Letting It Go

Two of my kids embarked on very different adventures recently and all I could do was hope that one of them posted a photo or two on social media so that I knew he was still alive. But, this being 2017, if the kids did post anything on social media, it would be on Snapchat – where I’ve been blocked from seeing either’s Snap story – or on their Insta story, where I have also been banned. So basically, I was just hoping for the best for a few days.

While it’s just a weird coincidence that the trips overlapped, I’m beginning to understand that I compensated for not having any control over one of the trips by crazily micromanaging the other. I don’t think my youngest child – a boy who taught himself to tie his own shoes and ride a bike when he determined at a young age that everyone around him was too distracted to step in and help – had received that much attention since the time he fell as a toddler and knocked his tooth back up into his gums. You can always count on blood to get me to sit up and take notice.

My oldest left for an overnight flight to Barcelona for a week’s vacation with a friend, and I didn’t even know what airline they were flying on. I mean, I know he mentioned it at some point, but I was busy trying to memorize other details, like arrival and departure dates and where they were staying. So I guess that fairly major one slipped through my mental cracks. I tried Googling it but didn’t have much luck finding a flight that left Newark bound for Spain at 11 p.m. the night he left.

After about 10 minutes of searching, I realized I was running behind schedule if I was going to prepare the special breakfast I’d promised – a porkroll and egg sandwich – for my 14yo who was leaving early for the iconic 8th grade trip to Washinton, DC for three days.

I’d gone on that same trip with his two older sisters years earlier and had hoped to continue the tradition this year with my baby, my one-last-middle-school-hurrah. Alas, the administration did not feel equally nostalgic about inviting me to come along. In an uncharacteristically organized and prompt manner, I’d sent an email to the principal on the first day of school announcing my desire to chaperone the trip and enumerating my many qualifications. I hit SEND and then sat back and waited for my anointment.

Instead, I got a note from the school secretary about a month later thanking me for my interest but informing me that there just wasn’t enough room to accommodate all of the requests they received.

“Don’t they know who you are?” my 20yo daughter asked in horror when I reported my rejection over glasses of rose.

“Apparently not,” I told her, taking a long sip. “It seems I’ve been running on fumes these last few years and I got passed over.”

Note to younger parents interested in nabbing a future spot as a school trip chaperone: you’re only as good as the last fundraiser you ran. Or race you organized. Or three-years spent on your school board (that was my golden ticket for a number of years).

I’d run into other moms of other 8th grade boys at our local Bilabong store where we all flocked after learning our sons needed to wear collared shirts for touring, and we agreed that boys were so easy to dress. I ended up buying my guy three pairs of shorts and two shirts and honestly, I won’t have to buy him any more clothes until he transitions to longer pants in, like, December.

I brought his bag of new clothes into my room for safekeeping, so the crisp new shorts and shirts with tags wouldn’t get swept up into the detritus littering his floor or, one of his favorite tricks, stuffed into his dirty laundry hamper. Later that night, I laid them all out on my bed and added underwear and socks to create an outfit for each day, which I then showed my son before packing into his suitcase.

“Should I get post it notes?” he asked, obviously getting into having a mom who does things like, pack his suitcase and create outfits for him.

Earlier, we’d gone to pick up some snacks and beauty items for him to take and we unwrapped the zit cream from its package and popped it into his dopp kit along with his deodorant and sunscreen. I could tell he was taking it all a little more seriously than his usual slapdash packing jobs – you should see the crumbled mass of clothing he brought with us for a recent long weekend in Boston – because he was even packing a toothbrush. He didn’t bother to bring one to Boston.

In the meantime, I kept an eye on the clock and considered the best time to text my oldest to give him a speech about safety overseas without coming off as crazy or, worse, that I didn’t have faith in his decision making abilities.

I’d messaged him on Facebook an article I’d seen earlier in the week about what to do in the event you find yourself in a terror attack. Tips like “Don’t use the elevator, take the stairs instead,” and “Don’t play dead.” Useful things like that. But just six months ago, the kids and I had spent a lovely afternoon walking over the London Bridge and poking around nearby Borough Market – eating Scottish quail eggs over greens and crisp Asian dumplings – before we headed to a nearby pub for a pint. The same path terrorists recently took to attack innocent people. Tourists like us.

So of course, I worry.

This isn’t the first time one of my children has traveled to another country solo. Both my girls – who are bookended by their brothers – flew to Europe over spring break with their high school during their respective junior years. This spring break, my younger girl visited Italy as part of a class she was taking in college to study European hospitality. She initially balked at my request that she text from time to time to just let me know she was alive but in the end, we were in constant communication.

I saw her on Instagram sitting with the hills of Tuscany in the distance and she texted photos of amazing meals she was enjoying . Thanks to SnapChat, I also saw her holding one of those giant drinks – you know, the kind that comes with a bunch of straws – late at night surrounded by a bunch of other kids. Apparently, hospitality was alive and well in Tuscany.

I was happy she was having fun but also couldn’t stop thinking about that Amanda Knox documentary I watched on Netflix and tried to slide in texts to her like, “Fun! Don’t leave the bar with a stranger!” and “TTYL! Oh, and pay attention if you wake up and there’s blood all over your bathroom!” I tried to be cool, I threw in some emojis for good measure, but it’s hard as a mom not to worry about your kids getting, like, implicated for murder in a foreign country and shit.

When my older daughter went to Italy during high school, things were pretty chaotic at our house. By then I was divorced and working full time at a relentless job and had four kids in four different schools and – as an added bonus – three teenagers living under my roof. This was probably around the time that the baby took matters into his own hands and learned to do things for himself.

After my daughter left, I realized I had no idea when she was expected to return. I mean, I knew the day – thank God – but not the time the buses would pull back into the high school parking lot. School was closed for the break and I didn’t really know any of the other parents well enough to call up and make a joke about the whole thing. No one who would laugh and be all like, “Been there.”

No, instead I had to call the parents of a boy with whom my daughter had gone to grammar school. The kind of parents that really seems to have their act together. The kind of family that sends all three of its children to Ivy League schools. The dad, who I knew even less well than the mom, answered the phone and had a hard time hiding his dismay when I confessed my sin. “It’s in all the paperwork,” he told me.

“LOL. Paperwork,” I thought, wondering how I could still have in my possession Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons that expired three years earlier and not papers containing vital information for this Italy trip.

The dad gave me the arrival time and then assured me it was accurate as he’d confirmed when his son called the day before. Then it was my turn to hide my surprise that he’d actually heard from his child on the trip. All I got was radio silence and then some some slightly stale biscotti upon my daughter’s return.

I mentioned all this to my friend Dan, how I worried about my oldest navigating a foreign city and whether I’d taught him everything he needed to know to stay safe.

“That’s how we learn,” Dan reminded me, and I thought about my own maiden voyage overseas. How, following a terrible breakup, I enlisted a pal to travel super-low-budget to Europe for 10 days and, having only been on a few jaunts to Florida during high school, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. And that was 100 years before the Internet and cell phones.

We were so clueless, we even got on line as soon as we entered the International Terminal at JFK to have our baggage searched, not realizing it was for people flying to, like, the Gaza Strip or some shit. And I packed an actual suitcase for the multi-city journey, which was sans wheels, and ended up lugging that thing through train stations in Milan and Paris and up and down the cobbled streets of Trastevere and Nice looking for cheap hostels.

My friend and I learned the hard way that beer in Europe was much stronger than the Busch beer we were used to drinking at fraternity parties, and that Italian men were good kissers but terribly persistent (we had to dodge a pair for a few days who’d come back to take us to the beach that we’d drunkenly agreed to visit the night before).

Upon our return to New York, tired and pretty broke, we discovered that the subway back into Manhattan from JFK could get a little dicey, circa 1990, making stops in Bushwick and Bed Stuy. But we survived with nary a scratch (but maybe a few hickies that we tried to cover up with our new Parisian scarves) and learned going forward to always go easy on the Italian beer and – for the love of God – pony up the extra 20 bucks for a cab out of JFK.

