Sometimes, Elves are Okay

photo(86)I went to my annual cookie exchange the other night and as we sat around the hostess’s kitchen island eating the salad she prepared to balance out the fondue and Trader Joe’s wontons we’d been feasting on earlier, someone pointed to the elf perched high atop the cabinets.

“That’s Steve,” out hostess said brightly and picked up her iPad. “Wait, you’ve got to see this.”

She had taken a picture of the note her 10-year-old son had written to Steve earlier in the season and as she read the note aloud — that wondered whether elves had specific tasks up in the North Pole and wished Steve a happy Christmas with his friends and family — her eyes filled with tears.

“He’s really the one that deserves all the presents,” she said at the end, wiping her tears away.

And the pureness of his letter — it’s innocence and sweetness — made me misty too.

So, my gift to all of you this Christmas is this little sparkle of a note that reminded me that sometimes kids really do want more than PS4s or Skylanders.

Sometimes the very best things don’t come from Amazon or Zappos.

It’s hiding right there in their hearts.

Ho, ho, ho.


100 Down: Celebrating a Year of Blogging


My trusty notebook is filled with lots of crazy quotes my kids say and ideas for future blog posts. In other words, it’s a gold mine of content.

For many years while my children were going through our local elementary school, the highlight of the long winter months would be the celebration of the 100th day of school.

To commemorate that special day, inevitably the kids would need to bring in 100 of an item to be counted or added or divided or something math-related. Over time, I got pretty good at hot gluing things like pennies and buttons onto old baseball caps or poster board without burning my fingers or dripping globs of the sticky stuff onto the kitchen table.

So when I noticed last week that I was nearing the 100th post on my blog, I really wanted to break out the gun and start gluing stuff to celebrate.

When the blog was just something I talked about (rather than did anything about), I worried that I would run out of things to write about. But luckily, kids and ex-husbands make for excellent blog fodder. They’re an endless source of content.

And while I still struggle with how much is too much information to share with the general public, here I am at Post #100 with a notebook full of ideas for future posts and life constantly providing other items of interest to blog about.

So instead of gluing things together – and really, we probably have enough boxes full of things our kids have stuck together – I thought I’d reshare the top 10 most viewed posts of 2013, as this also coincides with the almost one-year anniversary of the blog’s launch.

I have to say, it’s really exciting to have created something from scratch and watched it grow. A blog is like a child you have total control over. I can tell it what to say, not to talk with its mouth full and to go to bed at bedtime and, damn, the blog always does what I say.

But most importantly, blogging about my life has given me great comfort learning that I am not alone. We all are trying our best — balancing the good with the bad — and want to know that our voice has been heard.

I love hearing from all of you and am thankful for your support. Thank you for listening to me.

Looking forward to the next 100.

4065e460375c6ba54b4882434096429610. The College Good-Bye

There’s a picture pinned to the bulletin board in my kitchen, half hidden by silly greeting cards and bumper stickers that I fancy, which is our iconic family back-to-school photo. In it, my oldest two children stand on the front step of our old house, a basket of late-summer impatiens drooping behind them, on the occasion of the eldest’s first day of preschool, just shy of his fourth birthday. (READ MORE … )

9. This is How I Miss Him

In the almost four years since my ex-​​husband moved out, there have been a few times that I really wished the guy was still around. Like when it snows. Say what you will, but that man could shovel like a motherfucker. (READ MORE … )

374973_10201077380878194_436086746_n8. Divorce 101

I’ve always been ahead of the curve when it comes to major life events.

I was in a huge rush to get married and had the ring on my finger by the time I was 23 and two years later, I was pregnant with my first child. I am familiar with being the one to provide all the firsts as the oldest sibling in my family and oldest grandchild on both sides of my family. But I also stood alone in my close circle of girlfriends in thinking that getting hitched and knocked up so young were especially good ideas, so became the first among us to sail into those unchartered – and as it turned out – stormy waters. (READ MORE … )

7. Young Amy: A Cautionary Tale

Over the course of the, like, bazillion hours my college girlfriends and I sat around talking during a girls’ weekend earlier this month, the topic of how much you should let your children know about your past antics came up. (READ MORE … )


I went on a date last night with an amazing guy.

