Waving Through a Window

This summer, there have been times that it’s felt like the whole universe has been conspiring to get me back here, to my dusty old blog. There have been some moments it’s felt as if the Blog Gods have grabbed me by the shoulders and given me a good shake before asking, “Amy, wtf are you doing?”

The truth is that I’ve felt stymied for a while–creatively, professionally, economically. I’ve reasoned that I should find places that pay money for my writing instead of giving it away for free here. But then I lack the motivation and chutzpah to pitch any of my work. I compare myself with other writers I read and admire and think that my writing could never measure up to what they produce so–it seems–effortlessly. If you looked at my Documents folder, you’d see dozens of unfinished essays, which is def a metaphor for my modus operandi.

Then there are all the other voices in my head. All of those mouthy bastards. Some of the internal monologues come through distinctly in my voice — the snipes of self-loathing and indecision — but there are other voices festering in there as well. Family members from whom I’m estranged. People I used to be married to. The mother of my good friend. A writing mentor.

I hear those voices and I cringe any time I read something that I’ve written. It’s like, “What am I thinking? Who cares? Will they care?”

Sometimes, all those voices seem to be standing in the way of me telling my story, which is all it really is, my take on things that happen in an ordinary life. But really, I’m starting to think it’s just me unable to get out of my own head.

Recently, I’ve gone back and read some of the things I’ve posted here over the last 5 years and am sometimes shocked that I went as far as I did in some pieces. That I shared as much as I did. But at the time, I had zero issues with occasional oversharing. It felt kind of cathartic.

I’d like to get back to that.

It’s what connected me to every person who’s read something of mine and said, “Me, too.” Not in a #metoo, Harvey Weinstein/Matt Lauer, kinda way, but more in the, “Totally,” vein. As in, “I totally get it.”

The kids and I got to go see “Dear Evan Hansen” last summer, which is something I highly suggest you refinance your house to do. It’s epic. Anyway, there’s a song the main character sings in the beginning, called “Waving Through a Window,” and it’s about how all any of us wants is to be seen. To be heard. To be loved. It’s what connects us all at our core. You can watch him perform it here to get a sense of just how moving the song can be (here I pause to watch for the 100th time).

When I first thought about writing personal essays, or maybe a bigger memoir, I felt hampered by the fact that my story was just so ordinary. My divorce, in the scheme of things, was pretty run-of-the-mill. I mean, we had some exciting moments, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t like my ex had a second family stashed somewhere in New Jersey or had gambled all our money away. We just didn’t get what we needed from each other, and no amount of couples therapy or red wine was ever going to fix that fact.

(Teachable moment: Kids, don’t get married when you’re 24.)

I remember saying this to a college friend early on in my separation, how my story was a dime-a-dozen. We were sitting around after dinner in her Brooklyn Heights apartment with friends, sipping grappa, which I was about to find out was not only very strong but could lead to blackouts. I told her what was holding me back and she shook her head and told me that my thinking was all wrong.

“People read to feel connected,” she told me. “They want to know that they’re not alone.”

Of course, it would be another few years before I put that logic to the test here on my blog, when I quickly found that both men and women, folks my age and way younger and older — some with kids and some without — would tell me they could see pieces of themselves in my stories. Snapshots from their own lives.

I was sitting around a long picnic table having dinner with friends this summer in Montauk, all the way out at the very end of Long Island, where glass box beach houses sit atop a bluff overlooking the Atlantic and there are long stretches of beach with more rocks than people, when one of the women in our group starting talking about my blog.

“You were so fucking brave,” she said of the things I wrote, and I felt kind of proud because this woman was no shrinking violet. I also noticed she’d been speaking in the past-tense.

Earlier in the summer, I met some women at a local bar that sits along the Shrewsbury River and offers a front row to a spectacular sunset most nights. It’s all pinks and purples stretched across the sky and slowly dipping into the water.

We stood in a circle with our drinks in clear plastic cups and someone that I knew introduced me to the gal she had come with. “I don’t want to come off as crazy,” this new girl quickly said, “but I love your blog. I even wrote you fan mail a few years ago.”

And this woman in neither divorced nor as old as I am. Just another human struggling on this planet to make sense of things.

Finally, just last night, I was at a mixer for my baby’s high school football team at a local bar where we stood outside on a deck and clung to our icy vodka drinks to help us not melt in the oppressive New Jersey heat. I ran into a gal I went to high school, with whose son is now in high school playing football, and she always has something nice to say about whatever crazy thing I’ve written here over the years.

“I’m not getting your posts any more,” she immediately told me. “Do I need to sign up again?”

I told her that no, I’d just been lame lately, and she said she missed reading my stuff.

“You’re in luck,” I told her, “because I am posting something tomorrow.”

You know how Oprah is all, “Pay attention to the whispers of the universe”? That eventually, the universe will start shouting at you if you don’t?

I’m pretty sure that’s what these most recent incidents were. The universe shaking me by the shoulders and telling me to write. Anything. Just write.

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Are you waving through a window, too? I totally see you. Sign up to get my posts right in your inbox in the erratic fashion I’ve accepted, after 52 years, is just the way I operate. We can wave to each other (I’ll try to remember to comb my hair and put on a bra).

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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Volunteer Rehab

napkins-stop-me-before-i-volunteer-again-1My little guy and I were talking about something the other night when he turned and asked, “Mom, why don’t you ever volunteer for anything for me?”

