On Letting Your Kid Drive Half-Way Across the Country. Alone.

This spring, on the cusp of her 21st birthday, my younger daughter flew from New Jersey to Minneapolis, rented a U-Haul and stretched a little further west—driving a few hours into North Dakota. Then, over the course of the next four days, she worked her way back east, making her last stop along the coast of New Hampshire and then hopping on a bus the next day to Boston and finally, flying home to Newark.

Since her return, my heart has slowly made its way out of my throat and back down into my chest where it belongs.

While my third child was somewhere in Indiana dipping her toes in Lake Michigan, and visiting the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, ND, I spent most of the week she was away refreshing her location on my iPhone, ensuring she was alive by watching the icon I use for her on my phone — a picture of a cartoonish bear I took at Target that reminded me of her — move across the country.

For a while one afternoon, the icon seemed to stall somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin on my phone, indicating where she had been 14 minutes earlier — then 15 — but wouldn’t update to where she was at that moment. I had resolved not to call or text while she was driving her rig — I didn’t want to distract her or let her feel the wind from my hovering beating hard over her curly head from 1,000 miles away — but was overpowered by the mental image I had of her pinned beneath an 18-wheeler.

“HE-L-L-O!” she answered happily when I called, in her best Oprah-like voice, and told me she had pulled over to take a walk through a nature reserve she’d read about the night before. She wanted to stretch her legs a bit before resuming her journey to Kalamazoo for the night. “There’s, like, zero reception here,” she told me, explaining why her location wasn’t updating on my phone.

A few minutes later, she sent me a video from the top of a gorge, which panned down to a waterfall spilling into the stream far below, and then spun around to show me the sun-dappled woods behind her. It was picturesque and serene and a little too deserted for my liking. IMG_3379

While I was happy to hear she wasn’t in a fiery heap on the side of the interstate, I was also concerned that she was about to end up shackled in the back of a serial killer’s van, destined to become the sleeve of his skin suit. “Please text me as soon as you get back in the U-Haul,” I told her, “and lock the doors!”. A little while later, she sent a picture of the truck, parked in a deserted looking lot, which is exactly the kind of scene a location scout would pick for a movie about a young woman’s abduction on her journey across America.

I said a silent prayer to Sacagawea, whose image was plastered across the side of the U-Haul, to help keep my daughter safe as she rolled through the Upper Midwest towards New Hampshire, like Lewis and Clark making their way to the Pacific, except with podcasts and Spotify.

It had all the makings of a great story: my daughter, just home from a semester in Italy, was dead broke and had the opportunity to make a nice chunk of change, while touring her own country for a few days. Even though she’d spent the previous four months exploring Europe — taking a bike tour through Munich and traveling from Florence to Greece on a 30-hour journey akin to Odysseus’, minus the Cyclops — a road trip seemed like a well-timed adventure before beginning her summer internship at a big resort in Pennsylvania. And for a girl from New Jersey, anything west of Pittsburgh seemed pretty exotic

The opportunity to go on this 8-hour-a-day-odyssesy through the upper half of the country and make some money came from right next door. Our neighbor, Liz, is a bookkeeper and one of her clients had asked whether her college-aged son would be interested in the job. When he couldn’t, Liz immediately thought of my daughter and texted me with all the details.

In a nutshell, a New Hampshire-based marketing firm (Liz’s client) was looking to make an impression on some big corporations by hiring someone to hand-deliver to their marketing execs end tables with company logos, crafted by some artisans in North Dakota. The job was to pick up the tables from the workshop and travel back east, making two deliveries (Minneapolis and Ann Arbor), and then transporting the rest of the furniture to New Hampshire, all expenses paid plus a nice check at the end.

What could go wrong?

I was nervous at first, but everything checked out and in the many years that I have known Liz, she has never done anything remotely reckless. She recently spearheaded a campaign in town to encourage more kids to walk and bike to school, and wears a reflective vest when she goes on her early morning runs. I was confident she wasn’t setting my daughter up to be a drug mule.

“She might want to check what’s inside those table legs,” said my friend Dan — who’d worked a dozen years as a prison guard before becoming a personal trainer, and has witnessed horrible things on both ends of the economic spectrum. “It’s just the way I think,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.