I ended up texting my oldest guy after work the night of his departure and reminded him to call so I could wish him a bon voyage. When he called a little while later, he quickly got annoyed and told me he felt like I was judging him, which I probably was. He was leaving for the airport way later than I would ever leave to catch an international flight. (Interestingly, the only time I am never, ever, late is when flying.) But my son sensed my vibe, the one I tend to put out when people aren’t doing things the way I think they should be doing them. I get a tone. For those who love me, it makes them nuts.

But I apologized and asked a bunch of questions and we got back on track. After a few minutes, he told me he was going to finish up eating dinner and get ready to go.

I wanted to say, “Watch out for terrorists,” or “Keep your wits about you” or at the very least, “Can you send me your travel itinerary?” but in the end, just told him to have a great time. And then, because I just couldn’t help myself, asked if he’d just text me when he got to his gate. And maybe again when he landed.

“Mom,” he said, “I’ll text you when I can.”

So I woke up early the next morning and remembered my child was somewhere in the air over the ocean and that’s when I tried to figure out what flight he was on before making breakfast for my other guy. While I was flipping his egg, my phone dinged and I looked down to see a text from my oldest son. “Just landed. Here safe.”

And that was that. I’ve seen daily photos on Instagram and a whole album on Facebook, but haven’t really heard from him again.

In the meantime, I received an all-points bulletin when the 8th graders’ buses departed and my girlfriend got a text from her kid reporting that they’d made it to Maryland.

Ten years ago, when that same boy who is in Barcelona traveled with his 8th grade class to D.C., there was no communication until the buses pulled back into the school’s driveway three days later. There were no CODE RED texts and emails and he certainly didn’t call or text. I don’t even think they were allowed to bring cell phones with them back then.

So maybe I’ve just become conditioned to be able to contact my children at any time of day or night over the last decade. And, thanks to location sharing technology, I can even stalk three out of the four kids to see where they are at any given moment. But the person I really want to keep track of – my wily 14yo – is the hardest to pin down as he’s usually blown through his allotted amount of data about four days into our Verizon billing cycle, rendering him unable to text or be tracked until the 20th of the following month.

And maybe I should be glad for that. Maybe in the end it helps me let go of trying to control and monitor his every move. Give him some latitude to figure things out on his own. Kind of like he’s always done.

I’m thankful I didn’t have the technology available today around when my oldest child was still in the grip of my highly-involved parenting style. Back then, I would have put a chip in him if that was an option. And I think I was so up his butt when he was younger that by the time high school rolled around he spent a good deal of time trying to shake me loose. It wasn’t pretty.

Ten years and three kids through high school and two kids through college later, and I’ve managed to reign in my desire to micromanage my kids’ every move. (Almost.) I’ve learned to have faith in their decision making and, more importantly, to learn from their mistakes. (Pretty much.) I’ve decided it’s much healthier to adopt a “let it go” attitude. (Well, not so much.)

But I have my limits. I still want to know when their plane lands after a long flight or they’ve arrived at their destination following a lengthy drive. I’m not a worrier in general but do fret when they’re in transit. I need to know when they’ve dodged the travel bullet.

I guess everything else is gravy.

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Join Me for Wine, Laughs & Leggings at Athleta, Shrewsbury

You guys, let’s hang out!

My lovely, and patient, friends at Athleta, Shrewsbury are putting together a little shindig for us next week to do just that! We can grab a glass of wine, I’ll tell some stories and we can get distracted by Athleta’s new Spring line (SPOILER ALERT: everything is adorable).

Grab your best pal and head to the Shrewsbury, NJ store in The Grove on Thursday, April 20 and we’ll have some fun from 7-9 p.m. You can RSVP here.

Can’t wait.

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Post Traumatic Stress


Hello, my name is Finn. I would like to lick your feet, eat some sticks and poop on your floor. 

I have a new baby in the house. As such, I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn, adhering to feeding and pooping schedules and wearing a lot of sweatpants. I’ve also been struggling with that sense of isolation that only someone who’s been trapped in their house with a helpless creature – day after endless day – could ever understand. On the bright side, no one is trying to latch onto my nipples and make them bleed.

In the almost three weeks since I brought an 8-week-old puppy home, I’ve re-learned a very valuable lesson: keeping babies alive is a pain in the ass.

This goes for the two-legged variety as well. I’ve been reminded how hard it was when the kids were little – feeding them, cleaning them, putting them to bed, singing, dancing, drawing, talking, swinging, wiping, oh all that wiping – tables, hands, faces, butts. I’d forgotten, in all my romanticizing of the early years with my children, just how relentless it all was. There was always another chicken nugget to cook, diaper to change, dance lesson to load everyone in the car to drive to. There is something to be said for having children old enough to heat up their own pizza bagels and then disappear for the night to watch Netflix.

Having this puppy — a situation akin to having an 18-month-old careening drunkenly around my kitchen without diapers – also ushers militant scheduling and containment back into my life. Things that have been missing for a while. Let it be known that I am really good at the latter; when my children were young I was all about confinement and embraced playpens in my house and on the beach and when they needed a little more room, I’d set up a big play yard in the TV room. Now we have a baby gate at each of the three doorways into my kitchen and a play yard filled with toys and his blankie for when I can’t keep my eye on our pup because, apparently, that’s the perfect milisecond to squat and pee on the floor. He should be that speedy when we’re standing outside in the rain.


My new baby – I mean puppy – also requires me to be pretty faithful to a schedule and just ask the ladies I work with at Athleta, I am not always amazing at that. Sometimes I forget to show up for a shift and once I was folding leggings for an hour before someone realized I wasn’t even on the schedule for that day. Caring for infants was similarly haphazard. I mean, I never forgot to feed them or anything terrible, but I’d have a hard time remembering the last time I nursed someone or when they last slept. Maybe it’s just my powers of observation aren’t that sharp. Like, I often wished babies came with LCD screens on their foreheads that would display helpful messages like “HUNGRY” or “HAS 10 POUNDS OF URINE IN DIAPER” to help me figure out why they were crying.

Another thing I’ve been reminded of is that I’m really good at is letting someone cry it out. In fact – as long as I know all their needs have been met – I don’t even hear the weeping after a while. When I stick him in his playpen, the puppy will give it his all for about five minutes – he’ll throw in a little howling for good measure – then he’ll downgrade the session to some whimpering before lying down and resigning himself to his fate. I’ve had people fall on the floor and weep at Target when I refused to buy a Bionicle, so I can easily wait out three minutes of crying coming from a playpen in my kitchen. My children on the other hand can barely take 30 seconds of the charade. They try to shush him or tell him it’s “okay.” Sometimes they even pick him up and cuddle him. Suckers.

I knew what I was getting into with the pup. Or at least, I thought I knew. Like, I figured I’d be responsible for the bulk of his upkeep, but not all of it. I figured, since the children were so incredibly hot for me to get a dog, they’d do their share of standing outside with him at 6 a.m. watching him chew a stick rather than tinkle. But therein lies the rub: the kids were excited for ME to get a dog. Not really US. And so lately, I’ve also been harboring a teensy bit of rage, another feeling I haven’t really felt in a while. It’s like a big ball of resentment festering in my chest and waiting to pounce at the slightest invitation. I mean, it could have something to do with this whole menopause thing, too, as all my estrogen is running out faster than red wine at book club.


It’s similar to how trapped I often felt when the kids were small and I was home with them full time. Their dad could come and go as he wanted but the children were always my problem. I think it’s that way for most women, really, whether or not they work and even in the best of marriages. Meal planning. Earaches. Permission slips. Dentist appointments. These things all tend to fall under a mother’s purview while the dads remain blissfully unaware of all the moving parts that make the family machine run.

It’s probably why I resisted getting a new dog after our very fine dog died five years ago. It was nice having one less thing depend on me. I mean, even though my actual children are older now – some of them even commute and pay income taxes – they still need me. They call me when they’re feeling blue or when good news comes their way. And I’m still teaching them things, like “What are taxes?” and “How the U.S. Postal System Works” (SIDEBAR: a few years ago my son texted me FROM COLLEGE in Virginia to ask if he needed to use a stamp to mail something to Ohio).