“What do you mean, dude?” I asked, knowing full well what he meant. I could smell where this conversation was going.

“You, like, never help out at my school.”

And, since there wasn’t really much more I could say to that very astute observation, I lowered my head and said, “Busted.”

Of course, what I wanted to point out to my littlest boy was the sheer scope and breadth of my volunteering history, beginning when his older siblings were very young. It was as their overactive mommy that I cut my teeth on the ins-and-outs of cupcake making and pumpkin picking while they were still in preschool. By the time my third kid went to nursery school I was helping to produce the monthly school newsletter.

Cupcakes, newsletters, pumpkin picking … those were just the gateway activities to the more heavy-duty volunteering I got mixed up in as the kids got older.

I moved on to some light pumpkin seed counting with the first grade and pouring juice for the various holiday parties. Later, I served countless years as the kids’ class mom and rode in school buses to chaperone field trips to museums and local productions of The Nutcracker. One year, I even helped hot glue ornaments signed by all of the children in the class onto a wire wreath as a Christmas gift to their teacher (I was just the trusty sidekick in that scenario).

I chaired school fundraisers, like luncheons and book fairs, and eventually worked my way up to serve as co-president of the Parent Teacher Organization the year I gave birth to my fourth child. That was also the year my left eye twitched uncontrollably for months.

As the kids got older, my volunteering extended to overnight activities. I spent a few days in the January of each of my three older children’s seventh grade year chaperoning a trip to a state park about an hour away where I went snowshoeing for the first time, learned survival skills and discovered, most importantly, that an American Girl sleeping bag was not intended to be used by a 40-something American girl.

I also went along to Washington, D.C. when my girls were in eighth grade respectively and learned how to herd wily teenagers around our nation’s capitol and watched teachers break up some harmless grinding going down in the back of our bus on the ride home.

Dudes, I was even a Girl Scout leader for, like, five or six years and am proud to say that I not only went camping on more than one occasion, but only lost one scout in all that time. I also misplaced one of my own children during a scouting activity but that’s a story for another day (or until I can send that child to receive the proper therapy he deserves as part of his recovery).

I even had a magnet on my refrigerator — back when I had a refrigerator I could stick magnets to — that read, “Stop me before I volunteer again.”

And to top it all off, I served on our school board for three years, which taught me that being an elected official was much scarier than just regular volunteering as your fellow parents are quick to turn on you when they feel you want to take away one of their fifth grade teachers or something. At least that was back in the day before Facebook groups became a Petri dish for parental outrage.

But then I had that fourth kid. And got divorced. And started working full-time. And instead of saying “yes” all the time, I started to say “no.” Instead of feeling compelled to sign my name up to do something when a sheet went around at a meeting, I’d resist the urge and sheepishly pass it along to my neighbor.

I just had too much on my plate.

Eventually, I stopped feeling guilty about not volunteering to, say, make a dinner or help starving children in Africa. I was no longer convinced that if I didn’t step up, things wouldn’t get done.

And that thinking was fine until it wasn’t.

Until the people around me were raising money to improve the technology at our high school or helping out weekly at our local soup kitchen or bringing books to at risk kids. I started to remember how good it felt to be a part of something. To help organize or raise money or just hot glue something for a cause that was important to me.

A lot has changed in five years. Things are hectic right now with all four kids living back at home for the summer. But when there are only two kids living under my roof who are capable of dressing and feeding themselves and one is old enough to drive, I’m not as overwhelmed as I used to be. I mean, I still forget shit all the time. But I’m starting to think that’s just me.

Probably right when I was having this major epiphany, an email arrived in my inbox trying to get folks to help out with the annual middle school art show and quickly, before I could over think it, I signed up to help.

And then I promptly forgot, that is until I got the reminder email this morning from the art teacher thanking me for volunteering and asking that I show up in the cafeteria around 10:30 to help take the artwork down off the walls.

“Shit,” I thought when I saw it and immediately started coming up with reasons why I couldn’t help.

“What will Facebook do without me?” I worried.

A short time later, I was showered, dressed and engaged in very pleasant conversation while pulling pastel and watercolor masterpieces off the walls lining the school’s tiled hallways. The school was warm and buzzed with end-of-the-year energy as teachers moved up and down the halls during their breaks.

I ran into the music teacher who’d taught all of my kids how to play band instruments over the years while having a whole passel of her own children. I waved “hi” to the school nurse, who let one of my kids spend an inordinate amount of time on her cot when things were pretty rocky here at home. And I exchanged pleasantries with the older kids’ fifth grade and language arts teachers who both spent some time in our kitchen helping to ensure whatever the kids learned the year before didn’t slide out of their ears into the sand over the summer months.

And I was in the school for, like, an hour. Ninety minutes, tops.

But seeing all those familiar faces of all of the teachers my children have had over the years reminded me why I spent all that time pouring juice and selling raffle tickets. Sure, I needed a reason to get dressed and get out of the house back then but it also let me really get to know so many of those wonderful teachers and they, in turn, got to know my children. And in a way, it made me feel a part of the process.

As I was pulling masking tape off the wall, the bell rang and middle schoolers exploded out of their classrooms. They flooded the hallway and hopped over the piles of artwork we’d been setting on the ground. Some particularly sweaty gentlemen came in from their outdoors gym class and I noticed one happened to be my very own 12 year old.

“What are you doing here?” he asked when he saw me frantically waving to him in the hallway.