Really, we were totally on the same page and I thoroughly enjoyed his company. I liked chatting with him and watching how he talked with his hands. And he was really cute, too, with beautiful blue eyes. (READ MORE … )


5. On Being Catholic: The Mystery of Faith

My 10-​​year-​​old son had a play date after school the other day and when the friend’s mom came to pick him up, she asked if we were in a rush to get my guy to CCD.

“A lot of kids seem to go on Tuesdays,” she said.

“Um, we’re taking a break from being Catholic right now,” I told her, and she laughed at my joke, but I still feel really guilty about the whole thing.

It must be the Catholic in me. (READ MORE … )

photo(57)4. Old School (Or That Time I Drank Jungle Juice)

I drank something called jungle juice this weekend and as I lifted the Solo cup brimming with the icy yellow liquid to my mouth, I realized that I needed to retract a statement I made recently – that you couldn’t go home again – because dudes, sometimes it’s like you never left.

Let me explain. (READ MORE … )

3. November is the Cruelest Month for Moms

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

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

IMG_76582. The Girls

Between us, we have 19 kids, 9 weddings, 3 ex-​​husbands, 2 boyfriends, over 25 years of memories and a lot of opinions.

Since we met as students at the University of Delaware in the mid-​​80s, our gang of 8 friends has come a long way from our days of sitting around dorm rooms and sorority dens in oversized Forenza sweaters and big Jersey hairdos, telling each other what to do. (READ MORE … )

1. Cheez-​​Its: A Love Story

It wasn’t until my ex-​​husband moved out more than four years ago that my late night nibbling began.

Until then, we’d finish dinner and maybe I’d have a bowl of ice cream with the kids (I was younger then and could get away with those kinds of things) and we would have eating wrapped up by 6:30 most nights. (READ MORE … )




Young Amy: A Cautionary Tale

IMG_3256Over the course of the, like, bazillion hours my college girlfriends and I sat around talking during a girls’ weekend earlier this month, the topic of how much you should let your children know about your past antics came up.

One of the girls said that she had an acquaintance who’s like an expert in adolescent psychology, or something, and that professional advised that parents keep their younger misdeeds under wraps.

“You really need to live the lie,” our friend said. “But I’m sure I don’t need to tell you girls that.”

And as the rest of the group nodded along, all I could think was, “Oh dear.”

Because, as you might imagine — what with this blog and all — my children know a little bit about their mother’s far-from-stellar past.

And while I try to spare them the gory details — sometimes a lie really does need to be lived — I have made it pretty clear to my kids that I was a dope when I was younger.

I like to think that I’ve offered myself up to them as a cautionary tale.

Like, they know that I was an enthusiastic smoker until I started having babies. They know I am comfortable making my way around a fraternity tailgate and am open to drinking beverages concocted in sketchy coolers. Clearly, my decision-making skills were questionable.

And while I’ve been honest about these pieces of my history, I’m also pretty sure I have not promoted these activities as recommended habits of highly successful individuals.

Clearly, they are not: I am the single mother of four kids holding down a low-paying, entry-level job.

And I have a tattoo.

But I think that what I have done is presented myself to my children as a very real person, flawed and full of mistakes, and sometimes regret. They’ve seen me act like a bitch, cry, celebrate their accomplishments, dance like a weirdo and sing a song about my cat.

I am all that and a bag of chips.

I’ve told them that I wish I concentrated more on academics than partying in high school and college. I wish I had figured out what I was good at and followed that career path. And I wish I hadn’t been in such a rush to get married and have babies.

But I couldn’t have done any of these things because I simply had no idea who I was, deep down inside, all those years ago.

And I also think that’s why I’ve come so late to writing in earnest. As Ann Lamott wrote, “Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious.” And people, I was unconscious for many years.

But, as my therapist would tell you (because she tells me all the time), that’s all just been a part of my journey and it’s helped put me where I am today and for that, I would trade nothing.

Being a mother forced me to wake up.