I still badger them to get make dentist appointments or to get weird foot things looked at by someone other than me. And with a 14yo, I’m trying to figure out how to set parameters around that magic computer he keeps in his pocket plus I still have another round of high school to get through. Pray for me.

I worry about their jobs; whether they’ll fall in love and have healthy relationships; that they’ll find happiness no matter whom they’re with or what they do. Honestly, when I was so hot to have four kids all those years ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Maybe none of us do.

This I do know: I wouldn’t change any of it. Because it is all hard, hard work, raising puppies and babies, but the payoff is what keeps pulling us back in. It’s how we find ourselves back at a breeder or in the delivery room. Waking up at all hours. Loving someone even when they’ve done something less-than-lovable. It’s the little hands on your cheeks pulling you in for a kiss; the pup asleep at your feet; the teenager who holds your hand when it’s your turn to get a shot.

So what is the alternative? Being alone? That might work for some but I guess not for me. I’ve learned that I need to be a part of a tribe, and there’s always room for one more. Provided he doesn’t poop on my floor.

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Naughty Pictures

freakyfriday-290My 14yo hastily cleaned out his backpack before school the other morning and after he’d left, I found a neatly folded sheet of loose leaf paper sitting all alone on the kitchen table tucked under a planter. Upon opening it, I discovered a quite impressive pencil rendering of the male anatomy leading me to wonder – not for the first time in my almost 25 years of parenting – why I hadn’t been paying better attention to my children growing up. I mean, the thing even had a few hairs sprouting out from its undercarriage and shading on the, er, shaft.

There was also some writing, including the name of one of his buddies, indicating that it was probably something they were fooling around passing back-and-forth in class instead of actually learning but from the looks of the picture, someone had at least been paying a little attention during health class. And here I was assuming they were all still into Pokemon.

I considered sharing a picture of my baby’s artwork on social media, so I folded it back up and put it in a wire basket next to my sink that ostensibly is supposed to be holding apples and bananas but ends up instead stuffed with things like remote controls and a box of Celestial Seasonings (Tension Tamer) and anything else I like to keep handy and remember that I own. If I could, I’d try to put my sanity in there for safe keeping but fear at this stage of the game it would just slither to the counter between the wires and get lost under the basket.

The boy came home from school and, in an unusual and ironic move, pulled some schoolwork out of a folder in his backpack to show me. Honestly, there are times when I’m not even sure the kid goes to school when he walks out my door each morning in his hooded sweatshirt and cuffed khakis (what better way to show off his impressive collection of weird socks, regardless of the weather?). The kid never seems to have homework or to require studying. He never even asks me to go to the CVS and buy him poster board, which would at least signal he’s got a project due. If I wasn’t certain the authorities would have reached out to me by now if his seat in homeroom remained empty day-after-day, I’d be convinced he went and sat on a curb somewhere in town and watched YouTube videos on his iPhone all day. His monthly data usage would definitely support that hypothesis.

But he seemed pretty eager to show me an illustration he’d made for social studies class that day. They’d been talking about editorial cartoons and then the kids got to draw their own and my son chose to riff on that basketball player who recently floated the idea on some podcast that the Earth was flat. In these end days of alternative facts and rampant conspiracy theories, this assertion doesn’t even seem as crazy as it might have seemed even a year ago. Apparently, and thankfully, my own child agreed and drew a pretty good likeness of the dude spinning a flat basketball on his finger. Well played.

“What do you think?” he asked, all smiley as we stood next to the kitchen sink and, alas for him, the wire basket, from which I began to pull the folded sheet of loose leaf.

“I think you’re a pretty good artist,” I said and handed him the paper. “Here’s how I know.”

He gamely began to unfold the paper and as he opened the final flap his face registered that he knew what he was about to see.

“Well, Mom,” he said as he quickly crumpled the note in his hands, “that was weird.”

He slid open the trash that sat between us and threw the paper inside before closing it and walking away with a tight smile on his face that said, “Let’s never talk about this again.”

I’m sure he was afraid that I’d see the drawing as the opening to yet another one of my spontaneous conversations about sexuality that I’m always trying to start with my children. Much to their horror, I’m always looking for teachable moments, opportunities to have frank discussions about stuff like periods and contraception. But I’ve learned over the years that my children would rather learn everything there is to know about sexuality from their idiot friends or websites like milfhunter.com. Don’t even ask how I know something like that exists.

But he escaped that day unscathed from any of my “sexual curiosity is healthy” speeches. I’d given a moving talk about pornography not long ago so backed off and let him slink up to his room and hopefully not hunt for milfs.

It’s interesting that here I sit, a 50yo menopausal lady on one end of the sexual vortex living with a 14yo boy who’s on the completely opposite end. Like, if you were to divide our brains into pie slices based on what we thought about most days, the piece from mine devoted to sex would be a tiny sliver – you’d probably want some ice cream alongside it – whereas my son’s portion would need a pretty big plate to accommodate it. You might as well just get a fork and eat right out of the pan. As for my brain, it’s pretty much split down the middle between worrying about my midsection and waning mortality.

Now that would be a funny premise for an updated Freaky Friday. I would morph into a horny teenager and be reminded of just how mesmerizing sex can seem and he would spend time as a tired old lady who’d really just rather read a good book and not have to worry about somebody pawing at her.

Somebody call Ron Howard.

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Totems From My Childhood

Tfp_aus_vhsDear Boys and Girls,

I am going to try to describe something that might be really hard for you to understand, given the world of instant gratification that you’ve grown up in. For most of your sweet young lives, you’ve been able to watch pretty much any movie or TV show that caught your fancy at any given moment. Through the gentle push of a remote control button, you have access today to an endless number of channels geared towards young’uns, programs recorded on your parents’ DVR or plucked from the Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and all the other magic apps that appear on your flat screen television.

Even way back in the dark ages of the early 1990s, when there were exactly three cable channels geared towards kids (Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel), my children also had an impressive VHS library of shows to choose from and could watch Bambi or Thomas the Tank Engine when the kids shows on our PBS station signed off for the day in late afternoon (I refused to let them watch the stuff on cable back then. #ohhowthemightyhavefallen).

When I was growing up amongst the Mayan ruins of the Triassic period (just go with it), way back in the early 1970s, there were zero cable channels dedicated to kids as there was no cable and we mostly had to get our fill early in the morning during the week and for a few precious hours Saturday mornings (can you imagine?). Other than that, we had to make do with reruns from 20 years earlier (like The Andy Griffith Show and My Three Sons) or old movies.

Of course, it wasn’t until later, like in the 1980s, that we could record shows on VCRs (but honestly, who could ever really figure out how to do that?). So when a show came on TV that you really enjoyed you savored that shizz. It was really, really special.

I remember my mom letting me stay up, a rarity, to watch The Wizard of Oz which only came on once a year (maybe Easter or Thanksgiving?). That was great until that part where Dorothy’s house is caught up in the tornado and Miss Gulch rides by on her bike and then turns into the witch and practically gave 6yo me a heart attack. Christmas specials, like Rudolph and Charlie Brown, only came on once a year and I can’t tell you how many times I’d seen bits and pieces of movies — like Yours Mine and Ours and Charade — but never the full thing from beginning to end. It all depended on when I found it on my TV dial.

And then there were television specials of my youth that aired once or twice and then disappeared like the Carnation Breakfast Bars and Chocodiles of long ago.

This all brings me to earlier this week when a conversation with my 14yo son reminded me of one of my most beloved TV specials from the 1970s: the muppet version of The Frog Prince. I was such a lame little girl that I’d have given anything to be the beautiful Princess Melora, even if I would have to talk wackbards. And I’m pretty sure we had the album at one point because I still know all the words to the songs and a lot of the dialogue.

How do I know this? Because before my son even knew what hit him, I had him trapped on the couch with the laptop resting on our legs watching The Frog Prince on YouTube. He resisted at first, telling me he was no longer into muppets, but I turned on some hardcore pressure.

“This is everything you need to know about me,” I told him, pointing to Kermit the Frog floating in a pond on the computer screen. “Seriously,” I said, pulling him way too close for his liking, “this is the most important TV show of my life.”

