beer bongs, cigarettes and fraternity boys. Pretty much we’ll sit around drinking wine and howling about the old days. I’ll come home with a sore jaw from laughing so much.

And this is a good thing, because even though I’m agitated about the November school calendar for my younger children, I have yet to come to terms with the full week off the college kids have for Thanksgiving.

Ah. Let the holidays begin.





5 Habits of Highly Ineffective Bloggers

522591_379600385471432_307731171_nPeople ask me all the time, “Amy, how do you manage to get absolutely nothing done, day in and day out?”

I mean, think about it: I wake up at the crack of dawn most days, with hours of potential productivity stretched ahead of me. But other than checking off my list the things that HAVE to be done each day  – feeding the cat, interacting with the children, getting dressed (and this last one is debatable, like, are yoga pants and long cardigan considered an actual outfit?) – I can never get around to moving forward in my life.

I’m really good at talking about doing stuff – like writing something other than blog posts and fixing the power steering on my SUV that sometimes just inexplicably doesn’t feel like working – but it’s all talk.

It reminds me of something my therapist would say to me from time to time during our early sessions, when I would bemoan the course my life had taken. “Do you know what the definition of insanity is?” she’d ask. “It’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

So if you, too, would like to experience life similar to Bill Murray in “Groundhog’s Day,” you might want to start following Amy’s Rules for Getting Nowhere:

  1. Check Facebook every 10 minutes. It’s mesmerizing, all those … (NOTE: It is here that I quickly jumped over to FB to find great examples of  just what it was that I couldn’t get enough of, like one of those snarky mom-memes or people wishing happy birthday to their 4-year-olds, when a headline about who’s been cast as the new Christian Grey (meh) caught my eye, leading me down a whole Huffington Post rabbit hole of crap about Kim Kardashian’s engagement ring and why Denmark is the happiest country. It took a huge burst of effort to get myself back to here.
  2. Refresh your site stats constantly. I just can’t get enough of knowing how many people have clicked on my latest post at any given moment. This activity is only rivaled by checking Facebook Insights and gleaning tidbits about my followers like what country they hail from and other demographic tidbits (shout out to the guys who make up 9 percent of my followers!).
  3. Schedule beauty appointments throughout the day. A girl needs to look good, n’est ce pas? Accordingly, time needs to be set aside daily for the brows and ‘stache, bikini upkeep, hair cut and color, manis, pedis and exercise a few times a week to keep it all together. It probably requires a few hours weekly to keep me all glued and taped together.
  4. Order up Netflix and cram 30 one-hour episodes of “Scandal” into a week of your life. Not interested in getting on board with the fabulous Olivia Pope, she of the white hat and gladiator ways? No problem. Try “Breaking Bad” or “Game of Thrones” or “Walking Dead” or “Mad Men” or “Orange is the New Black” or “Homeland” or “House of Cards.” Like me. (This activity pairs nicely with #5.)
  5. Drink wine every day. This, by far, is probably the biggest secret to my lack of success. It makes me sleepy and lazy and just want to watch TV (see #4).

Maybe this is what I’ll write my book about. I’ll cobble together a guide for other would-be authors on how to just not do it. On how to wish your life away.

I just need to check if I’ve gotten any new likes on Facebook first.





Silly Saturday: I Quit

Before going back to work full time three years ago, I was home taking care of the kids for 18 years. And while a lot has changed in our family over the last few years, working from home has allowed me to still be around for them when they get home from school each day or to grab them when the school nurse calls or drive them to practice or work.

In fact, because I spend most of my days sitting around in yoga pants in front of my laptop, my youngest son describes me as a “stay-at-home-computer-mom.” I may be busy trying to hit my monthly goals for work but as far as he’s concerned, I am buying another pair of shoes on Zappos.

Anyway, I saw this video while trolling Facebook this week. It’s a takeoff of another really popular one in which a young woman who has had enough of her job as a video content churner quits via an awesome video she created of herself dancing through her office and announcing she was done. (As if that didn’t make her clever enough, I also found out she had a “Modern Love” essay published last April. Bitch.)

Only in the video below, the woman works from home, surrounded by all her family’s piles of stuff and I could totally relate. Sometimes you just want to say, “Adios,” even if it’s just to go out and get milk.


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