And while I am not gunning to be the Dina to their collective Lindsay — I already have lots of friends, thanks — I do want them to know that I am a human who makes mistakes and tries to learn from them.

Of course, that’s not to say that I haven’t been called a “hypocrite” for grounding a certain someone who stashed an empty bottle of liquor (swiped from my own booze collection) under a bed. And when feeling defensive, other kids have questioned what I got on my SATs and mocked my math skills (which would probably never be great, no matter how self-aware I was as a kid).

They also have mentioned that they think my tattoo is ridiculous (for the record: so do I).

But I think deep down, they know I’m working really hard to make up for lost time.

Last Christmas, my older daughter – who was seriously broke at the time – ended up pulling out the showstopper of a homemade gift and shared what all this has meant to her.

She handed me a deck of cards and at first, I had to admit, I wasn’t impressed. Like, I don’t really know any card games.

But I pulled the deck out and saw this:

52 Things I Love About You

52 Things I Love About You


And this:

And then this:



Wait, what?

And in that one moment, I knew that I must be doing something right.

My daughter knows so much that there is to know about me – my love of wine and Ryan Gosling, my “weirdness” and even my “goofy dancing” – and despite it all, she still loves me.

It’s not perfect, but it’s okay.




November is the Cruelest Month for Moms

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

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

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

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

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

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

I get that.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Ah. Let the holidays begin.





Traditions: Old and New


The Devil wears Hanna Andersson. And Barney is just a gift. Circa 1994.

I was agitated earlier this week when I got a text from my ex-husband announcing it was his year to spend Thanksgiving with our four children.

I had already committed to hosting the holiday at my house for my side of the family and was looking forward to the planning and execution of the dinner alongside my girls. We’ve had fun over the years peeling potatoes and baking turkey cakes side by side in our kitchen. I love how well we work together, how one of the girls slices the apples while another prepares the filling and then I sprinkle the sugary crumble on top.

It’s the ultimate team-building exercise.

But one of the things about divorce is that you wind up with a script of how things should go down henceforth. Somewhere in a drawer in my room there is a document that details who gets the kids when, in alternating odd and even years.

But in the five years since we’ve been apart, I haven’t really had to consult our divorce agreement for holiday issues. Things always just seem to work out around Easter and we pretty much stick to the Christmas script we always followed.

And Thanksgiving hadn’t been controversial because he’s been spending it with his girlfriend’s family. But apparently he wants to loop the kids into that this year.

At first I thought, “Well that sucks. Why would the kids want to go there?”

But after a couple of things that happened this week, I’ve decided it’s not really a big deal. It’s just one day. One meal.

I went to join my knitting group for a spell on Wednesday — and I use the term “knitting” very loosely because while we used to actually work with yarn and needles, now we mostly just really like each other and show up sans equipment to catch up over coffee for an hour or so.

We got to talking about Thanksgiving plans, as women of a certain age invariably do. Who’s hosting, who’s coming. How many.

My one friend, who’s about 10 or so years ahead of me in the mom game, announced that she and her husband were going to travel to Boston to spend the holiday with their son and his wife.

This is not the first time in recent years that they have traveled to spend a holiday with one of their three children. Last year they drove to the Hudson River Valley to eat Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant where one of their sons works and this Christmas, they’re heading to Vermont with another son.

But it’s not what she expected, she said, all those years ago when the kids were small and they would gather with extended family in their home. It was their tradition.

“I always thought it would be that way,” she said to us gathered around the kitchen table littered with coffee cups and cell phones.

“But then, once you spend a holiday without all of your kids, you realize that you can get through it,” she said. “That it’s not the worst thing.”

And that really stuck with me.

When you get divorced, of course one of the things you focus on is the possibility that at some point, you might be spending a holiday without your children. You freak that all those traditions you carefully cultivated over the years won’t continue.

And sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s not.

I’ve spent a few Easters without the kids and that was rough. I flew to California to spend the holiday with one sister and her family and remember just how sad I was to be without the kids that day. How sad it was to not be stuffing millions of jellybeans and pieces of chocolate into plastic eggs or finding the perfect hiding spot for a basket.