And, because he is a really nice boy and was probably tired from his basketball game earlier that day, he snuggled in and watched all 50 minutes with me — songs, corny jokes and all. Not to mention me singing along.

It just made me happy to share that important totem from my childhood and now am just wondering how I can pull off the same stunt with Free to Be, You and Me. I’ll have to catch him off guard again.

Please write with any suggestions and of course, let me know what your favorite shows from childhood were in the comment section below because that kid’s not going to college for another five years and I could really use some other reasons to make him sit a snuggle with me and stop looking at his phone (which you’re probably doing now, too.

Your friend,


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This Is Your Brain

cf4b27e118fb68f80db165ebc7d7dad3I don’t know about you, but I never really think about my brain. Honestly, I tend to take that organ for granted, much the same way I do all of those other essential body parts I can’t really see. It’s like I accept that in theory they are there, doing whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing. But I can’t really imagine myself with, like, a liver of my own.

It’s kind of like when I was having my third baby and a helpful delivery nurse pushed a full-length mirror over to the foot of the bed where the whole pushing drama was playing out. Imagine my dismay when I saw what my pelvic floor looked like during the ordeal. Like, this wasn’t some stranger’s perineum I was watching on some “How to Have a Baby” video. It was my poor bottom pulsing like The Little Rascals mweep mwomp cake as the baby kept taking three steps forward and one step back down the birth canal. Needless to say, my horror threw off any big efforts I had been making up to that point to get the baby’s big damn head out of me. When the fourth baby came a few years later, I banned all mirrors from the delivery room and kept the birth process the mystery it really needed to be.

I’ve always thought about my brain more as my noggin or my noodle. I make grand pronouncements, like that I’m going to “blow my brains out” if something horrendous occurs – like, say, a certain candidate is elected president – or that I’m officially “brain dead” after folding yoga pants for six hours. I recently yelled at my son to please use his brain when he thought playing lacrosse in the kitchen was a good idea.

But I’ve never really wrapped my alleged brain around the fact that nestled in the warmth of my skull sits one of those things you can find if you search for images of “brain” on the internet. One of those weird, bulbous, spongy-looking things that might be more interesting as a tabletop curio than something actually living inside you. It might make a nice paperweight.

It turns out though that I actually do have one of those things because I hurt it a couple of weeks ago and ever since it has been making its presence known. I’m almost at the point where I’d like to tell my brain, “Enough already. I get it. You’re mad and I’ll try to make better decisions in the future.” That thing can be so bossy.

It’s kind of funny, actually, because the cause of the injury could be in a way pinned to my lack of brains, or that maybe I should have really utilized said brain before I decided to ski down that wooded trail.

But we’d been having such a great day – me and my friend Susan and our three sons – that it just seemed right to say, “Sure” when the boys suggested we detour off the nice wide trails we’d been skiing down all day and do a run through the woods.

Actually, that’s a lie. What the boys really said was, “We’re gonna go through the woods,” and I said, “Susan, let’s do it.”

And Susan tried to be the voice of reason. She tried to say, “Why don’t we just meet them at the bottom?”


But I was feeling cocky. I haven’t fallen skiing in years and even though I am totally not the greatest skier, I’ve gotten much better than I used to be. If the trail isn’t too steep I can ski kinda straight down, with minimal turning. I don’t need to go back and forth across the whole width of the trail to make my way down any more. But some turning is still required. This here is the rub.

So, in theory, I could handle skiing through the woods. But the reality of skiing through the woods, or at least the trail that we descended onto, was much different. My son and his friend set off, one after the other, and I followed behind and quickly learned two things after about ten feet of skiing: #1 there was absolutely no wiggle room and #2 there was also no escape hatch. I was committed.

Where there was about a three-foot path to maneuver down through the trees I needed, like, five. I needed to do a little back-and-forth. I didn’t even have enough room to bring my ski tips together and try to snow plow, which I quickly tried to do to slow things down.

And then I saw the tree. Well, it was really two trees ahead in the distance that needed to be circumvented to continue along the trail. In retrospect, what I really should have been using my brain for at that moment was to quickly develop a strategy for the upcoming maneuver. I should have been thinking how I needed to kinda veer to the right a little and then quickly cut to the left to get around the trees. But honestly, as I watched the white bark of the birch tree come closer and closer, the only thing my brain could do as I bared down on the obstacle was scream, “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE LIKE SONNY BONO!”

The next few seconds are kind of blurry. I think in an effort to make friends with the tree and show it I meant it no harm, I tried to sort of hug it as I went past. But then either the tree got pissed and shoved me or the effort threw whatever semblance of balance I’d maintained down the trail completely off, I don’t really know. What I do know is that time suddenly went all Matrix on me as I started to fall backwards. I had about a hundred thoughts all at once:

“Oh my God, I’m falling.”

“I always loved Sonny and Cher.”

“This is going to hurt.”

“What is the name of that other famous person who died skiing?”

“I haven’t fallen skiing in years.”

“Where should we go for dinner?”

“Was it Natalie?”

“I hope people can’t see me from the ski lift.”

“You know, Liam Neeson’s wife?” 

“Thank God I’m wearing a helmet.”

“You really can get anything at Costco.”


That last second, when the back of my ski helmet connected with the pretty hard trail, is really what I remember the most. The feeling of my helmet smashing onto the ground and how my whole head and neck seemed to reverberate was incredibly vivid, as was my final and competing thoughts: “Wow, that really hurt,” and “I can’t believe anyone would ski without a helmet.”

Everything else is kind of a blur.

I guess I must have just laid there in a jumbled mass on the ground for a few beats before trying to sit up and assess the situation and honestly at that point, I was much more concerned about my 50yo lady knees than my head. When I pushed myself up on my elbows to see what had happened to the lower half of my body, I found that somehow my legs were wrapped around my old friend the birch tree with my knees bent inwards and my skis jutting out from either side of my body.

I was trying to use the tip of my ski pole to pop the ski off my boot when Susan and her oldest son came upon my situation and tried to help out, which was a challenge since they are snowboarders and had no idea how ski bindings work. So it was kind of comical, them trying to push and press different parts of my boots to try to get skis off me and me becoming increasingly panicked as my knees really started to hurt.

“Why don’t we just do this?” Susan asked while lifting my whole leg up in an effort to reposition the skis around the tree when suddenly, miraculously, the ski just popped off.

From there, I’m not too sure how I ended up back on my feet and skiing the final 10 or so yards out of the woods and back onto the regular old ski trail. As I emerged, wobbly and a little more humble than when I’d entered, the other two boys stood waiting and started to cheer.

“What happened to you?” they asked and I had to tell them the whole grim story while we waited for Susan and her son to clip back into their boards and make their way out of the woods.

And then I decided to pretty much forget about the whole ordeal. We continued to ski for the rest of the afternoon and when all three boys decided they’d had enough and were ready to call it a day, Susan and I took the gondola up to the top of the mountain for a final long run before calling it quits. We pulled out our phones at the top to take pictures of how beautiful the trees looked, drooping under the weight of so much snow and framed by the late afternoon Vermont sky. I congratulated myself for making the effort to take that final run and as we flew down the (nice and easy) trail, I could see other snowy mountains off in the distance and patches of darkly colored lakes scattered far below and thought, “Oh, this is why people like to ski.”

Buoyed by the brush with nature’s greatness and my newfound love for skiing, Susan and I decided to keep the momentum going once we got to the bottom and headed to the bar at the lodge to get a beer and rub elbows with all our fellow helmet-headed skiers.

The music was loud and the tap beer cold and hoppy and we chatted with the people around us at the bar and even though I could feel my head hurting a little, I did what I do best which is to ignore red flags and just hope they go away and stop trying to interrupt all the fun.

We took the last shuttle back down to the condo and made dinner while the boys went for a swim in the pool and later we all played cards around the big wooden table. I went to bed that night thinking more about how great the weekend had been – how the boys spent way more time with us than I’d ever hoped to imagine and how that was all about to change – than my head. We’d Googled “concussion symptoms” earlier in the night and I had Susan examine my pupils for any dire signs but as I had not lost consciousness nor was I vomiting, figured I’d feel better in the morning.