Around the same time, a good friend was sending her husband to fetch their daughter (my girl’s BF) from college in St. Louis and drive her back to New Jersey in their car, which she’d had for the year. “You better tell her to be careful,” my friend said when I told her of my own daughter’s wacky caper.

And that’s when panic set in.

Truth be told, I am not prone to smothering tendencies as a parent. In fact, sometimes I can be a little too hands off. I keep forgetting to check my 15yo’s grades from last marking period online and still don’t know whether I need to call to check if a parent is home, every time he goes over to a friend’s house. It just seems so aggressive.

I do enjoy some casual stalking though, insisting that all the kids — even ones who don’t live with me anymore — share their locations with me on their iPhones (okay, not the 25yo boy, who thinks all of us stalking each other is weird). 

Aside from the solo aspect of the journey, I was also worried about all of that driving. I get sick when the kids are on long-distance drives, like the 8-hour haul the older two kids had to their college in Virginia. And I hate when any of my kids are flying and insist they text the minute the plane’s wheels hit the tarmac. But I also don’t want my children spending their lives standing still.

If I was going to be completely honest, I think what concerned me the most about the journey — besides all the driving and traveling by herself — was whether other people would think I was an irresponsible parent for allowing her to go.

I didn’t want anyone to think that I was a bad mom. 

When she was little, I used to refer to my third child as “The Boss” because, even at a young age, she was someone who liked to take charge — or at the very least — stand up to her older two siblings. They’d lounge around on beanbag chairs in our basement when they were little, watching Barney and Thomas the Tank Engine videos that ran on a loop, while I pried little scraps of American cheese off the floor upstairs after lunch. One afternoon  my oldest came up crying and holding his cheek, sobbing something about his baby sister, who was probably around 2 at the time. Apparently, tired of being harassed by her oldest brother, The Boss had gotten up off her pink beanbag chair and bit him in the face. And he never bothered her again.

I knew in my heart that my girl, that Boss, could handle a 2,000-mile drive across the country. That she was up to the challenge. But the reaction I got as I told peopleexcitedly at first about the trip, had me questioning whether I should have even told my kid about the job in the first place.

What no one ever tells you when your children are young, when they’re offering advice about whether they should sleep on their back or their side or if you should worry when one bites her brother in the face, is that it never ends. What you never find out until it’s too late, is that you will worry about your child until you take your last breath.

And I think the only way to manage that crushing reality, is to recognize that for the most part, they’ve got it. It might not always go to way you’d like it to go, or the way you try to manipulate outcomes (“Hello, my name is Amy, and I can be a master manipulator.”) but they usually figure it out. I’ve watched a million times as I’ve tried to play the role of the puppeteer that they do what’s best for them when I drop (or, okay, they cut) the strings.

They pick the right colleges and get full-time jobs with 401ks. And if they don’t, it’s valuable information for them to use in the future.

Maybe in the end, it all just comes down to faith.

So, while my inner voice told me it would all be fine, I ratcheted up my hovering, lest anyone think I didn’t care about my daughter. And then I started to lose faith. I stopped listening to my inner voice.

As soon as she drove away in the Uber for her flight to Minneapolis, I became pretty focused on her whereabouts. I immediately started stalking the hell out of her on my phone, which I think charmed her at first and then quickly became very irritating.

Aside from the stalking, I also spent much of the week serving as her travel agent, combing the internet to book rooms and find places for her to eat. And while I tried to find the “best” places for her to go, she really just wanted to get something to eat and lie down.

She ended up at the Mall of America after a long day of driving from North Dakota one day (“I’m so overwhelmed,” she texted when she got inside. “Why didn’t you ever bring us here on vacation?”), and I tracked her location inside the megamall. I could see on my laptop where she was, and tried to guide her to good places for dinner like she was Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible and I was trying to help her find an escape route. I had all of these amazing ideas (I thought) and eventually, she stopped texting and later told me she rode a rollercoaster and grabbed some hibachi at Benihana.