But the kids were off on some beach vacation with their dad and how could I begrudge them that? There should be some upside to having divorced parents and if that’s a trip to the Bahamas, so be it.

Yesterday was the first Halloween in my like 18-or-so years of trick-or-treating with kids that I didn’t have to actually hit the pavement. I was prepared to follow my 10 year old down the darkened streets of our little town while he and his posse ran from house to house filling their pillowcases with treats. But it never happened.

He had hooked up with kids in another neighborhood and by the time I got over there, the dads had been dispatched to oversee the kids while the moms were busy inside a nearby house setting out the fancy pigs in a blanket and Capri Sun pouches to distract the kids from candy upon their return.

I stood around the kitchen and drank a spicy blood orange margarita and chatted with the other moms until the kids started to trickle back in. They compared hauls and then ran around outside, playing manhunt in the soft October night air.

I finally pried my son away from the fun, gathering his yellow nylon costume off the pile of other discarded superhero suits on the floor, and on the drive home, he told me, “That was the best Halloween ever.”


Twin princesses wearing sensible turtlenecks.

And I thought of all the Halloweens of years past, holding little hands walking up to neighbors’ doors and encouraging my little Buzz or Woody to say “Trick or treat” and thank you upon receipt of said treat. Of being part of the stroller brigade later, when the older kids could zip independently from door to door while we moms waited in the darkness by the curb with the younger siblings in tow.

And later still, when everyone wanted to walk around with their own set of friends, I’d be off in a million different directions, trying to keep tabs on who was with whom and where.

It’s evolving, this parenting thing. One minute you’re shouting at your little Tinkerbell to keep up with the group of trick or treaters and not run in the street and the next, she’s getting on a train to the city to see the Halloween parade and eat Indian food.

And whether you get to that point slowly over time or a divorce or other catastrophic life event helps accelerate the process, at some point, we all get there.

Traditions are broken or need to be changed. But that’s just how it goes.

I think the key is flexibility, and remembering what’s important. What really counts.

Because while those big holidays are great and go down in the photo albums and memory books for the ages, it’s the slow slog over all the days and weeks and years that really matters. Being there for the kids on a Tuesday afternoon in September when one is feeling the pain of a failed romance or a Friday morning in December when another thinks she can’t go on one more day.

That’s the tradition I hope I’ve created for my children that neither divorce nor growing older will ever break.

Amy’s Week in Review (Oct. 21-27)

WwosGrowing up in the early 70s, I remember long stretches of weekend afternoons stuck at home with my dad while my mom was out food shopping or doing whatever else it was she couldn’t do during the week with six kids in tow. I was never one of the chosen ones, the child lucky enough to get to accompany her on these outings, and was instead relegated to spending the long day with the rest of my rejected siblings rolling around the small room that served as our TV room back then.

Those were the days when families owned exactly one television set, that played exactly seven channels (including PBS), and if you were stuck at home with your dad all day during the weekend, that meant you were stuck watching sports.

And if anything could have made not being selected as my mom’s shopping companion any more painful, it was being forced to watch four hours of sports programming on a Saturday afternoon.

Talk about the agony of defeat.

And if you know anything about 1970s sports programming, you know you’d be facing a few hours of auto racing or golf or, if you were lucky, Mexican cliff diving courtesy of ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

None of it would ever interest me. I don’t even remember what I’d do to keep busy – maybe I read a book or pestered one of my three brothers – while our dad dozed on the couch watching whatever sporting events were on that day.

But I’d always perk up for the intro. I mean, how could you not find it compelling – the skier tumbling off a jump or the victorious driver spraying a shaken bottle of champagne, host Jim McKay celebrating “the human drama of athletic competition”? And of course, the iconic “thrill of victory and agony of defeat”?

It was grand and global and the exact opposite of being trapped in a small house in New Jersey watching sports on a boring Saturday afternoon.

I pondered the highs and lows of life this week in a couple of posts that were neither grand nor global. But it turns out, that’s how life rolls.