Which, alas, I did not. In fact, my head felt that much worse and I also woke to discover that the front and back of my neck was stiff with whiplash.

“Susan,” I said as we sat on the couch waiting for CBS Sunday Morning to come on while the boys squeezed in a little more skiing, “I don’t think I can ignore my head any more.”

We decided I should call the urgent care place at the base of the mountain and explain the situation and see if they could just diagnose me over the phone. A very nice nurse named Wilma took the call and listened to my tale of woe and then very kindly explained that it was indeed difficult to make these kinds of diagnoses based on here say.

“You really should come in,” she said.

So, not for the first time, Susan found herself driving me to an emergency room in search of professional care. I got to meet Wilma, who gave me a look-see, and then later I was examined by a resident and finally a doctor, both of whom were wearing ski boots which I found interesting. It’s like they’d made a quick stop to perform some medical exams between runs.

At any rate, all concurred that – based on what I told them and their observations – that I’d sustained a mild concussion after my brush with the tree and we all agreed the helmet – while not a magic shield against all injury – did indeed prevent anything worse from occurring (unlike poor Natasha Richardson).

I was told to kind of chill out for a couple of days and especially avoid staring at my phone or computer or watching any TV, which I mostly did (I did, however, read two books but honestly that didn’t really seem to hurt my head as much as when I tried to sneak in a few minutes of Facebook).

Listen, this story could go on and on. I could tell you about the bad cold/sinus thing that then manifested itself and caused even greater pressure on my already sore brain. I could tell you about how I was so good, lying in my dark bedroom for a few days, and then how I decided I was really over the whole thing and tried to go back to my old life, Facebook and all. And how, after 10 days of headaches, I took myself to my local emergency room the other day to get myself a CAT scan and finally diagnose either the internal bleeding or spinal meningitis I was pretty sure was festering within my skull.

Instead, the friendly nurse practitioner who assessed my images assured me that my brain looked good and showed no signs of bleeding and that meningitis is not some cunning villain, laying quietly in wait to be diagnosed. It really makes its presence knows to its victim, she told me. It doesn’t just wait for you to go to an emergency room to say hello.

So, that’s kind of where I am right now. I don’t really have a tidy ending to this whole, long story except to say, “Brains are important, kids. Don’t take yours for granted.” When your brain tells you that maybe something you’re considering doing is dangerous, you should really pay attention. And for the love of Pete, don’t even think about not wearing a helmet when you’re doing something risky.

Your brain will thank you.

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What to Wear on Your Flight to London

London Tourist

Following a recent trip to London I took with my four kids between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ve decided that I totally spend as much – if not more – time obsessing over what to wear on the plane than when I’m on the actual vacation.

Unlike most other outfits I’d need to pack for our vacation – clothes for touring the Tower of London or enjoying an elegant tea with my daughters – my travel ensemble needed to serve a number of functions.

First and foremost, it needed to be cozy enough for a seven-hour overnight flight in coach that would allow sleep. Critical. The outfit also had to take me through a day of sightseeing once we landed. And finally – and most importantly – I obviously also wanted to look cute and not like I was a crazy person walking around in my pajamas.

No problem.

The other critical piece to the travel puzzle – because it is a puzzle, n’est-ce pas? – was figuring out what accessories would help facilitate my goals. I needed a bag and shoes that would encourage comfort whilst preventing me from looking like the Ugly American (and I was already planning on walking around with my camera around my neck for most of the trip).

In the end, I think the weird amount of time I spent thinking about these things paid off. I slept a good amount of the flight (thank you, Valium), spent a day hopping on and off the Big Red Bus and a spin around the London Eye at dusk, and – because we were so exhausted by the end of that first day – stayed in my travel outfit for dinner at a gastropub around the corner from our hotel. At the end of our meal, the owner sent us over glasses of champagne to celebrate our first night in London and I can’t decide if it’s because he was delighted with how chic we all looked or felt sorry for our sad state of affairs.

Needless to say, I peeled that 24-hour outfit off that night and thanked it for its service. It had done its job.

Travel Essentials London

ONE: Cardigan/Garnet Hill; TWO: Blanket Scarf/Mark & Graham; THREE: Travel Blanket/Sac; FOUR: Leggings/Athleta; FIVE: Passport Holder/Cuyana; SIX: Boots/Clarks; SEVEN: Sports Bra/Athleta

  1. Cashmere Cardigan: As a 50-year-old lady who is prone to feeling like her hair is on fire at any given moment, I am an advocate of layering – with cashmere, where appropriate. Honestly, it’s like wearing a very cozy blanket. Throw over this cute tank and you’re ready for your nap.
  2. Blanket Scarf: I bought these big, soft scarves for my daughters for Christmas that doubled as cozy throws for the flight. I am also now completely devoted to the site because I not only nabbed them at Black Friday prices but the free gift wrapping they arrived at my door in seemed almost more expensive than the scarves themselves. Well-played, Mark & Graham.
  3. Travel Blanket/Pillow: I’ve had this cozy set for years and it’s come with me on all sorts of adventures like Greece and Hong Kong. Even though they hand out blankets in sanitized plastic wrap for longer flights, I’d still rather know where my pillow has been.
  4. Leggings: Okay, I currently work at the store but even if I didn’t, I’d still rave about these tights. They have just the right bit of compression, cute zippers at the ankle and the waist is nice and high and doesn’t cut into your midsection while you’re cramped in your seat mid-flight. Plus, it kinda just smoothes out the whole middle situation, if you know what I mean (see 50-year-old lady bit above).
  5. Passport Holder: I honestly didn’t know I needed a passport holder until my BF gave me this chic little number for Christmas. The soft leather has this wonderful pebbly grain and my initials embossed in gold on the bottom corner. It ended up being the perfect wallet for a trip abroad, where you’re really only carrying around your license, credit card and some currency. You can leave your Costco card at home.
  6. Black Suede Boots: At one point in early December, it looked as if my bedroom was doubling as a Zappos warehouse. I just kept ordering boots that I thought might fit the bill of being comfortable to walk all over London and yet not make me look like too much of a granny. I mean, I do have a reputation to uphold. In the end, these babies from Clarks made love to my feet all day long. There’s really no other way to say it. And their looks kinda grew on me throughout the trip, even after my younger daughter observed during our Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour that they somewhat resembled the Sorting Hat. Maybe that just makes me a wizard.
  7. Sports Bra: This should really have made it to the top of my list because I spent so much time thinking about finding the right undergarment for sleeping and sightseeing. I only wish I’d discovered this bra before my 16-hour flight to Hong Kong a couple of years ago because it’s so comfortable. In fact, now that I’m home, I still find myself throwing it on most days instead of a regular bra with wires and hooks. Imagine me like Oprah right now freaking out over bread: You MUST have this bra! GO GET this bra!
  8. Cross-Body Bag (Not Pictured): Need a great bag for sightseeing that’s also super-stylish? Go buy this bag from Madewell right now. Yes, I’m still talking like Oprah.
  9. Book a Trip!!: You say you have nowhere to go! It’s not too late to book a spring break getaway! You can still snag a fabulous rental someplace warm through Tripping.com, which is kinda like the Kayak  (my flight/hotel fave) of vacation rentals. It’s one-stop-shopping for rentals listed on all the top sites like TripAdvisor, VRBO and Homeaway. Don’t know where to go? We hear Florida is the hot destination du jour (in more ways than one). Get booking!

Stop being so greedy already! Share your own travel must-haves in the comments below. You’re the best. Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below and new posts will arrive without you having to remember to look for them. Everything should be this easy. You can also follow me on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and (what the hell) Pinterest[wysija_form id=”1″]

Making Memories in London With My Kids


In the weeks leading up to a recent trip I took to London with my four (mostly) grown children, the most common response I got from folks when I told them about our upcoming adventure was, “You’re taking all of them?”

“Yes,” I’d tell the nice people, “every bles-sed one of them.”

But I was never really sure what any of them meant by that question.