“I’m VOLUNTEERING,” I shouted.

“Oh,” he said as he began to walk a little quicker past me. “That’s weird.”

And just like that, my baby learned to be careful for what he wished. He might have thought he wanted to have his mom hanging around his school doing stuff, but his older sister – who once watched in horror as her mother did the Macarena while chaperoning a dance – could have told him there was nothing more awkward than having your mom hovering around all the time. She is so not cool. She’s kinda weird even.

I’m thinking I should see if they need anyone to help out at field day. This could be really fun.

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My Hong Kong Trip, Part One

The kids and I at the top of Victoria Peak.

The kids and me at the top of Victoria Peak overlooking the harbor.

In the ten days or so since I returned from my spring break trip to Hong Kong, I have experienced the following: searing jet lag; a day-long road trip to visit my father who lives a two-hour drive south; lunch and a visit with my mom who lives much closer; the theft of my purse and wallet while walking at a local park with a friend and subsequent scramble to prevent said thief from making any further purchases beyond the $1,500 spent at Target and Lowe’s or from buying, say, a new car in my name; a visit with college friends in Brooklyn that gave me the impression I’d stumbled into an episode of “Girls” cast 25 years in the future in which I played the schlubby pal from New Jersey; and yet another college tour as the big decision day approaches for my 17yo requiring a total of about eight hours of driving, the consumption of two bacon cheeseburgers in 24 hours and lots of smiling.

I’m tired, and I don’t even have a banana in my house at the moment, much less ingredients to produce something for dinner later this evening.

I’ve also had a Jiminy Cricket of a hard time trying to wrap my arms around my Hong Kong experience to tell you about it. It hasn’t been easy summing it all up in 1,000 words. I think it may need to be done in a couple of posts, so I’ll begin with some overall impressions of the trip along with my thoughts on combining drugs and alcohol for air travel (spoiler alert: I’m a fan).

It seems trite, referring to a vacation as a “trip of a lifetime.” Like, until recently, I couldn’t have really told you what that meant. I mean, aren’t vacations — by their very definition — all memorable?

But now I know, some destinations stand head-and-shoulders above the rest. Like Hong Kong.

As we prepared to board our plane departing out of JFK and had our boarding passes scanned one final time, I actually started getting a little hysterical as the kids and I started down the ramp, toting our backpacks, neck pillows and assorted reading and viewing material.

“We’re going to China,” I cackled and proceeded to laugh uncontrollably as we neared the plane door until my 17yo told me to calm down. “You’re gonna get us arrested or something,” she hissed. Ever the alarmist.

But in the days leading up to our departure, I had begun feeling a little unhinged about flying half way around the world with my two youngest children. It had just seemed so – I don’t know – BIG. I mean, who goes to China for spring break?

Not a lot of people in my neck of the woods.

I know this because the nearby Billabong store was keeping track of where all of its customers were traveling over their various school breaks. The store had propped a piece of poster board behind the register divided into boxes bearing the names of the different destinations, and they used tally marks to keep track of how many customers were headed in each direction. We’d stopped in the store a few times before our own trip – to pick up a bathing suit and some shorts for the 12yo – and had mentioned on the first visit that we were flying to Hong Kong, which the Billabong folks happily included on their getaway chart. It seemed the majority of spring breakers were headed to Florida, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico but there were some other pretty exotic destinations listed on that poster board – like Ireland, Ecuador and Fiji.

As of the day before we departed, there remained only one check mark under Hong Kong.

But we made our way towards the back of the plane and settled in and one Valium and two (or maybe three) free plastic cups of red wine later (pour moi), we were landing in Hong Kong (my strategy for mixing drugs and alcohol to get through the long flight was to keep my intoxication level just under Judy Garland territory, so I refrained from singing).

Upon my return, the Number One Question – other than “How was the food?” – has been “How was the flight?” I’ll be honest, sitting for 16 hours in coach is no picnic, and I’m a lazy person who generally enjoys sitting around and doing nothing. Although I am not a tall person, my legs started freaking out at one point and I had to get up and walk around and perform some light calisthenics while waiting for the lavatory.

But for as kind of shitty as the flight was, I’d do it again in a second just to see our friends’ faces as we made our way out of baggage claim to where the five of them stood anxiously waiting for us.

It was an amazing moment and had I not been so delusional at that point, I might have thought of something more emotional/sentimental to say to them other than the first thing that popped out of my mouth, which was, “We’re in fucking China.”

And that brings us to Hong Kong.

It. Was. So. Worth. It.

(And visiting Asia was never on my bucket list of places to go. Who knew?)

Being cooped up on a plane for 32 hours (look, I’m doing math) is a small price to pay to be able to visit Hong Kong. It’s stunning – lush, green mountains alongside a dazzling skyline and surrounded by the greenish-blue South China Sea. And there is so much to see and do.

For those of you who don’t know — and really, until my friends moved there, I knew not one thing about Hong Kong (other than the whole British relinquishing colonial rule in 1997) — Hong Kong is kinda where East meets West. Everybody speaks a little English (except the Cantonese-speaking taxi drivers). You can find a burger and pizza alongside dim sum and fish balls, sometimes right next door to each other and sometimes on the very same menu. It’s interesting. There’s even a Hong Kong Disneyland.

Here are 10 facts, courtesy of USA Today.