I shared tips for getting nothing done each day except checking a lot of Facebook statuses and enjoying the significant improvement in 21st Century television offerings here:

522591_379600385471432_307731171_n5 Habits of Highly Ineffective Bloggers

People ask me all the time, “Amy, how do you manage to get absolutely nothing done, day in and day out?” (READ MORE … )



And then, in a stoke of organizational genius, I scored a personal victory the following day, which I shared here:

photo(61)The Thrill of Victory

Although I’ve confessed to you all that I am a hopeless procrastinator and not-doer of things, I did experience a triumph in organization and planning yesterday that was really too good not to share. (READ MORE … )



And finally, I wrote about not wanting my 10-year-old son to masquerade as a murderer for Halloween, an feeling kind of bad about it, here:

photo(58)The Thwarted Ninja

The kids and I crossed a lot of things off our to-do list this weekend. We stocked up on milk and Greek yogurt at Costco, cleaned out about seven contractor bags worth of outgrown clothing, old magazines and Nerf guns from our closets and finally got around to buying the 10 year old’s Halloween costume. That last one was the biggie. (READ MORE … )


And here are some links I shared on Facebook for one reason or another last week:

Now We Are Five, By David Sedaris (The New Yorker)

50 Years of Girls Names (The Atlantic)

What American Accent Do You Have? (

Remember you can sign up to get new posts emailed straight to your inbox.

Just fill your email address in the “Subscribe to blog via email” box, which is to the right of this post if you’re on your laptop or if you scroll way to the bottom if you’re reading this on your phone. It will generate an email and you just need to confirm your subscription and you’re good.


The Thrill of Victory

DSC04212Although I’ve confessed to you all that I am a hopeless procrastinator and not-doer of things, I did experience a triumph in organization and planning yesterday that was really too good not to share.

To begin with, while wearing pants with zippers and activating my new ATM card have not exactly been priorities lately, coming up with some type of healthy, homemade meal is something I try to pull off most nights.

And I don’t know if it’s because I’ve got less mouths to feed on a daily basis or that my day job has become more 9-5 or if I’ve really just started to get the hang of thisbeing a mom thing (I’m a late bloomer), but most days I have an answer to really the most annoying question on earth: “What’s for dinner?”

I had a work meeting yesterday about an hour’s drive away also snuck in a get together with fellow Jersey blogger and someone I wished I could have coffee with every week, Brooke at Carpool Candy (read her, she’s fun and smart and knows a thing or two, it seems, about swingers).

So, knowing I’d be on the go most of the day and not want to come home and have to chop, sauté or boil anything for dinner, I pulled out my shiny new slowcooker, threw in precisely four ingredients, and got it cooking before I left.


I literally plopped in 5 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, a small container of fresh salsa from our local gourmet market, a can of diced tomatoes and chiles and a packet of taco seasoning. Legit, that’s it. Cooked the whole thing for 5 hours on low.

Had I more time, I would have cooked up some bulgur or brown rice to go with it (the former has tons of protein, too). But alas, I just had time to squash up 2 avocadoes I had lying around with some chopped plum tomato and lemon juice (no limes on hand) and plopped it on top of the seasoned chicken.

My daughter and I were pleased with our meal and quickly cleaned our bowls.

My 10 year old walked through the door from soccer and said, “It smells delicious,” but then was crestfallen to see my “taco chicken” lacked tortillas, cheese or anything that qualifies a taco as a taco.

“You really need to clarify what you’re making,” he told me, looking up from his bowl of shredded chicken and avocado a little teary-eyed.

But instead of umbrage, reminding him of all the starving children in Africa or how lucky he was to have a mommy making such nice dinners for him, I just let it go. He’s stuck living with women who prefer brussel sprouts to mac and cheese and turkey to beef, so he’s already got stuff to sort through.

And besides, I wanted to savor the sweetness of my organizational victory for a little bit longer.



The Thwarted Ninja

IMG_0642The kids and I crossed a lot of things off our to-do list this weekend. We stocked up on milk and Greek yogurt at Costco, cleaned out about seven contractor bags worth of outgrown clothing, old magazines and Nerf guns from our closets and finally got around to buying the 10 year old’s Halloween costume.