Maybe the trip seemed like a big financial undertaking for a single mom. Or maybe there are age limits for family vacations. Maybe it’s weird to want to take your kids – 24, 22, 19 and 14 (two of whom have graduated from college) – away on a trip. Like, to pay good money to spend time with them when you’d just spent so much on tuitions in an effort to get rid of them.

But it had been about seven years since we’d all gone away on vacation together. Right after the divorce I took the four kids to the Bahamas for a few days and honestly, the trip was a bit of a disaster. A snowstorm botched initial plans to leave and once we finally got there, the weather wasn’t much better than New Jersey. We were running around in bathing suits one day hopping on and off the resort’s lazy river, our teeth chattering and extremities covered in goosebumps, when I made a quick pit stop in the ladies room and found a cluster of little Bahamian girls standing there wearing puffy winter jackets.

Aside from a couple of jaunts to a friend’s house in Vermont for skiing and hiking, the five of us hadn’t traveled anywhere together in a long time. I’d taken various combinations of the kids places over the years but it had been on my bucket list to try to squeeze it in one more vacation en famille before it was too late. Before the older ones went off and started their own families or moved far away or joined the priesthood. Or the circus. Something like that. So when I downsized last year, I set aside a little nest egg for all of us to go away together somewhere special.

And it was the best money I ever spent.

I knew the kids would have been happy planting their butts on the beach of some all-inclusive resort in Mexico for a week, but I dreamed of going zip lining through the jungles of Costa Rica or channeling my inner Marcia Brady and riding a donkey down into the Grand Canyon or looking out over the City of Lights from the Eiffel Tower alongside those eight little eyes I made. I wanted to share with them the joy I got from traveling. From experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. I really wanted to give them an adventure and not just a vacation.

But either airfare was nuts or the season was wrong or the language barrier seemed way too daunting to go forward with any of those initial ideas. I already knew I’d play the role of tour guide for this vacation and didn’t need a foreign language to add to any stressful moments while getting us around. I don’t know about your family, but things can get tense for us when we all need to come together to make a decision. And if someone (read: me) needed to then find someone to parlez-vous anglais to help us make that decision, our family anxiety level would have ratcheted up to about a Level 12 out of a possible 10.

And, since I was thinking really big, the idea of going to London just came to me one morning while sitting on my couch at one with my laptop. I’d been across the proverbial pond a couple of times with the kids’ dad for really fast and fun weekends for his job and loved the city. But we’d never really done any hard-core touristy stuff. We’d seen some of the bigger sites but at that point in my life, I was just thrilled to get away from our four kids for a few days and have some fun. I never bought any guidebooks or read up on the history of the city. We just kind of walked around without an itinerary and did what we pleased. Since none of the kids had ever been to London, I thought it might make the perfect destination for our big adventure. Something we could discover together.

And it was.

We spent about five full days canvassing London between Christmas and New Year’s and it was exhausting and fun and probably the best vacation I’ve ever taken. Sure, it would have been way easier (and cheaper) to just take two or three of the kids still living at home. But it wouldn’t have been the same. I wanted something the whole family could experience. To create all those shared memories and maybe, just maybe, help bring us together after a bad divorce and that dark era I refer to as “The Teenaged Years” that fell upon our home for a good decade. I mean, I still have two teenagers but things seem to have lightened up a bit, which tells me either I’m getting really good at managing those surly beasts or I’ve developed an immunity to their poisonous ways.

Either way, our little family really needed some team building. We needed to feel a little less fractured.

So when I tentatively floated the idea in a text to the kids in September of going to London as a family Christmas present, they jumped all over it – especially the bigger kids. Bosses were consulted, time off was taken and in no time we were making plans about where to go and what to wear.

Okay, that’s not totally true. In reality, I literally stalked the Internet for weeks looking for cheap flights, a place to stay and researching all of the things there are to do with a family of big kids in London. I would send the children links (emails, please, texts from me can get so annoying) from time to time – attractions I thought might be fun or BuzzFeed lists of top places to eat – but no one really looked at them. In fact at one point I was told to “stop with all the links.” And really, that was fine because as much as I pretend to give the people in my life options, I really just do what I want to do anyway. So their indifference totally worked for me.

Unlike vacations of long ago, jaunts to Vermont or Disney World with sometimes cranky – often indifferent – children, traveling with big kids is an infinitely more satisfying experience. My kids were so into London and approached and executed each item on our pretty packed itinerary with enthusiasm and curiosity. No one complained about riding the tube, the hour-long wait to get into the Churchill War Rooms or the two-hour walking tour we took of Westminster Abbey (in fact, that information-packed trip turned out to be the highlight for my two daughters).

And I would be remiss right now if I didn’t extend a special thanks to my friends at Netflix whose perfectly-timed release of “The Crown,” which all of us (aside from the 14yo boy) gobbled up before the trip, helped bring so much insight to the history of the city and the royal monarchy as we toured all week. It was pretty thrilling to stand in the spot in Westminster Abbey where Queen Elizabeth was anointed during her coronation and later, over at the Tower of London, getting to see the jewel-laden crown she wore during that historic ceremony. Even better than my own fascination was seeing that same look of curiosity on my children’s faces. People, who wouldn’t pay to see that?

We departed the day after Christmas and returned New Year’s Day and I couldn’t think of any people I’d rather be with in London to celebrate the end of one year and beginning of another other than my four children (obviously, since Ryan Gosling is now married with two children of his own).

But seriously, all joking aside, it was probably the most glorious week of my life. I will forever treasure the memories I have tucked in the coziest spot of my brain of the kids seeing Big Ben for the first time as we rounded the corner atop our double-decker bus or watching all of them hustle to keep up with our Beefeater Yeoman Bob on our fun Tower of London tour. Best was sitting in our ride waiting to head back to Heathrow to fly home and my oldest jumping in the seat next to me, slamming the door closed behind him and turning to all of us to ask, “Okay guys, favorites?” and then he quickly answered himself, “Alright, I’ll start.”

This from a guy who sometimes seems to work overtime to appear annoyed by most things that involve me.

But my very favorite moment of the trip happened quite organically and was not one of the many carefully researched activities on our itinerary. On our final full day we were looking for a morning activity before things we had planned later in the day and my oldest suggested we try to get tickets to see an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum – about a 15-minute’s walk from our hotel – that we got shut out of a few days earlier. Called “You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970,” the exhibition documents that counterculture era and ticket holders don headsets that magically know where you are standing as you wander through rooms packed with all sorts of fashion/psychedelic/rock-and-roll memorabilia.

We all put on our headsets and wandered off to explore and it wasn’t long before I lost sight of the kids while becoming engrossed with reading the handwritten lyrics of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and examining Mick Jagger’s grommet-studded jumpsuit. The exhibit was so jam-packed with stuff documenting the confluence of the music, fashion, political activism and drugs during that era that I was a little annoyed the kids had seemingly raced through it.Wasn’t sex-drugs-and rock ‘n roll the stuff of young people?

But then I rounded a corner and found myself in a big, darkened room dominated by a movie screen wrapped along three walls and on it were Sly and the Family Stone jamming to “Higher and Higher” at Woodstock and there, sitting together on the floor, were my four children. I slipped off my headset and squeezed in between them on the faux grass that I guess was supposed to make us feel like we were there, sitting in that New York field in the Summer of 1969, and let the music surround me. I know my oldest guy loves horns, he’s a sucker for early Stevie Wonder, so I nudged his leg and imitated playing one and he nodded and I settled in to watch.

The Who came on next to perform “My Generation” and I remembered how much I used to love that famous line about dying before I got old. How I’d sing that part with a little more gusto than the rest of the song when I was a surly teen during the Jurassic era. And now, there I was, old and surrounded by my four children in a darkened room in London with the song blaring from all sides and realizing I was happy to be kinda old. Or at least old enough to really know when I was in the midst of one of life’s truly juicy moments, instead of looking off towards the horizon, waiting for them to come like some pirate searching for a treasure chest and not seeing all the jewels strewn across the sand. I can be guilty of blindly walking over gems — quiet moments and little victories – in search of that elusive big perfect life of mine.