Hong Kong at the bottom of China and is composed of four main territories. My friends live on Hong Kong Island in the southern section near the beach and to the north of the island lies the city and the bustling Victoria Harbor. Across the harbor is the city of Kowloon, which is at the bottom of China’s mainland, but still a part of Hong Kong proper. It’s actually where the tallest building in Hong Kong is located and where you can find markets filled with weird things you never knew people wanted to buy. Or own.

All this shiz is happening at the bottom of China.

All this shiz is happening at the bottom of China. We mostly stayed on the red part, Hong Kong Island.

Traveling to Asia let me experience something so unlike my life here in New Jersey – the sights, the sounds, the smells (and some of you more snarky folks might have thought New Jersey had the ripest odors of all) – that I think made the trip not only a memorable experience but an important one for all of us, especially my kids. I really think the journey will prove to be life changing for them because now they know just how big the world is. And kind of how small it is at the same time.

It was so satisfying seeing my two children — who are in their prime obnoxious teen years — just get it. They totally got how lucky we were and how special it all was.

Over the course of our week-long stay we did lots of amazing things, like jump off a junk boat …

This is how we celebrated Easter, jumping into the South China Sea.

This is how we celebrated Easter, jumping into the South China Sea.

… visit a giant Buddha …

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island.

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island.

… take a terrifying ride in a clear-bottomed gondola …

I shit you not.

“Try not to think you’re in China,” I kept telling myself during the 25-minute ride.

… and walk around a local fishing village.

Fascinating Tai O fishing village.

Fascinating and smelly Tai O fishing village.

I’ll share more pictures and all the details over the next few days.

In the meantime, here’s the bottom line: Do not let fear stand in the way of going to new places and doing new things. There is a whole great big world out there — and things to discover right around the corner, too, not just on the other side of the globe. The experiences and the memories more than make up for any anxiety you may feel bubbling within you.

I know they did for me.


Make this your motto. Credit: Livelifehappy.com

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How Not to Be a Jerk

thejerkI can’t say I was really happy yesterday morning when I got in my cold car around 7:30 to drive an hour and 45 minutes north to go skiing.

In fact, when I saw my girlfriend later that morning on line to take the gondola up to the top of the mountain, I told her that the only thing that could make the day any better was if there was going to be some kind of math involved. “Are we doing any word problems later?” I joked as we inched our way up to the front of the endless line.

My 12-year-old son, on the other hand, was practically giddy.

I heard him hop right out of bed when his alarm went off at 6:30 and then he poked his head inside my room to see if I was getting up.

“A few more minutes, buddy,” I told him, probably not in my cheeriest voice.

When I finally lumbered downstairs 15 minutes later for coffee, he was sitting on a stool at our island eating the toast slathered with peanut butter that he’d made himself and already dressed in warm layers for his day on the slopes. The night before, while I sat on the couch and watched “How to Get Away With Murder” and pretended the following day wasn’t happening, he was busy packing up all his ski gear in a backpack and laying out his clothes for the next day. He even put my skis and boots in the back of our SUV.

I am a reluctant skier. I came to the sport later in life and never found it very natural to strap sticks to the bottom of my feet and shoot down a mountain. It ain’t right.

But my ex-husband was passionate about the sport and back in the day, I really wanted to be the kind of girlfriend who was up for anything. You know, the Cool Girl. The one who, according to Amazing Amy in Gone Girl, “is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.”

But I don’t think I ever totally fooled him. For one thing, I’m a scaredy cat and not a really good sport. I’m sure I didn’t make things easy. But God bless him, he was patient with me. He helped me put  my boots on and carried my skis and poles around. He followed me down the mountain and reminded me to bend my knees, lean forward and not swing my arms around. In fact, to this day, I still hear his voice in my head as I make my way down a mountain and adjust accordingly.

When our kids were old enough to hit the slopes, he’d get them all ready for a day in ski school – stuffing little bodies clad in pajamas and turtlenecks (this was before all the fancy long johns came along) into bibbed snow pants and putting all the right socks and boots and gloves on all of those little hands and feet – and wrangle them over to their lessons. Then later, he’d take them out himself, showing them the proper way to get on and off a chairlift and skiing backwards down the mountain as they followed behind, their little skis making a “pizza slice” as they plowed their way through the snow.

A couple of times he even took the older three kids away for the long President’s Weekend to ski with his sister and her kids while I stayed home – secretly relieved – to take care of our little guy. While I sat on the couch, watching movie after movie and drinking red wine, they mastered moguls and learned to ski through wooded glades and by the time I got back out on the slopes with them a few years later, found myself once again the slowest and most remedial skier in the pack.

So when my marriage was finally ending, I joked that at least I’d never have to ski again. “It’s the silver lining,” I’d like to tell people.

Except my kids missed it. While I saw it as one giant, expensive hassle that resulted in staring down a steep, icy slope with frozen toes, they grew up thinking that nothing could be more fun. And because we’d taken them away on a bunch of ski trips over the years, they also associated it with cozy nights sitting on the floor with their cousins playing Spit and Rummy and splashing around an indoor pool.

While I was going through my divorce, my girlfriend offered me her condo in Stratton, VT for a weekend to take the kids skiing and I saw it as an opportunity to prove to myself that I could do things like that by myself, even though I still had a 6-year-old to manage. The trip started badly when I discovered, after I’d gone and rented all four of them equipment from a local ski place, that our fairly new SUV didn’t have the proper bars on top to clip on our old ski rack. I’d have to shove them inside along with all our bags and helmets and groceries I’d bought for the long weekend.