She did her own research each night in her hotel room, which took her to see a giant pink elephant in Wisconsin and ate what she said were “the most amazing” beef tacos (“It’s rated the #1 restaurant in DeForest,” she texted.). One morning, she messaged asking, “Should I go see a forest or the world’s largest six-pack of beer?” which led her for that deserted walk around the woods of Pewits Nest, alongside a stream called Skillet’s Creek in Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin. A place from which I thought she’d surely never escape. 

For a while one afternoon as she approached Chicago, I tried to find places for her to park the U-Haul so she could go visit that giant bean, but in the end, we determined no parking garage could accommodate her rig and that she’d come off looking like aterrorist. Instead, she pulled off at Indiana Dunes State Park and stood in the clear shallow water of Lake Michigan before spending the night in Kalamazoo.

Along the way, she stopped for lunch in Cleveland one day with her roommate from freshman year (even though I was dying for her to go to Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor), and another day had breakfast with one of her best pals who lives in Harrisburg, PA. She stopped for the night to stay at her apartment in State College, PA, to see friends and pick up bedding and stuff for her summer internship at Hershey Park.

Finally, she arrived around 8 p.m. in Portsmouth, NH after a long day of driving from State College, where she finally met the man she’d been driving across the country for who took her to get something to eat before she collapsed at a Hilton Garden Inn for the night. The next morning, she took a bus to Boston and flew home, where she promptly ate some leftover quiche in the frig, snuggled our dog and watched the royal wedding, which had happened earlier that day. 

A week later she packed up our old GMC and drove back to Pennsylvania to start her internship and we joked that the three-hour trip would feel like nothing after her midwestern odyssey.

After a day of orientation, she worked her first 8-4:30 day in housekeeping and when I asked how it went, she told me her feet were killing her.

She was on her way back to the apartment she shared with five other interns and was going to shower and change to meet friends for an early dinner, and then had to run to Wal-Mart to by an all-black sneaker to wear to work the next day.

“Well, how do you feel?” I asked as she pulled into her apartment complex and was about to get out of the car.

“I feel like a legit grown up,” she told me.

And I couldn’t have agreed more.

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My Kids Won’t Stop Getting Older

IMG_5270I had a baby 21 years ago today. My second. A girl.

She came two weeks early and easily, swimming out quickly into the world like a good little Pisces. She joined her older brother, who came 17 months earlier and was so naughty, you’d have thought I’d have done anything that I could to prevent having another baby so quickly.

But when you get a night out alone with your husband and college friends and drink one-too-many Mount Gay and tonics, you find that your decision-making skills have become impaired. The booze softens the memories of engorged, leaky breasts and raw umbilical cords. It tempers just how helpless one feels alone watching QVC at 3 a.m. with an inconsolable infant. Or how long the days can feel stuck in a house with a toddler and a cabinet full of Barney videos.

So I got knocked up when my weepy first baby was a mere eight months old and while he had evened out by the time his sister came along nine months later – by then he had stopped crying all the time and had become a sweet little toddler – I had my hands officially full.

I was 27 and had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Not that I’d actually planned any of it, obviously. But while most of those college friends were building their careers and enjoying the freedom of being young and single in Manhattan, I was learning the words to Raffi songs and cutting boiled hot dogs into tiny, chewable pieces (this was back when hot dogs were still a highly-acceptable food staple for little ones).

And I’ve thought about it a lot, about whether I’d change things if I had the chance to go back in time. Would I be smarter about birth control? Some of those questionable hair styles? Would I even have gotten married?

But I spent a lot of time paging through photo albums this morning and picking through the shoeboxes that hold the photo overflow, the B rolls that didn’t make the photo album cut. And I’m reminded looking the kids in their Halloween costumes or opening Christmas presents or covered in bubbles in the tub that even though so much of it was hard – not to mention boring and thankless – I wouldn’t change a thing.

I mean, maybe I wouldn’t wear a scrunchie out in public or overalls the second time around, but I’d pretty much like to go back and do it all over again.

I’d really savor every second of the little voices, the little bodies, the little problems.

It’s hard to believe that that same little girl who I met late that night 21 years ago is now closer to my age that I was when I had her than I am. It reminds me of A: How old she is and B: How young I was and C: How old I have become.