That last one was the biggie.

He had been talking about what he wanted to be for Halloween this year practically since last Halloween. Maybe it was because in this neck of the woods, there was no trick-or-treating last year thanks to Hurricane Sandy.

But other than my inclination towards procrastination, one of the things holding up procuring the kid’s costume this year had been a differing of opinions. While he is totally cool with playing the role of assassin or ninja with a full battery of weapons, I just couldn’t get on board with endorsing violence.

More specifically, what he really wanted to dress up as was a character from Mortal Kombat, and even though his older brother spent a few Halloweens walking around town dressed as a Ninja – nunchucks dangling from the costume’s flimsy belt – 10 years later I would rather not see my child masquerading as a murderer.

Even if it’s makebelieve.

Plus, they wanted like $65 for the costume online.

So after our Costco outing on Saturday we ran into one of those pop-up Halloween shops that mysteriously transform vacant mall and highway stores around here at this time of year.

Number one, I don’t know how people with young children are able to shop in these places. My kids would have had heart attacks as soon as they eyed all the creepy stuff that assaults you as you walk through the door.

Like, my kids cried the first time they saw the characters at Disney World. Chip n’ Dale had them weeping with a wave. And once we took them to the Rainforest Café in Orlando as a big treat and they almost passed out when it started to storm and the fake animals surrounding us came to life.

Anyway, we walk in and it’s just like a weirdo-fest in there, with employees walking around in creepy costumes and spooky animatronic dead things shrieking at you.

My mission was to get in and get out asap, but my son is a slow decision maker, especially when he’s being told to choose something other than what he wants to pick.

He drifted around for a while and inspected the big, rubbery Gru mask and the section with all the Adventure Time costumes (which didn’t exist in 2011 when he wanted to dress up like the character Finn from the then-obscure Cartoon Network show; we had to piece together the costume, which included a backpack his sister sewed using a YouTube video as guidance).

Then we came to what I like to call The Violent Section, which included an array of Ninja style-costumes and an extensive selection of weaponry (but, alas, no Mortal Combat). He spent some time inspecting the various daggers, swords and shields lining the wall before reluctantly moving on.

In the end, he quickly chose one of those one-piece skin suits in yellow that’s styled to make him look like a crash test dummy. He seemed pleased with it and it fit him so perfectly when he tried it on that it was pretty creepy how much he actually looked like one of those dummies.


I feel bad that I thwarted his dream to be the Mortal Kombat dude. That I needed to control his fantasy. I just couldn’t endorse a character based on a video game that is known for its extreme violence.

A video game we probably have right now in our basement. My 21-year-old son has all those terrible games, but he didn’t when he was 10.

So maybe I’m a hypocrite, but I just preferred my youngest pick something else.

And he did, because he’s that kind of guy. He didn’t argue or carry on. He didn’t threaten to boycott Halloween if he didn’t get his way.

He just found something else.

Pretty soon it won’t matter anyway. They stop dressing up by the end of middle school and then I’ll just see pictures posted on social media, if I’m lucky, of them dressed up at costume parties in college. I saw my oldest guy dressed up like a nerd at a party last weekend and thought it was pretty cute. It got my Mom Seal of Approval.

But until then, my little guy will be stuck humoring me. It could be worse. He could have been a girl and then I’d be up against all the sexy fill-in-the-blank costumes that are out there. Then maybe I’d be wishing she’d cover herself up as a Ninja.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 3.25.23 PM

Amy’s Week in Review (Oct. 14-20)

bullseyeWell, it’s been a quiet week in Lake — wait, I don’t live in Minnesota. But my own little corner of New Jersey has been calm and that’s more than alright with me.

One interesting and unexpected thing that happened this week was that my 10-year-old son called me a “perv.”

First, let me begin by saying that I actually used to be a reader of books. Literature, even. Like during the darkest days of my divorce, I read “War and Peace.” I’ve read Cheever and Updike, Franzen and Chabon. I even read the Count of goddamn Monte Cristo, not so long ago.