And that’s when I sat down and started to cry in the family room with my daughters looking on. But in the first of what would be many times when the kids would rally around me, the girls assured me we’d be able to fit everything inside our truck and even though we were probably pretty squished on the five-hour drive north that Thursday night, not one kid complained.

We were up bright-and-early the next morning to catch the 8:15 shuttle from the condo complex to the mountain, standing outside with all of our bags and equipment in the freezing January air, when after a while, one of the maintenance guys drove by and told us that the shuttle did not run on weekdays. So we shoved everything back into our truck and headed over to the mountain and when we pulled into the lot, saw that the shuttle bus was loading passengers to take them to the lodge.

We made a mad scramble to get all the skis and poles, helmets and bags out and over to the shuttle and I ushered all of the kids up the steps and into the back. It was the kind of bus that I imagined was also used to shuttle migrant workers around to jobs, with a big, open back where passengers stood and held onto poles.

The kids and I pushed our way into the bus that was mostly filled with silver-haired retirees, who were probably taking advantage of the smaller crowds and cheaper pricing of weekday skiing. I ordered all of the kids to hold onto something and started counting heads.

One was missing.

“Where’s Nick?” I shouted, and the three older kids just stared back at me.

“He’s over here,” came an unfamiliar voice from the back of the bus, very near the opening where I could barely make out trees rushing by as we headed towards the mountain. And then I saw my 6-year-old standing really close to that gaping opening.

“Can you grab him?” I yelled to the nice woman who’d alerted me to his whereabouts and she yanked him away from the opening and held him by the shoulders until we pulled up to the ski lodge.

I bought lift tickets and clipped them to everyone’s ski jackets, wrapping the long sticker onto the wire and thinking how easy it had looked when the kids’ dad had put our tickets on us all those years. The little guy went to ski school and the other kids and I spent the day going up and down the mountain.

But in the end, it wasn’t as much fun as it used to be. Something was missing. And maybe it was the expense of it all or that teenagers had no interest in going anywhere with just me, but we never went again.

I’ve gone a couple of times with girlfriends since then and took my youngest to learn how to snowboard at a place about two hours from here, and I waited in the lodge while he took a lesson with some friends.

But he’s been dying to do it again. And it’s not enough that his dad is taking him away for a weekend to ski this month. He needed to go skiing with me.

So when a couple of families in town were heading to a mountain in New Jersey to ski on Sunday, he was all over it. Initially I said I’d take him but just hang around the lodge while he skied with his buddies because A: I don’t really need to ski and B: I’m not the richest cat right now. I’d rather spend that $65 on a manicure and a pedicure or when the kids and I go to Hong Kong next month.

“Why don’t you see if Dad wants to go skiing with you, dude?” I suggested.

But he looked at me with those big blue eyes of his and said, “But Mom, it can be our thing.”

“I’ve never even seen you ski,” he added.


I mean, who around here even wants to do anything with me any more? Pretty much nobody. And soon, this kid won’t want to either, as evidenced by his actions last summer. 

And for as much as I complain about skiing, there’s really no better family activity. Nothing beats having a teenager trapped next to you on a chairlift on a long ride up a mountain or laughing over dinner at night on who fell during what run or who was the last to the bottom of the trail (usually me).

So that is how I found myself on Sunday standing on a line akin to one you’d find waiting for Space Mountain on Good Friday to rent the kid a snowboard for the day. We stored our bags in lockers and made our way outside and I marveled for not the first time at how easy my ex had made all of it look. And after a rocky first run that found my son on his butt more than standing upright on his board, he quickly found his rhythm and we had a great day. Even though he had two buddies to fool around in the terrain park and see who could catch the most air, he also wanted his mom as part of the pack.

After one run we stopped at the bottom to take some pictures of our group with our phones and I asked my friends if they’d take one of my son and me. As we stood with our arms around each other’s waist and our helmets touching, he said, “I really like seeing you ski, Mom,” and I cursed myself for being such a dick earlier that day. For even considering not doing something that would bring him so much joy.

Sometimes, it pays not to be a ... errr ... jerk.

Sometimes, it pays not to be a … errr … jerk.

It’s like those old MasterCard commercials, in which I’d tally up the costs of our ski day – the lift tickets, equipment rental, $4 slices of pizza, my lost beauty sleep – and then tell you, in no uncertain terms, that the end result was truly priceless.

(And look, there was even some math involved.)

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The Beginning of the End


Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Sometimes, the moments strike when you least expect them. Right when you’re sitting there, in the third row of the high school auditorium chatting with another mom while both your daughters, now seniors, sit onstage and wait to be inducted into some honor society that will look good on their college resumes.

You’re sitting and chatting about the girls – maybe about how they keep turning their heads to avoid having their pictures taken by you – when they suddenly stand and start filing towards the front to receive their certificates.

And all of a sudden, when you try to take a picture of your young neighbor, the same little girl who moved across the street a dozen years ago whom you described to people as Punky Brewster and who has become a staple in your house for the last decade, your vision blurs as the tears start to fill your eyes and you get that burning feeling at the back of your throat.

And you’re not even getting your period.

You don’t even try to take a picture when it’s your own daughter’s turn to walk to the front of the stage and receive her certificate. You just want to take it in, the beginning of the end. Over the next few months, there will be a lot of these ceremonies. Your daughter and her fellow hard-working students will be honored at various inductions into this society or that as they round the bases towards June.