She’s coming home this weekend for spring break and I’m looking forward to seeing her in person. To having a glass of wine together out in public and getting her to myself for a whole week. And even though she’s a good six inches taller than me now and by all accounts, a legit grown up, that girl will always be my baby.

Sure, she can buy cheap booze legally now, but she'll always be my little baby.

Sure, she can buy cheap booze legally now, but she’ll always be my little baby.


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The Time My Daughter Told Me I Was a ‘Terrible Mother’

keep_calm___by_trl_phorce-d5ipns9-1A few weeks ago a girlfriend sent a text to me and another woman about picking a date to coordinate a ladies night out to celebrate the holidays.

“I want to make sure the date works for you guys before I send it out to the whole group,” she texted us. We went back and forth about a couple of dates but pretty much I was like, “Everything works. I’m good.”

We settled on next Wednesday, Dec. 17 and she sent out a big group text and a whole thread ensued about who can make it and who still needed to find a babysitter. I was secretly pleased that I no longer really needed a sitter, my high school girl could handle herself and her brother for the night, and I thought about what I was going to wear instead.

So last Sunday I stood in the cold with the girls night organizer and another friend listening to the middle school chorus sing holiday tunes before the annual lighting of our town tree. The subject of our night out came up and we all stood shivering and agreed that our destination would be fun and then the other mom said she was still having a hard time finding a sitter.

My 17yo had just arrived from work and walked over to join our circle. I turned to her and asked her what she was doing that night — thinking maybe she could watch my friend’s kids — and then I stopped myself and said, “Wait, she’ll be watching my little kid!”

We all started to laugh and my daughter asked, “What night is this, anyway?”

“The 17th,” the organizer told her.

“Oh,’ said my daughter, giving me a look, “you mean your son’s birthday?”


“Amy!” shouted the organizer, “you told me you were free that night!”

“I thought I was!”

And right on cue, the 17yo said, “You’re a terrible mother.”

“I have a learning disability you guys,” I continued, trying to recover, “I can’t remember things.”

And then I thought a little bit more and observed, “And I don’t even have a job.” In the past, I would use that as an excuse for my forgetfulness; for when I dropped the ball somewhere in my life. And with only two kids living at home right now, I couldn’t even pull the ol’ “I’ve got four kids” card out of my back pocket.

Now I didn’t even have that to blame.

Maybe I was just legit stupid.

At that, the teenager grabbed the car keys out of my coat pocket and said, “That’s it. I’m taking the car and driving home,” and she stormed off into the crowd.

The other moms and I laughed and I promised that I’d still be there, albeit after the obligatory trip to the local hibachi place to celebrate a 12th birthday.

I told the story to another girlfriend as we exercised the next day in my living room and she shook her head when I got to the part about forgetting my kid’s birthday and I repeated the “learning disabled” bit.

“Maybe you need an IEP,” she suggested and that really got us laughing but then I thought, “That’s not such a bad idea.”

An IEP is shorthand for the Individualized Education Program that’s tailored for students who are classified in school with some type of challenge that’s getting in between them and learning. Like, I could really use having somebody sit down with me and kind of help me sort through my life, identifying the things that challenge me – like arriving anywhere on time or dropping my son off at the wrong place  – and figuring out ways to overcome them.

We’d call it my ILP (Individualized Life Plan), which would be a grown up version of the IEP and my kids could even have a copy of it to make modifications as we discover future challenges.

Or maybe I could just pay better attention to things.

I checked my phone as the concert ended and Santa screeched by on the firetruck, its sirens blaring and lights flashing in the darkening December sky, and saw that my daughter had texted that she was sitting in the car waiting for me.

I searched through the crowd for my son and we headed out to the parking lot behind the borough hall. I opened the door and slipped into the warm car and my daughter said, “Seriously, Amy.”

“I know, dude,” I said. “But isn’t it part of my charm?”

We laughed about it during the quick drive home and I thought of ways of breaking it to my son that I would be going out for a little bit after hibachi next week.

That is, if I remember.

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Free Falling

For a long time, I resisted change. It made me nervous.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I totally wanted things to change. Or better yet, I knew that they really had to. I just didn’t know quite how to go about it.