And there I was smack in the middle of a sweet memory bubble, nestled between my four kids – surrounded by the artistry and the passion and the irreverence of Woodstock and all that it represented – and knowing right where I was. I could tuck it away and pull the memory out during all those less-than-perfect moments we all have and be reminded of that time when the moon and the stars aligned to give me that one beautiful ruby of a moment with my children.

And then Jimi Hendrix walked out on stage to play the national anthem and really, I could have packed it up then and happily flown right home. We sat and watched him riff on that most familiar and powerful of tunes and none of us moved. We sat transfixed and even though I’m always talking about wishing my kids were still babies, there’s something pretty great about hanging out with your grown up kids. Who no longer get antsy and bore easily. Who are interested in the history of other countries and trying new foods and are as riveted as their mom when a guy wearing fringe and a pretty spectacular afro walks out on stage with a guitar and starts to play. It was beautiful and passionate and moving and I loved that they thought so too.

I savored every moment of our trip and instead of feeling anxious about sticking to a schedule and getting to the next place, I enjoyed all our many moments together. Going for the second spin on the Crown Jewels conveyor belt when one of the kids suggested getting a better look at some massive diamond or learning how to navigate our way around the city via the tube and Uber. And even though it was absolutely freezing sitting atop that double-decker bus at night and I had the distinct pleasure of walking to not one but two hospitals on our second day, convinced my youngest had strep throat and needed antibiotics (which he did not), the sun will always shine brightly on the trip in my mind, making all the real gems sparkle there in the sand.

We came home tired but happy late on New year’s Day and my oldest left for work in Manhattan the following morning and the others took to their rooms and got lost in all the unlimited Internet they’d been deprived of for the week abroad and enjoyed some quality time alone. And I did too.

Until our next adventure.


Photo courtesy of Max Walsack. Top photo courtesy of Annie Walsack.

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Friday Faves: The Binge Watch

the-crown-netflix-queen-elizabeth-november-4-habituallychic-004Lest my readers think that all I do is fold yoga pants all day long, I’d also have you know that I watch a lot of television. As such, I consider myself a bit of an authority on what’s available for your viewing pleasure these days because if I’m not watching it, one of my four kids most definitely is.

As you might have read on Facebook, in between kitten videos and all that fake news, the holidays are upon us and you’ll need a reason to take extended breaks from all that family time and alleged good cheer. And it seems these days saying, “Sorry, I’ve got to catch up on my show,” is passing as a valid excuse for why we can’t (FILL IN THE BLANK):

  • A: Make dinner
  • B: Get out of our yoga pants
  • C: Shower

Okay, I made that last one up because when I try to avoid bathing for extended periods my children start to complain. But you get my drift. Having a “show” can be helpful for a lot more than just passing the time. It could literally save your life (cue dramatic bom-bom-bom).

I thought I’d introduce shows that aren’t necessarily the ones that everyone is talking about. Obviously, I’m totally committed to a lot of them. I’m completely up-to-date with “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards” and “The Walking Dead” (btw: What is up with this season? Enough with Negan already. Somebody please bash in his skull.). I watched all of “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “Gilmore Girls” (btw part 2: I wish I could insert emojis here to really express how crazy I thought the ending was.). And I’ve kinda stalled on a few shows I really loved for a season or two but just can’t finish, like season two of “Bloodline” and “Transparent” and season three of “The Americans” and “Orange is the New Black.” And I didn’t get all the way through season one of “Girlfriends Guide to Divorce,” “Odd Mom Out” and “Crazy Ex Girlfriend,” so I don’t know if that says something about the shows themselves or my struggle with follow through.

But there are a bunch of great shows that I watched and totally loved that are a little more off the beaten tv track. So, in no particular order:

  • Westworld (HBO): I have a very smart girlfriend who is really resisting this one because she’s tired of all the gratuitous misogeny on shows like “Game of Thrones.” She just can’t watch one more woman get raped right there on her tv set. I get that, but then I read a really interesting piece about why that’s not completely nuts and maybe kinda feminist and it made me feel better about liking these kinds of shows that flaunt all that violence against women. Anyway, yes, WestWorld has lots of sex and violence but it’s also chock-a-clock with amazeballs acting and ideas that are making me reconsider everything I’ve thought about life up until now. Like, I’m pretty sure I’m a robot. Confused? Just start watching and you’ll be having all sorts of existential thoughts, too.
  • This Is Us (NBC): Missing “Parenthood”? Here’s your antidote, being slowly dribbled out one-week-at-a-time on network television. But it’s so sweet and poignant that I can forgive the old timey notion of weekly television and advertising and look forward to each week’s installment. Plus, it has Jess from “Gilmore Girls” who’s a lot less annoying on this show than he was as Rory’s n’er-ds-well boyfriend.
  • The Crown (Netflix): I think I’d be as obsessed with this gorgeous series even if I wasn’t going to London in a few weeks. Not only is everything beautiful – the actors, the settings and everyone’s lovely and very proper British accents – but history lessons have never gone down so easily. The London Fog? WHO KNEW? Churchill was selected twice as prime minister? Who knew that one, either? Well, not me anyway. Might even watch again.
  • Stranger Things (Netflix): As a person with the TV viewing habits of a 13yo boy trapped in a 50yo woman’s body, this series checked every box of things that I love: monsters, kids riding around on bikes, Eggo Waffles. It’s set in the 1980s and is such a loving homage to the era and the Steven Spielberg-take on it. All my kids watched and loved it including — especially — the 13yo boy who watched it twice and follows all of the kid actors on social media. You’ll thank me.
  • The Fall (Hulu): As a single woman who often finds herself alone at home, I don’t even know why I’m watching this one. So. Damn. Creepy. But my very cute manager at the legging factory was raving about it so I was like, “Well, she’s a very nice girl and we seem to like a lot of the same stuff so I’ll give it a go.” Yikes. It’s about a straight-up serial killer roaming around Belfast (it’s a BBC production) and the detective who’s trying to nab him. But the nut job is the guy who starred in “Fifty Shades of Gray” and the detective is the very amazing and badass Gillian Anderson. I’m about halfway through season two. Please come hold my hand.
  • Jessica Jones (Netflix): Talk about badass. This one has all the bad stuff: sex, violence (lots against women and even a hand in a blender towards the end). But I still totally loved it, especially, or maybe because of, David Tennant who plays the very evil – yet kinda sexy and amusing – villain. It’s based on Marvel Comics characters and somehow ties into “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil,” which my daughter could tell you all about but I don’t pay much attention to. It was super fun to watch but, as with most of these shows, make sure your kids are in bed before you press “play.”
  • Sherlock (PBS): I was never a huge Benedict Cumberbatch person. Like, I kinda didn’t get it. But then I watched “Sherlock.” He’s very appealing as the pretty crazy detective running around London and figuring out the most convoluted mysteries. And his trusty sidekick, Watson, is played by Frodo Baggins so what’s not to like there? Really fun and yet another super-evil villain (MORIARTY YOU BASTARD) and I can’t wait for the next installment to come out, which is New Year’s Day on PBS.
  • Catastrophe (Amazon): Romantic. Hilarious. Devastating. Catastrophe, a British import, is all of those things. It’s what happens when a sexy one-week-stand results in a pregnancy and the ensuing messy thing we call marriage. And love. But the lead actress also does the writing for this as well as Sarah Jessica Parker’s “Divorce” on HBO, which I also happen to really like.
  • Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon): Two words: Bernadette Peters. Need more? Okay, behind the scenes at a financially struggling NYC symphony and the ensuing romances, politics and backstabbing. Really fun and, bonus!, Season 3 just came out this week.
  • You’re the Worst and Love (FX and Netflix): I’m pretty sure these are the exact same shows but somebody didn’t tell their respective networks. And it’s kind of weird because I really liked “You’re the Worst” and did not like “Love.”
  • Master of None (Netflix): All I have to say is that you know it’s a good show when you have legit romantic dreams about Aziz Ansari.
  • Unreal (Lifetime): I don’t know if I’d watch another season of this behind the scenes look at a Bachelor-like reality show because I don’t think the producers could get any worst in the name of ratings. But if you’re a reality tv person (which I am not), it’s fun to get a look of what might be going on when the cameras aren’t rolling. Plus, I’m obsessed with the tattoos the two female leads get at the beginning of season two. Badass.