They’re all heading down that same path that zillions of high school seniors have walked in the past and with, for many, the same inevitable end. They will graduate and a month or two later, will take their proverbial shows on the road to college.

And I know I’ve been down this road myself a time or two with my older children but for some reason, it’s really hurting a little bit more this time around. When the first one left and then his sister, it was like, “Well, there’s plenty more where that came from.” But now that well of children is starting to run a little dry.

Punky’s mom across the street happens to be in the same ever-shrinking boat. When Punky ships off to school in August, my pal will be left at home with her hubby and 15-year-old son to keep her company.

“Next year the only thing I will hear are farts,” she texted me the other day.

They do this, kids. They start out making you weak at the knees with the love you feel for them – their tiny little fingers and sweet smelling heads – and then push you to the brink of homicide after a few short years of  incessantly asking, “Why?” and “Why not?” By the time they are teenagers, you really start to wish that they would just go away. And then, just as suddenly as they entered your world — they start to make their exit.

And you’re like, “Wait. What?”

But of course they come back, bringing bags of laundry and a newfound disdain for midnight curfews, but it’s never the same. It all starts to seem a lot more temporary.

I look forward to the future, but I’ve really loved being a mom. And not that I’m not going to be the mom anymore, but it’s just changing. I mean, sometimes the kids call me “Amy” when they’re trying to make a point and some are old enough to get staples in their head and CAT scans without my consent.

And I think if I could have any super power, what I’d really like to be able to do is to go back in time. I’d like to go back and spend a late afternoon, between naps and making chicken nuggets, sitting on a park bench and watching my little ones go up and down the slide for hours and beg me to push them on the swing. And, unlike before – when I’d resist as long as I could and tell them they needed to learn how to swing themselves – I’d get up and go over and give them a great big push.


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Insulting Things Said to Me Over Dinner

IMG_2661“Hey Mom, quick question,” said my 11-year old son last night as we were sitting down to a late dinner, “but, can you still have babies?”

I paused shoveling the forkful of quinoa-stuffed pepper into my mouth, looked at him and said, “Uh, yes.”

“WHAT?????!!!!!” he responded, apparently amazed that such a miracle could occur to someone so old, causing his 17-year-old sister to convulse in laughter and bang the table.

She even repeated the whole conversation over breakfast this morning while Joe and Mika debated the whole Ray Rice/NFL thing for the millionth time. The insult was way more entertaining to her.

So I think it’s interesting that, from a youngster’s point of view, the idea of me getting pregnant — and I will point out to anyone who wasn’t paying attention the first five times I’ve mentioned this fun fact here but I am but one day older than Halle Berry, who just had her own baby — is a shocking/nauseating revelation.

While the only thing I think Halle Berry and I have in common are ovaries, I like to think that my body could still muster the energy if necessary to make a baby. Maybe one with three arms, but still.

And I might not be good at a lot of things, but I was amazing at getting pregnant. Like, a real pro.

It’s funny I’d even be offended by this exchange, given my baby factory’s been shut down for years due to the economic downturn. I was supplying more than was in demand. And really, I don’t even want a houseplant much less another person around here to deal with. Especially if it’s going to grow up to start insulting me over dinner.

Obviously, the only logical next step was to make that creep of a kid pay for his insulting behavior.

“Do you have any of those ultra-sized tampons in your bathroom?” I casually asked his sister later in the meal.

“DO YOU MIND?” my son yelled. “THAT’S DISGUSTING.”


Listen to Your Mother. Thank You.



This is what I am fucking sick of: People with opinions.

Not you. You can have all the opinions you want. I mean, I’d prefer it if you kept them to yourself — especially if you watch a lot of Fox News — but I am open to people having beliefs other than my own, as long as I don’t have to agree and pretend you are not crazy.

No, it’s really the people that I gave birth to whose thoughts, feelings and beliefs I am not really interested in hearing about, especially when they are in direct contrast to what I am trying to accomplish around here.

I just want them to shut up and do what I say. Toe the fucking line. Like the good old days.

In the good old days — back before they were teenagers — when one of the kids would start to act up and resist what I wanted her to do, I would just start counting to three and she’d quickly relent and come around to my way of thinking.

“Fine,” the would-be offender would say, and skulk away in defeat.

That method remained effective for years. It wasn’t perfect – sure, we had our share of little ones shoplifting Beanie Babies I wouldn’t buy for them and soap in the mouth of an 8-year-old for saying an offensive word – but overall, counting to three really worked for me.

It still worked when my oldest child was in his early teens and I couldn’t get him out of the ocean to go home one sunny summer day. You know that trick, when the kid pretends he’s having so much fun bobbing up and down in the water that he doesn’t notice his mother screaming and waving her arms from the shoreline about 10 feet away? Anyway, that was what was happening that day, but then we suddenly made eye contact and I held up my pointer finger and mouthed, “One!” and he quickly started to make his way out of the water.

“I don’t even know why I’m doing this,” he said as he passed by me to get a towel. “Like, what are you going to do when you get to three?”

That’s a good question.

But then, with the introduction of temptations more powerful than the ocean in our lives – like beer and Internet porn – I needed to find more effective parenting methods than just counting to three. Like suspending Verizon Wireless accounts and confiscating laptops became my weapons of mass parenting destruction.

So even while the oldest three kids started to drift from my family action plan – coming home on time, saying “No” to drugs and getting straight-As – I could always count on my little guy to toe the line. He was young enough that he still happily drank my Mommy Kool Aid.