Check that. That’s a lie. I knew exactly what needed to be done. I just didn’t have the balls to do it.

So for what, at the time, seemed like an eternity, I kind of teetered at the edge of a big cliff of indecision. Because there were a lot of things I really liked about my life. I got the family that I really wanted, the multitude of children. I loved our house with the pool and our big golden retriever. We lived in a nice town with great schools where I got to help make pilgrim costumes out of brown paper shopping bags for the Thanksgiving feast in second grade and hot-glued pennies onto a baseball hat to celebrate the 100th day of school. There were dinner parties and tennis lessons and piles of presents for Christmas.

On the outside, it was all so fucking perfect.

But inside – I probably don’t need to tell you – it was a different story. There was sadness and regret. Anger and resentment. People doing shit they probably shouldn’t have been doing along with people not doing the things that probably really needed to be done.

But we suffered in silence. Literally. The silent treatment was an often-used tool for conflict non-resolution around here. Because what were the options? I mean, I guess I had a pretty good idea what they were, but they were big and scary and things that other people did, but not me.

But then, as luck would have it – although I did not think of it as very lucky at the time – a series of events occurred that gave me the kind of push I needed to make the leap into the unknown.

I said I wanted a divorce and things began to unspool.

Not long after that, I took my four children north to stay at our friends’ place in Vermont for a few days. The kids swam at a local waterfall and we ate sticky cinnamon buns at our favorite farmer’s market. We made the windy drive up Mount Equinox and passed monks walking along the side in flowing white robes and arrived at the top to find it shrouded in a thick layer of fog obscuring our view. The kids swam at night in the condo complex’s indoor pool, running along the tiled deck before diving in while I sank into the steamy water of the hot tub, letting the bubbles swirl around my neck as I considered the Pandora’s Box I had just unlocked. All of the shit that I had unleashed.

One day we drove over to the quarry in nearby Dorset and dove off the big blocks of marble into the icy green water below. The swimming hole is bordered on a few sides by cliffs of varying heights, which the more intrepid visitors leap from into the 60-foot deep pool. We ate our sandwiches and watched people of all ages – parents, teens, kids – stand at the top and contemplate the fall while others shouted words of encouragement from the comfort of their picnic blankets below.

Some recklessly flipped backwards off the 20-foot cliff like it was nothing while others sheepishly made their way back to the bottom on foot.

“The girls should do it together,” announced my oldest daughter and the three of us picked our way up the dirt path that led to the top of the cliff and looked down.

Now, what some of you might have already surmised, things look a lot less threatening when viewed from a distance. When considered in theory. But when you’re standing with your feet dangerously close to the edge of a cliff and there’s nothing between you and some really dark, cold water but 20 feet of air, you start to lose your nerve. Well, that’s if you’re like me. I started to rethink my earlier bravery and weighed the embarrassment of retreating down to my blanket in defeat versus falling into a protruding ledge of marble on my plummet down or hitting the water at a bad angle. There were a million things that could go wrong.

“Don’t overthink it!” yelled one of the parents standing below who watched me move close to the edge and then back away.

“I’m really nervous,” I told the girls.

We debated whether we should jump at the count of “three” or the word “go” while my oldest son stood below and shouted for us to hurry up, tired of having to wait for us to jump and so he could take our picture as I had instructed.

I stood at the top of the cliff with my daughters standing on either side of me and thought about all the things I’d never done because I was afraid. I thought about how I never wanted them to see me timid again. How I wanted to show them what it looked like when you do something that scares the living shit out of you.

And then I heard my older daughter say, “Go,” and the three of us leapt off the side. We flew together through the air and plunged hard into the cold, dark water and then kicked our way back up to the surface. We bobbed in the water for a bit and languished in our bravery. Our badass-ness. Then we swam to the ladder laughing and pulling ourselves up to stretch out on our towels and bask in the hot August sun.

And much like the more allegorical jump I’d made a few months earlier, leaping into the pool of divorce, my dive off the steep marble cliff taught me to have faith in the unknown. It showed me how flying through the air, either real or metaphorical, was sometimes the only way to really live.

Taking the leap, 2009.

