I Didn’t Mean to Buy a Fixer-Upper

I said it again a few days ago, as my husband and I began the process of preparing for our latest renovation project.

“You know, I really didn’t think we were buying a fixer-upper when we decided on this house.”

He looked at me incredulously, as if I were either joking or completely insane. But I meant it.

When we bought our house in 2010, I knew it needed a bit of work, mostly cosmetic. Built in 1909, it had so many original details that drew me in. So much character.

To be fair, looking back on when we first saw our house, I remember my husband joking that “character” actually meant “expensive repairs” in real life. I shrugged him off at the time as a cynic.

We were approaching the house hunt from two different perspectives. Although we had been living in Manhattan for the previous five years together and both adored city life, my New York City residency stretched back a solid ten years prior to that point, while he had owned a house in the suburbs as a bachelor before I lured him out of Connecticut. As a result, he had seen this movie before — the one where gullible buyers think that old houses are charming but they invariably end up becoming money pits. Apparently I skipped that movie to watch bad reality TV instead.

But he was dealing with a woman who, for the better part of 15 years, had grown accustomed to living in minimal urban space that required certain lifestyle trade-offs. I never had a kitchen in the city wherein I wasn’t able to simultaneously touch all of the walls. I got used to storage and closets getting categorized as luxuries. As a perpetual renter, I hadn’t controlled my own thermostat in over a decade, and became accustomed to sleeping with the windows open in the dead of winter as the inside temperature lingered around a steady 81 degrees and the radiator activity resembled that of an active geyser.

So, about sixty houses into our two-year hunt, this was the one that satisfied most of our respective wish lists. Sure, it showed some signs of wear and tear from its 101 years, but it had a good deal of what we needed, plus it was located where we wanted to live and was within(ish) our budget. So what if the kitchen was dated? I didn’t have to store sweaters in the oven. And the old floors? Certainly not in their moment of glory, but original to the house. The bathrooms needed a facelift, but there was more than one! It was a plural bathroom situation. The unfinished basement? It was glorious storage.

I figured that some paint and a few modest upgrades would be all we needed.

Fast forward six years. This morning, the work began on our fourth major renovation project.

You see, since 2010, our then three-year-old and eight-month-old children grew a ton, as they are prone to doing. They accumulated a shitload of stuff and required more space to destroy. Oh, and we had a third child as well. I also no longer worked full-time and became more attuned to what kind of space we needed day to day.

And so, we took on a few projects.

We first finished our basement. Many people could end that thought with a singular sentence, but our estimated five week project took eight months and has several lengthy blog posts devoted to it — many of which involve thinly veiled threats to my often-MIA contractor who had better not ever set foot on my block again.

basement floor work


This was the first time I learned that when you fuck with a 100 year-old house, it never goes as planned. I also learned that a giant steel beam can be shimmied under your house, when necessary, to keep it from collapsing. (Related: Steel beam shimmying wasn’t in the original plan or budget.) Yay for the new basement!

After a lengthy PTSD recuperation and a total HGTV blackout period, we regrouped and decided that maybe we’d make some straightforward cosmetic updates to the curb appeal of the house. You know, refresh the front porch and add in a paint job for good measure. Hilarious.




Because you know what happens when you fuck with a 100 year-old front porch? Unexpected steel beam #2 to support the weight of the house. Yay for the new front porch!

My husband, feeling my growing anger and resentment toward the house that was steadily betraying us, abandoned our previous plans to build an addition for obvious reasons involving sanity, dollars and remaining married. He did, however, gently suggest that perhaps our powder room on the main floor was in dire need of a refresh before we hosted this past Christmas. No plumbing moving around, no major changes, just updating it.

This became known as a case of “while we’re at it,” a common renovation syndrome where homeowners fall prey to the logic that, while already suffering through work on the home, they may as well just add on one more item in the nearby vicinity. This one more item, for us, became an entire new entryway, extensive work on the dining room, new moldings, updating paint colors, replacing the original floors (because the basement upheaval had caused them to assume an endless “whack a mole” quality with tetanus-prone nails and planks perpetually popping up) and expanding a hallway. No steel beam to get any of this done, but we almost canceled Christmas.