But lately, as he starts to inch closer to 12 than 11 and prepares to enter the sixth grade, the kid is starting to get a little sassy. And unlike with his three older siblings, I no longer tell myself that it’s a passing phase. It’s a sign of things to come, and frankly, I don’t really have the energy to try to break one more person’s spirit.

Case in point: Yesterday I was driving my youngest child and his two friends – our neighbors who are leaving for Hong Kong in two days – to the beach. I wanted to stop at the ATM and get some cash so he could go buy himself, like, a $3 Coke or $5 fries at the snack bar to live it up during his friends’ final days in New Jersey.

“Do we have to come in?” he asked and I told them they could sit in the car and listen to Z100 while I ran into the bank. Unfortunately, I failed to mention not to touch anything while I was gone since I have issued that disclaimer so many times in the past, I did not see that it would be necessary in this instance.

I run in and find myself behind a young woman who did not wish to avail herself of one of the tellers sitting around and chatting to make her deposit, but rather go through the lengthy process at the ATM and causing the rest of us to stand and watch her slowly press whatever needed to be pressed and feed envelopes into the machine to complete the transaction. My turn finally came and I am so good at taking cash out lately that I zipped through the process and was stuffing the cash into my wallet as I walked down the sidewalk to my car when I heard the sound of a key turning in the ignition and realized it was my own vehicle being started.

Now, unlike my older children – who didn’t even touch the car keys until they started to learn to drive — my 11-year-old is well versed in how to turn the car on and off and I’ve even let him steer down our street and into the driveway on occasion. Since his older siblings have gotten into so many accidents already in their driving lives, my new strategy is to get this little one as comfortable behind the wheel as early as possible to hopefully avoid similar situations and $500 deductibles.

My son was returning to the passenger seat as I opened the door and I asked him what he was thinking about, knowing perfectly well that he was just being bossy and trying to show off his car-starting skills to his friends.

Did I mention it was August in New Jersey?

Then I looked in the backseat and saw the two friends looking a little more moist than when I had left them five minutes earlier, their hair damp and sweat building under their eyes, and I kind of freaked out.

“What?” my son responded, and I could tell by the tone in his voice, he was not remotely sorry as he kept telling me to calm down.

“Do you know how much trouble I could get into?” I yelled. “I mean, the police station is literally in the same parking lot!”

It literally is.

Sticking to his guns, he said, “Mom, what’s the big deal?”

And because he probably hasn’t been reading in the newspaper lately about all the moms getting into big trouble for leaving kids in cars to run into 7Eleven and stuff, he had no idea the ramifications of someone walking by and seeing three middle school-aged boys sitting in a hot car with the windows rolled up and Iggy Azalea blaring within on a hot, sunny day in August.

And all I wanted to scream, as he continued to talk back to me and argue his point, was, “Just do what I fucking say.” If I say, “Don’t turn the engine off and sit in a hot car in August,” I don’t want to fucking argue and debate whether or not that’s a good idea. If I said it, it’s pure genius.

I guess the point of this rant is that I can see it coming, that shift from agreeable child to contrary teenager. The days of my fourth child doing something wrong and remorsefully saying he was sorry are just about behind us. I am no longer delusional and under the impression that it won’t happen to my kid, that my kid won’t go down that path of angst. They mostly all do.

I was complaining about his newfound freshness to his sisters and they immediately pointed the finger of blame at yours truly.

“You’re a terrible power figure,” said Daughter #2, insisting her brother listened to her because she was much scarier than his own mother.

“You literally raised him with no concept of ‘No’,” said the oldest daughter, probably still smarting from having to return that Beanie Baby to the store after I found it stuffed at the bottom of her sister’s stroller as we piled back into the car all those years ago.

But I know better than that. I’ve been the bad cop and I’ve been the good cop and in the end, don’t think it really matters. The change is as inevitable as underarm hair and zits.

I guess I’m just not in the mood.



The ‘Shizzness’ of Being a Mom

P1000060It happened at the stroke of midnight, just a few hours ago, the vanishing of one of my two remaining teenagers. In the blink of an eye and the tick of a minute hand, my oldest daughter turned 20 while I slept.

She joined her brother, now 21, in what I guess could be categorized as young adulthood (with the caveat that both are very much still on their folks’ dime), leaving one teen in my life.

It wasn’t that long ago that I lived in a house bulging with three teenagers, the walls barely containing all the hormones and angst radiating off of my children, like the ever-present stinky waves that surrounded Pigpen.

Teenage angst emanates off my kids like the stinky waves surrounding Pigpen.

Teenage angst emanates off my kids like the stinky waves surrounding Pigpen.

And I have to say, I am surprised to find myself the mother of two kids that are in their 20s.

In a way, I defined myself as being the mom of so many teenagers. Their assorted issues dominated my thoughts and much of my time in therapy as I struggled to navigate the choppy waters of growing up. Again.

Worrying about how late to let them stay up on school nights and whether they were getting enough fiber quickly morphed into weekend midnight curfews and  battling underage drinking.

All the stuff that clogs the highways that get you from the Point A of childhood to the Point B that is adulthood, the things I thought I’d said good-bye and good luck to many moons ago, became a part of my everyday landscape: broken hearts, driving tests, SATs, pimples, high school sports, college essays, prom dresses, boutonnieres, after school jobs, queen bees, lunch tables, eyeliner and AP Calculus.