Now, I’m lucky if I get through the latest issue of “People.”

But one thing I never miss reading is the back page of “Entertainment Weekly,” which features a fun roundup of what’s hot in the entertainment industry each week called “The Bullseye.” Like last week’s issue featured  a picture of Jessica Lange’s new witchy “American Horror Story” character at its center and says, “To paraphrase Barbara Bush: Rhymes with bitch.”

Then there are assorted pics radiating throughout the dartboard indicating what celebs/movies/tv shows, etc. hit the target and what missed the mark, including Ed Harris (“Most welcome cameo in ‘Gravity'”) and Hank Williams Jr. (“Least welcome cameo in ‘Gravity'”).

So I was standing in the kitchen looking at this week’s issue yesterday and noticed at the bottom a blurb about Charlie Hunnam pulling out of “Fifty Shades of Grey” last minute (“Something Christian Grey would never do,” according to EW.).

“OMG you guys,” I said to my two kids sitting in the kitchen with me when I remembered this next very important bit of information. “Guess who I just heard is going to be the new Christian Grey?” (As if my 10 year old had any idea what I was talking about.)

IMPORTANT NOTE: I may having a hard time getting through “Middlemarch” right now but had no problem reading the entire 50 Shades canon over the course of one weekend.

“OMG who,” responded the 16-year-old daughter in the least-excited voice possible. She is like the Ben Stein of teenaged girls.

“Someone just texted me and said she heard it’s going to be,” I stopped, pausing for dramatic effect, imagining my audience actually cared about my news.

“Eric the Vampire!” I yelled, because I knew they at least knew that I was crazy for that insanely hot “True Blood” character. He’s really the only reason why I’ve watched that show for so long.

“I’m like taking off my clothes right now,” I told them, and that’s where I jumped the shark, as they say, as far as my audience was concerned.

“That’s disgusting,” observed the 16-year-old in a voice so flat you’d think she was one of the undead.

“Yeah, Mom,” said my son, “You’re a perv.”

“Oh come on, guys,” I said. “I’m kidding. It’s a joke.”

“It’s still pervy,” he said over his shoulder as he and his sister walked away in disgust.

And that’s the perfect segue for me to share a few of the other things that happened this week, including a post I wrote indicating that I’m apparently, according to a certain subset, pervy about another dude as well:

IMG_3113The Gos and Me

I don’t know when it started, but as with so many things these days, I’m guessing it was on Facebook.

Maybe I mentioned in a post that I had just watched “Crazy Stupid Love.” For, like, the umpteenth time.

Or it’s quite likely that I then went a bit further and described how my heart skipped a beat when he took his shirt off before the Dirty Dancing scene. (READ MORE … )

And in a rare moment of seriousness, I pondered my faith and my decision to not send my youngest to CCD unlike his three older siblings:

DSC_0037On Being Catholic: The Mystery of Faith

My 10-year-old son had a play date after school the other day and when the friend’s mom came to pick him up, she asked if we were in a rush to get my guy to CCD.

“A lot of kids seem to go on Tuesdays,” she said.

“Um, we’re taking a break from being Catholic right now,” I told her, and she laughed at my joke, but I still feel really guilty about the whole thing.

It must be the Catholic in me. (

And finally, a couple of things floating around the Internet caught my eye and I shared on Facebook. (Dude, I so want to get my cat drunk and make her tell me why she is so mean to me.)

Never Drink Alone Again Because Now There’s Wine for Cats (Time)

Is Music the Key to Success? (NYTimes)

And totally finally, I wanted to remind you that you can sign up to get my newest posts emailed right to your inbox (C’est incroyable!!).
Just fill your email address in the “Subscribe to blog via email” box, which is to the right of this post if you’re on your laptop or if you scroll way to the bottom if you’re reading this on your phone. It will generate an email and you just need to confirm your subscription and you’re good.
Easy peasy.


You Can’t Go Home Again

383327_10151151342727173_531539335_nFor 16 years, I had a child at home with me for at least a portion of the school day.