Taking the leap, 2009. Credit: Max Walsack.

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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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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.



That’s What She Said

photo-17So, lately I’ve drawn much of my inspiration for this blog from things going on in the news, mostly because there’s absolutely nothing going on in my life. Absolutely. Nothing.

It’s so bad that in the five-year memory book I try to write in at the end of every day, just a quick recap of what transpired in the previous 24 hours, I actually noted: Picked Nick up from karate.

Actually, the entire post read: Still sick. Still fat. Spin Class. Whole Foods. Drove Nick to karate.

I mean, what the fuck? I used to have a life. I used to really do somewhat important-ish things. Now I am relegated to karate carpooling and steaming turnips.

But while there’s currently not much going on in my life, there does seem to be a bunch of things going on in the rest of the world. So much, in fact, that I really can’t get to writing about everything that’s caught my eye of late.

So I thought I’d share some links to interesting articles I’ve stumbled upon in the paper or trolling Facebook (which I now spend an inordinate amount of time on).

Herewith, some rabbit holes to jump down:

– Like, a day after I write about turning 50 (some day), I discover I’m not the only one wringing my hands about it. 

– And if you missed the reference to crying about a future big birthday, here’s a refresher.

– As if turning 50’s not bad enough, a doctor will try to stick something where?

– Just when you thought Snapchat was the most worrisome app on your middle schooler’s iPhone, now there’s this.

– Although some media people can build a whole career out of that kind of stuff.

–  Will you go ape shit if you read one more contradictory piece on parenting? You’re not alone.

“Conscious Uncoupling” gets a blast of fresh air.

If you’re still looking for something to do, why don’t you subscribe to the blog via email to get new posts delivered straight to your inbox? Just look for the box here that encourages you to do just that. Easy. Peasy. 

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.










Missing Teeth, Losing Kids and an Ode to the Minivan

The view during a snow shoe hike with a friend Sunday morning that took the edge off missing teeth and children.

The view during a snow shoe hike with a friend Sunday morning that took the edge off missing teeth and misplaced children.

Usually here on Sundays I do a little Week in Review thing cleverly disguised as just another post.

Really, I consider it a value-added day because not only do I usually tell a little story but I point out other posts I had written throughout the week that you might not have known existed, slipping through the Facebook cracks between suggested posts for Sparkle paper towels and what state people are told by a quiz they should be living in. Or maybe you just never got around to opening the email.

Just looking to help a sister (or brother, as is sometimes the case) out.

But after losing my fucking tooth last night, and really needing to make a very short story quite long, there wasn’t really room to tack on the requisite posts from earlier in the week. I mean, since this blog is written and posted on the Internet, there is actually an infinite amount of space, but I’m already pretty chatty — I use way too many words when writing these things, — and studies show that people reading anything online can deal with about 300-400 words at a sitting and until they click over to somewhere else.

I tend to run a little longer than that.

Anyway, now that I’ve really warmed you up and you’re practically begging for more (or conversely, ready to click over to Facebook), here are some of the very exciting things that have been happening in my life over the last seven days including the humiliating loss of a tooth, a rage against Valentine’s Day and a love story starring a minivan …


photo-6That Time My Tooth Fell Out

I tend to have recurring dreams, with many of the same themes cycling through my brain, night after night.

There’s the one where I’m packing a suitcase or boarding an airplane. I always seem to be taking off and never landing. (READ MORE … )



IMG_3118Valentine’s Day is Stupid

I am not a festive person. I do not come from festive people.

As such, I do not own colorful sweaters, necklaces that light up like Christmas tree lights or candy cane earrings.

It used to bum my children out that I didn’t want to create a cemetery in our front yard for Halloween or string twinkly lights in the front bushes in December. Isn’t it enough I buy costumes and put up a tree? Can’t they be happy with a wreath?

Seriously. (READ MORE … )


800px-08_Chrysler_Town_&_Country_TouringPutting the Sexy Back in Minivans

You might have read here that I am on a quest to bring the minivan back.

I’ve been rocking my Town & Country rental all week.