Just when I never thought any of it would end, we seem to have rounded a corner. The end, of this chapter anyway, is in sight. And that’s what has me feeling slightly melancholy on this 20th anniversary of the birth of my second child.

Three years ago, when I had a junior and senior in high school, and an eighth and second grader, it seemed like I’d never get through it all. There were days I thought I would drown underneath everything that needed to happen (see the long list above) and all the FEELINGS in my house.

And now here we are. Two kids away in college and another is well on her way. Pretty soon things like resumes, internships, roommates and first apartments will become an integral part of our vernacular.

Just when I was starting to get a handle on all the other stuff.

And honestly, it’s making me feel kind of old. Having half of my kids now in their 20s is actually making me slightly nostalgic for teenagers.

I know, crazy, right?

And then as if by luck, my 11-year-old son came into my room bright and early this morning to announce he was having a hard time breathing and let me return to a place I know best: being the mother of a child.

So for the umpteenth time, I ushered a kid into my small bathroom and turned the shower knob to its hottest setting and let the steamy mist fill the room. I slipped out to get him a pillow and blanket so he could get cozy on the tile floor, and we sat and waited for his breathing to ease up.

Later, after I set him up in my bed to watch Cartoon Network with some ice water and Motrin and called the school and the doctor, I told him I thought he had the croup again and suggested we try the nebulizer before heading out to see the pediatrician.

“Why aren’t you a doctor?” my son asked. “You seem like you know all this shizzness.”

And in many ways he’s right. Four kids and 20 years later, I am an expert on changing the most explosive of diapers, could diagnosis a croupy cough coming from three rooms away and have been known to breastfeed a baby while browning ground turkey for tacos.

I was that good.

And now, where has it gotten me?

Because just when you get the lay of the land, know exactly what needs to be done in a variety of situations, it’s time to get in your boat and set sail again.

Pretty soon I’ll be shoving off for parts unknown and will need to develop a whole new set of skills to survive all that waits somewhere just around the bend.

But until then, I need to go pick up all the Legos my little guy left scattered around the den before I made him go upstairs to take a good, long nap.

I’m keeping one foot firmly planted in childhood for as long as I can.










Mrs. X


Credit: Eviatar Bach

When I was in the end stages of my divorce a few years ago and struggling with whether I should reclaim my maiden name, my college roommate advised against it.

“What are your kids’ friends going to call you?” she asked, and went on to explain how her high school boyfriend’s mom was always Mrs. Whatever, even though she and her husband had been divorced for ages.

“You’ll always be Mrs. X,” she said.

In the end, I decided that that demographic of the population – the friends of my four children – would have to adjust just like everyone else. And for the most part, that’s what happened. In a little over a year, people came to know and refer to me using my maiden name. Everything from my credit card statements to the nameplate that sat in front of me during monthly board of education meetings was adjusted to reflect the change.

And when I sent an email to one of the officials in my town for business and inadvertently used an old email address that had my married name, and the wife of said official told him to look for that name in his inbox, he asked, “Who’s that?”

Mission accomplished.

But three years after the name change, the people who have no idea what to call me remain the kids’ friends and frankly, I don’t know what to tell them. Or their parents.

Nothing sounds right.

For my older kids and their friends, it didn’t really seem too weird to tell them to just keep calling me Mrs. X. That’s how they had known me for most of their lives and it just seemed easier and frankly, do they really care whether or not I am married or actually use that name any more?  No.

And while initially, that strategy worked just fine, the further away I get from ever having been Mrs. X, the weirder it’s starting to sound.

I went out to dinner with a slew of parents and children Sunday night – literally, there were like 15 kids sitting down at the far end of the table, my 11-year-old son happily eating his French fries among them.

So needless to say, it was loud, and I was busy chitchatting with the moms at the opposite end of the table, so wasn’t especially tuned in to what the kids were doing.

But then I heard a voice rise above the din and my son, apparently trying to get my attention because he needed my iPhone, was telling the boys around him to call for Mrs. X.

“Interesting,” I thought, that the person who knew me for the least amount of time when I used my married name would still think to refer to me as that.

And I don’t know why it is that calling me Ms. Y seems so weird, too. I’ve seen a lot of parents try to get their kids to refer to me as such. “Say ‘thank you’ to Ms. Y,” they’ll coax their kid after a day playing in my basement. Or, more interestingly, I’ll be referred to as Mrs. Y. Sometimes I’m “Miss Amy.” That’s weird, too, making me sound like some old spinster with cats crawling around my legs.

My decision to change my name was so not a political, feminist or angry statement. In the end, it just felt more authentic to go back to the name I was born with.

So maybe the answer, even though I was always a stickler for having my kids call all grownups “Mr.” or “Mrs.,” is for their friends to just call me “Amy.”

One of my older guy’s friends tried that out at a holiday party I had right before Christmas. Everyone had had a few cocktails and the boys were heading out and my son’s friend was saying good-bye but didn’t quite know how to address me.

“Yeah, Mom,” said my son. “My friends never know what to call you.”

“Just call me ‘Amy,’” I told them.

“Really?” my son’s friend asked. “Well, okay. Good-bye, Amy,” he said before the two of them walked out the door.

I saw that friend maybe a week after that and thought it was interesting that he greeted me with, “Hi, Mrs. X.”

So, I guess it’s going to take more than a few cans of Keystone Light to make that change stick.