But what really needed more work than anything — what really stood out and cried for desperate repair — was the kitchen.

Remember when I said that the kitchen was dated but that was OK because it had enough storage and space? I lied. It’s not OK. And I don’t just mean because it’s ugly. I can live with ugly for more way more than six years.

What I can’t live with as much is shit falling apart. Like warning helpful relatives and friends as they open my kitchen drawers, “OH, WAIT! Watch out! That’s heavy and will fall right out onto your foot!” (There’s only one way to find that out for the first time, by the way.) And I don’t need a giant kitchen. We actually have a decent amount of space there, but it’s so poorly laid out, with some really wonky features. Its design makes little to no sense and can just be reconfigured so much better, without actually expanding the footprint of the house (because, again, sanity/dollars/marriage, my friends).

It took a lot of convincing to get me to agree to this project. A lot. I mean, can you even believe we are doing this instead of, say, torching the place? The truth is, despite what I’ve described in the last six years, I’m not a renovations kind of gal. I have a Type A personality, three young kids and an aging pug. I don’t do well with people in and out of my space, making a mess and creating chaos. I’m not that person, but I play one in this house. Apparently.

(Insert logical questions here about why not just move instead or why not just do all of the renovations at once instead of in a torturous piecemeal fashion. Just know that you can’t ask us anything that we haven’t already talked to death on our end.)

All conventional wisdom says to do kitchen renovations in the summer. I get that. It’s the season of grilling, of being out and about, no schedules, no homework and the occasional getaways. And so we began these “conversations” (which I really didn’t think would ever become more than that, based on my resistance levels) a few months ago with designers, architects and contractors. And we kept going. And we filed permits. And we ordered cabinets. And then we were all-in as summer approached.

And it was pretty much last weekend, as we began to empty out the kitchen and the adjoining family room (which will also be impacted), when I started to have a panic attack. Our plan was to relocate to the basement (see Project #1), as it has a microwave, sink, a full bathroom and some decent storage. Also, it has a wine fridge, if we really need to pinpoint my anticipated center of gravity during this process.

What it does not have is an oven, stove or dishwasher. And, hey, I don’t mind hand washing some dishes, but if your kids are card-carrying members of the Use All of the Cups We Own Every Day Club like mine are, you can see how it starts to give me anxiety. Yes, I’ll be loading up on paper plates this summer (shhhhh, sorry environment) and the grill is at the ready. But, honestly, I’m trying to embrace the sort of freeing feeling of not actually being able to properly cook all summer long. Oh, and entertaining? Off the table this summer. We’ll be at your place if you want to get together. Unless you want to enjoy a chilled white wine in my laundry room with me. Just don’t tell the kids I’m in there.

They say it will take eight weeks to get it done, but I know better. I even know where the steel beam is going this time.

The real irony here is that, apart from when we are upstairs in our bedrooms, all of our common indoor family time will now be spent in the basement this summer — which basically is like taking the smallest apartment I ever had in New York, on my own, and adding four additional people to it. And their toys. And their food. And their noise. And the pug (who is totally discombobulated and pissed off by his forced proximity to the kids).

I’ve come full circle. All I need is a George Forman grill, an overbearing, narcissistic boss and, hell, I’m practically back to my old city life.

It’s all going to be OK. I’m keeping my eye on the prize, even as the hammers bang and the dust flies and everyone is all over me about dinner as I try to fashion a meal out of a fucking hot plate.

kitchen renovation 1

kitchen renovation 2

Day one is done, and I’m getting a pizza. But I’m stopping at the wine fridge first.

Did you like this? Share it:

The Hunger Games, Toddler Edition

Political freedom.

Religious persecution.

— Probably not the reasons why my son is on a hunger strike.