Since I started driving my shiny white beautyfollowing a little run-​​in with a tractor-​​trailer, I’ve started thinking a lot about – given all the vehicle’s bells and whistles, not to mention roominess – why so many of us parents insist on driving around the suburbs in big rigs. (READ MORE … ) 


IMG_3742Am I Stupid?

It happened again this week. For maybe the fifth time in his life, I left my youngest child some place he wasn’t supposed to be.

And he’s getting tired of it and frankly, I can’t say I really blame the kid.

Someone should take away my mom license. (READ MORE … )


photo-4Museum of the Fairly Ordinary Life

There’s a house around the corner from us, set along a busy thoroughfare running through town, which has had stacks of books piled up on an enclosed porch in front for as long as I can remember. The entrance is lined with curtained windows through which passersby can see mountains of books surrounding the room, piled high into the middle of each window. (READ MORE … )


valentine’s day is stupid

IMG_3118I wrote this post last year and what a difference 12 months can make (or maybe not having a job).

This year, not only had I purchased cards and candy well ahead of Valentine’s Day, I even was organized enough to send bags of candy to the two college kids in Virginia that even GOT THERE EARLY.

I’m never that together.

I also stumbled upon the aisle of boxed Valentine’s cards when I happened to be in Target in January, yes January, and called my fifth grader to tell him what was there and get ahead of the game.

“I’m not doing that,” he almost spat when I suggested he make a selection.

“But they have a million choices!” I told him. “Sponge Bob. Superman. Transformers.”

In the end, he relented to my prodding and picked NBA-themed cards.

I brought them home and they’ve sat on a counter in our kitchen until yesterday.

“Buddy,” I said to him last night. “Don’t you want to start working on your Valentine’s cards?”

“Nah,” he answered. “I’m not going to bring them in.”

So as it seems to happen so often in my life, my timing was once again way off. 

So if any of you parents are feeling frantic because you forgot to get your kid cards in time, as you’ll see below that I did last year, you can come on over and grab mine.

I have a whole box.


IMG_3123I am not a festive person. I do not come from festive people.

As such, I do not own colorful sweaters, necklaces that light up like Christmas tree lights or candy cane earrings.

It used to bum my children out that I didn’t want to create a cemetery in our front yard for Halloween or string twinkly lights in the front bushes in December. Isn’t it enough I buy costumes and put up a tree? Can’t they be happy with a wreath?


But it’s the make-believe holidays that make me crazy. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Valentine’s Day.

These are the phony holidays created solely to get you to spend money on things that nobody needs, like Barbie Pez and ties.

So, imagine my chagrin when I found myself last night at Target searching for Valentine’s Day goodies for my two kids still living at home.

Nothing says “I’m a horrible procrastinator” like standing in the seasonal aisle at Target at 5:30 the night before Valentine’s Day, huddled with all the other working moms and clueless dads in front of the few remaining pink stuffed animals and Necco Wafers that all the organized parents hadn’t already scooped up last week. It was like landing on the Island of Misfit Toys: Valentine’s Edition.

But there I stood, thinking, “This is stupid,” while one young mom kept telling her preschooler he was a brat and another mom, who had three little kids hanging out of her shopping cart, employing the “f” word to stop the all their bickering. Right there next to the bags of miniature Snickers bars.

This was obviously not a happy time of day to be at Target (and man, I am usually really happy to be at Target).

Of course at this point, there is not one box of Valentine cards to be found for my 10-year-old son to bring to school the next day. No Dora. No Thomas the Tank Engine. Nothing.

I was talking to my younger sister, who is  like 14 years younger than me and has one toddler, on the phone while casing the joint and reported my findings.

“Go on Pinterest!” she says, and starts describing excitedly something she saw where I’d take my son’s picture holding out his arms and print it out and tape a lollipop to it. And I’m thinking, “Okay, I can do this,” and grabbed one of the remaining bags of lollipops from a bottom shelf.

I turned the corner and ran into a big display of Fun Dip cards that are pretty much the paper pouches containing the sugary dip and weird candy stick that kids can write classmates’ names on. I reached my hand out and hesitated for about two seconds, remembering then that you pretty much can’t send any food items into school anymore due to allergy restrictions, and then grabbed it anyway.

I’ll take contraband over crafting, all day long.