That is a long time to be restricted to scheduling dentist appointments, grocery shopping and personal grooming in between preschool pickup and drop off and nap times.

Those are a lot of years of organizing trips to the playground and MyGym classes and playdates to fill our long days. Many hours spent negotiating television watching, minutes left playing in the McDonald’s play area and drinking a glass of milk at lunch.

And when the day starts at 6 a.m., that’s a good 13 hours of crust cutting and potty mouth patrol. After about a decade or so, I was done.

At one point, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Could start to taste what it would be like to have all three of my kids in school for a full day, none of that two-and-a-half hour nursery school and kindergarten nonsense.

But then I accidentally got pregnant when my third child entered kindergarten and what would have been my home stretch became my freedom swan song.

Because when he arrived, this new fella even wanted to hang out in the middle of the night with me. For months. There was no escaping him.

I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t the ideal candidate to have four kids in the first place, but that ship seems to have sailed a long time ago.

Maybe I should have chosen a different route and gone back to work after my first child was born. But I’ve never been that ambitious. Except when it came to having kids.

And honestly, I also loved those early years home with little ones. I loved mornings spent at Gymboree playing with their cousins and then sitting down at the bagel shop for an early lunch before I took them home and put them down for afternoon naps. Maybe we’d head to the playground when they woke up and then back home for chicken nuggets and a soak in the tub and a story or two before bed.

It was easy and we were happy. Or at least, that’s how I remember it now.

And maybe that’s what I wanted to go back to the fourth time around: happier times. I joke that the kid was a booboo but that was hardly the case. I had tried for a few years to get knocked up with him and when things just didn’t seem to be going in that direction, I threw my hands up in surrender.

And immediately got pregnant.

But, as they say, you can’t go home again. There were too many things pulling me in too many different directions at that point – the three older kids, an increasingly-challenging marriage and my desire to get back to writing.

It just wasn’t the same.

So by the time that little guy was 5 and about to start his THIRD year of preschool (Pre-K since he’s a December birthday and missed the October cutoff for kindergarten), I made a last-minute decision to send him to a school that not only had a full-day program, they even provided busing.

I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulder after I signed him up and then went to an end-of-summer party and filled two women friends in on the recent development.

And was surprised by their reaction.

“Won’t you miss him?” asked one woman who had three kids, the oldest around third grade at the time.

“I’m not sending him to the Army,” I told her. “He’s just going to school.”

The vibe both these moms gave off was that not wanting to spend all my time with my kids made me a bad mom. Or at least that was the message I took away that night.

But what they failed to understand was that stretching four kids out over 10 years had dampened my enthusiasm.

I super-love my kids, but I do not want to be with them 24/7. I don’t always want to be on call – to explain why I don’t want a lizard or pour a glass of milk or drive to the skate park or hear about how there’s no food in the house.

And after a good four months this summer of having at least one of the four kids hanging around eating Tostito chips or watching Netflix, the start of the school year yesterday nearly brought tears to my eyes. With the older two back at school for a few weeks, it was the last piece of the get-out-of-my-hair puzzle.

The youngest is starting fifth grade and his first year at the middle school in town and the teen-daughter is a junior in the public high school. I made them a big breakfast and complimented their straightened and slicked-back hairdos and we made sure to take lots of pictures before they left.

And when they were gone, I congratulated myself for once again having avoided committing any homicidal acts during the summer break — go self-control! — and poured myself another cup of coffee.

Then I got dressed and went about my workday and before I knew it, they were walking back through the door.

And it was great. I loved hearing all about their time out in the trenches. I wanted to get the scoop on all of their teachers, who was in their classes, what friends they sat with at lunch.

“It was so great, mom,” my little guy reported. “All the teachers knew who I was.”

And you could tell he loved that. Loved knowing that, because of his three older siblings, there was brand recognition.

And so he’ll follow in their footsteps for a while, and it will be fun to see what stays the same and how much of it will change.

And maybe five years, 10 years from now, I’ll look back on these years and remember them as easy and wish I could return to this very moment. And I’ll remember that we were happy, too. Because in the end, who’s to say we weren’t?