Protesting the Paw Patrol plot line.

Hates all food.


— Could be the reasons.



Determining my breaking point.

Testing boundaries.

Being two.

— Most likely the reasons.


Kids are picky, I get it. Toddlers can be a huge pain in the ass, I know. Palates evolve. Things change.


This is my third child. I’ve been to the bullshit meal rodeo before. I’ve seen my older two kids refuse food for bizarre and wildly inconsistent reasons. But I’ve never had a kid who just refused to eat on a semi-regular basis.

It’s got to be a phase, right?

It would be easier if the demands and aversions were predictable or followed some kind of pattern. I now know that would be too easy. That would not flex my parenting muscles to their maximum potential. That would not take me to the brink of insanity enough times in a day. That would not test just how far my wine stash will go.

Consider these two scenarios:

A) “Mommy, noooooooo! I don’t want pasta! No pastaaaa!”


B) “Mommy, pasta please! I want pasta! Pasta, pasta, pasta! Pasta with butter and cheese! Now please the pasta Mommmmy! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO MOMMMMMMY I DON’T WANT THISSSSSS PASTAAAAAA!”

My child specializes in Scenario B.

I could work with A. No pasta? OK, cool. We’ll move on. But this “Gimme, gimme, gimme this now don’t you fucking dare put that in front of me” approach has me off of my game.

I hear it in my head, all of the parenting advice:

  • Don’t be a short order cook.
  • Provide options.
  • Don’t make food a battle.
  • Just go with it.
  • He’ll eat when he’s hungry.
  • This too shall pass.

It’s like a simultaneous cacophony of bad clichés that contradict each other in the moment when you just want your kid to eat something. And when you don’t want to feel like your day is controlled by preparing food that repeatedly ends up in the trash.

Today my son took his “I want pasta/go to hell pasta” game to new heights by opening the pantry, pulling out a box of Kraft mac & cheese, insisting this was his “green pasta” (that veggie pasta) and yelling that he wants it. Not cooked. Not warm. Out of the box. Hard macaroni noodles.

“Donnnnn’t cook ittttttt. Noooooo.”

Seriously, kid? No. Just no.

I would’ve had more energy and patience to handle this scenario at 10:33am if I had not just recovered from the breakfast battlefield a mere hour ago. The one where he refused, like his life depended on it, the very same waffle he had requested a third helping of just a day prior.

Fine. No waffle.

But hard macaroni out of the box? Come on. I don’t need a dental reconstruction bill on top of this. It’s like a bad GEICO commercial.

This is the child who used to eat almost everything. Eggs. Veggies. Fish. Chicken. Cereal.

Now? This is the current comprehensive list of what he MAY ingest without a fight if the moon is full and the planets align and the garbage truck is driving by at precisely 7:04am.

  • Yogurt drinks
  • Cheerios (Multigrain, 3-9 pieces, total, but not the dark ones)
  • Waffle (edges trimmed, NO TOPPINGS OF ANY KIND)
  • Pancake (chocolate chip only – because, duh, that’s like having a cookie, which of course makes the cut)
  • Strawberries (unless there are too many bumps on them)
  • Banana (but not this week, no way in hell)
  • Grilled cheese (only if prepared by my husband)
  • Pasta (see above, kill me)
  • Bagel (cut into small pieces, with butter, heated but not toasted)
  • Chicken parm from the Italian place up the street (note: not plain chicken nuggets, not plain breaded cutlets made at home, but only the chicken parm from this one place, and only after the cheese has been removed and most of the sauce has been scraped off – thereby rendering it to be uncannily similar to said breaded cutlets I prepared at home for 1/17th of the cost)

In its entirety, it’s not a terrible list. But it’s important to understand what I’ve come to see as a few ground rules in his toddler mind.