What’s in your queue? I’m hot to watch “Poldark” and maybe finish up some of those shows I left hanging mid-season.

Or, maybe I should just read a book for once, because I just bought this and this.

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The Year Without a Christmas Tree

timthumbLast weekend I drove through my small town, past the festive lot next to the firehouse filled with rows of Christmas trees for sale and families wandering through, circling this one or that in search of just the right one. I stopped at our fancy local market to pick up the week’s supply of turkey and ham – and of course, the fresh mozzarella, because isn’t that what all the 13yos require on their school lunches? – and watched as a line of giant SUVs drove past with their trees bound and gagged and strapped to the top.

And as I drove home with my bag of cold cuts and very expensive cheese thought, “Those poor suckers.”

Then my daughter and I went down to the basement and opened some big boxes and dragged a bunch of branches up the stairs and in about 30 minutes had three Christmas trees up and lit in various rooms throughout the house.

“Man, that was easy,” I said to my daughter, who just kind of stared back at me.

At 5 feet 9 inches, she’s not that much shorter than my former husband and now finds herself handling many of the same tasks that her father used to perform when he lived here. She can reach things off high shelves and open pickle jars and when we assembled our fake Christmas trees she did a lot of the heavy lifting, unfortunately while wearing a t-shirt and running shorts. As such, her limbs were kind of covered in nicks and scrapes from lugging big sections of tree limbs around the house.

“I’m glad this was so easy for you,” she answered, examining her thigh, and I got the feeling she was a little annoyed with me and my alleged obliviousness to her suffering.

I, on the other hand, was thrilled with our faux tree setup.


Historically, the hunting and the buying and the lighting and the decorating and the watering and the vacuuming up of the needles of Christmas trees of long ago has been one giant pain in the neck. In theory, it is a lovely tradition that brings a family closer together, creating lasting memories to warm us in our old age. The reality of the Christmas tree, at least in my experience, has been something different altogether.

When I was married I found going to the lot to buy the tree incredibly stressful. Invariably, we would wait until the last minute to procure our tree and by then, all of you bastards had already scooped up all the good ones. What remained standing sadly in the lot would have that Charlie Brown-like quality, with giant bald spots where branches should have been or needles that would quickly fall to the floor like a too-long cigarette ash whenever you walked too near.

But the biggest issue was the price. Whatever it was, it was way too much, according to my husband and caused him undue aggravation. And of course, me being me, I wanted the bigger one or what I perceived to be the nicer one and he’d relent but then slip into an icy mood. We’d drive home in silence and he’d drag the prize in after sawing off probably one or two too many branches from the bottom. He’d shove it in a stand and curse when it listed to the side and I’d bite my tongue as the results of all that aggressive sawing became clear from the divot that appeared on one side, much like a child who’d taken a scissor to her own bangs.

And then there were the tree lights. Has there ever been one person in the history of the world who really enjoys stringing lights on a Christmas tree?  No one in their right mind could actually enjoy pulling the lights out from their box in the attic and untangling each strand to discover only half the bulbs would light. Who likes playing Christmas light detective and having to pull out each bulb in the strand and replacing with a working bulb to see if it was the bugger causing all the issues? Probably in my, like, over 20 years dealing with Christmas lights maybe five times did I find the culprit.

So if my then husband wasn’t pissed enough about the price of the tree, the broken lights would push him over the edge and the decorating of the tree would be a tense affair. I wanted things to look just-so and he just wanted to get the job done and I don’t really remember it being the Hallmark moment I so wanted it to be. We were way more invested in standing our ground rather than making concessions for the good of the team.

Eventually, I started edging him out of the more stressful jobs surrounding the Christmas tree. I started going to the fancy market in town right after Thanksgiving with my $10 off coupon to pick the tree out myself and had one of the nice workers strap it to the top of my car for the two-minute drive home. I also invested in an amazing tree stand. And finally, because I had very definite ideas about how Christmas tree lights should look on a tree – not merely wrapped around the ends of the branches but up and down each limb so it required many strands and patience and sometimes, electrical skills — I started doing that all myself. But it always pleased me afterwards to come down the stairs each morning and turn on the tree’s lights. I’d stand in the darkened family room and see the colorful bulbs shining deep under all the shiny ornaments and popsicle stick keepsakes the kids had hung from the tree.

So when my ex husband moved out right before Christmas that one, terrible year, I already had a pretty good handle on the tree situation. All I really had to figure out was how to get the tree off the top of the car and into a bucket of water in my garage. And eventually, I’d have a kid or two help me haul it into the house and hoist it up and into the stand. We actually got quite good at it.


But this year I said good-bye to all that. I decided I no longer wanted to be a slave to some $100 dead tree. Dragging it. Lighting it. Watering it. Cleaning up after it.

At the end of last year I bought a pre-lit tree off Overstock.com that had been already vetted by my youngest sister who is like a walking Consumer Reports. She bought it and liked it and thought it was a good price so I did the same.

And then I was at Costco a few weeks ago and another faux tree caught my eye and after quick texting with my sister – who gave it the thumbs up after quickly Googling it to discover it was cheaper than the Home Depot version and came with more lights – bought that one for another room in the house. I mean, it has a remote control people and the lights switch from white to colored (the other tree does the same and even blinks if that’s your thing).

My sister and mom have been hot for fake trees for a couple of years but it took me a while to relent. Honestly, I’m wired to like a lot of the same things they do but sometimes my mother’s enthusiasm – nay, pushiness – about certain things make me want to run in the other direction.

But, just like the time she suggested I pack a raincoat to go camping with the Girl Scouts but I knew better and spent the weekend wet and miserable, my mother happened to be right about the trees. Phony is better.

Our final fake tree is a skinny number I bought a couple of years ago from Balsam Hill that’s perfect in a corner of my kitchen. It smells kinda weird but I don’t have to sit too close to it when I eat so it still works and brings that Christmas sparkle into the room where I probably spend the most time.

None of the trees are decorated yet but I love seeing the lights glowing through the window when I pull into the driveway. And I still like to turn all the trees’ lights on while my coffee is brewing in the morning. It makes everything seem a little more magical and I like to think that my children have grown up feeling the same.


My favorite Christmas tree was the one my new husband and I bought the day after we got home from our honeymoon. We were married 10 days before Christmas in 1990 and my bridesmaids wore green velvet dresses and while we were honeymooning in the Caribbean we drank sweet pina coladas and listened to a man on the steel drums play “Frosty the Snowman.” We returned home tanned and young and happy to our second-floor walkup in Hoboken on the 23rd and went out in search of a tree the next day.

There weren’t many trees left by Christmas Eve, but it didn’t matter. I even want to say they were half price, even better. We dragged it down the sidewalk home and up the two flights of stairs and shoved the fat thing through the door and screwed it into the metal stand. Somewhere we’d acquired a strand or two of lights and a package of pre-made red felt bows that I attached to the ends of some branches. Underneath we spread all our gifts, trinkets we’d brought home from our trip, wrapped in shiny green and red wrapping paper.

That night I made my new husband our first meal together as a married couple and tried to replicate a butternut squash soup we’d had on our honeymoon. But I must not have cooked the squash enough and then tried to pulverize it in our new blender and watched the cubes swirl round and round. Eventually I tried to push the squash down into the moving blades with a wooden spoon but only succeeded in adding wooden splinters from the spoon to the soup.

We sat in our darkened dining room and tried to eat the soup but eventually laughed and gave up and tried feeding it to the dog instead. But even that crazy mutt was smart enough to pass on the dish.

But even though it wasn’t perfect, the tree or the meal, I was happy. All I wanted was to be married to my husband and that was enough. It was better than perfect.

So that’s why I’m all about fake trees. They are not perfect but I have decided perfect is way overrated. They are, instead, enough.

Here’s a roundup of fake trees if, like me, you’re over watering and needles and ready to go faux.

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