  • Only 1-2 items on this list will be tolerated in a 24 hour period. Max.
  • Just because I ate it yesterday does not mean I will put up with it today. It’s a whole new game every day, lady. Can you bring it?
  • Don’t you know that reverse psychology doesn’t work on the youngest child? I see what you’re doing and you sound like a jackass, Mom. I called your bluff like 15 minutes ago.
  • I’ve been watching my older siblings and I know how to stand my ground. I can hold out way longer than you bargained for. Sooooo, if you want to get me down for a post-lunch nap before we pick the other two up from school, you’re running out of time. Your move.
  • If you’re going to write about this on your blog, at least mention that I’m good with puzzles and am probably the best hugger in the history of toddlers.
  • Can you move to the left a bit? I can’t see the TV.

This too shall pass.


This too shall pass.


This too shall pass.






Did you like this? Share it:

The Ghost of Christmas Renovations Past

Do you do that thing when, faced with an insurmountable and beyond overwhelming to-do list, you instead choose to do something entirely unrelated and pretty much unproductive?

No? Just me?

Because it’s after midnight as I’m typing this, and trust me when I tell you that the amount I have to do to make all the Christmas magic happen is insane.

Oh, speaking of insane, welcome to my home. The place where I impose silly Christmastime traditions like home renovations on impossible timelines. In 2014, I almost had to ask my carpenters to stay for Christmas dinner to get our front porch finished in time to allow guests to walk through an actual front door instead of shimmying in through a side window (because it’s the little things that make you feel welcome).

It was a highly stressful time. Who the hell would repeat these mistakes of the past? What kind of self-punishing fool would decide to “just upgrade the powder room” and then maybe have things sort of domino while insisting that all will be fine to host 30 people for Christmas?

<looks around to see if anyone else can be blamed>

It’s cool, though. We still have two weeks to go. Let me show you that we really don’t have much left to do.

Here, you’ll see that our living room is ready to greet our friends and family in full Christmas decor. Clearly everyone will pick up on our festive theme upon entering our home. In the far end of the photo, you’ll see our dining room – the place where we will gather to cherish our holiday meal together and form a lifetime of memories.


Before you become concerned about the dining room, let me give you a closer look.


The only real question left is whether to use the white or cream placemats. These decisions can be stressful.

I’m also thinking that maybe I just spotted my kids’ homework under that tarp.

But in terms of logistics and necessity, do not worry. The new bathroom is definitely on track for completion.


Just a few final touches and it will be ready to go! I really should get the Christmas hand towels into the laundry since I’ll need them any day now.

And, you’ll be glad to know that, despite all evidence to the contrary, I actually have extremely low blood pressure. So there’s room for error before I stroke out completely.

Say it with me: “It will be fiiiiiiine.”

Now say this with me: “I love wine through a straw in the daytime.”

There’s a reason I like you guys so much.

And this brings me to my deflection strategy. Here’s a truly microscopic sampling of what I could/should be doing right now:

  • Wrapping gifts
  • OK, fine – buying gifts
  • Moving an elf
  • Eating the chocolate in the kids’ advent calendar
  • Deciding if eggshell really is the right finish for the bathroom paint
  • Buying a lock and hinges for a new door
  • Accepting that my two year-old recognizes Home Depot as “the orange cart store,” or possibly as a play date
  • Finding a reputable mediator to use with my contractor when/if this renovation ever ends
  • Wondering if, with global warming trends, outdoor seating will be feasible for Christmas dinner
  • Using parental forensics to determine which kid’s fingerprints are in the wet hallway paint
  • Imagining where the fuck to put a Christmas tree in any of the scenarios shown in the above photos (we’re thinking front porch)

Nope, nope, nope.

I decided that a much more engaging use of my time would be to make a flowchart. See, I’m in the middle of sending out my holiday cards and am having my annual crisis of conscience over where to make the cuts in my list. I err on the side of ruthlessness but maybe I’ve been hasty. Perhaps it’s time to spread some additional cheer. Because going back to the post office this week would prove that there is a worse place to be than in my own home, and that would bring me more comfort than spiking my coffee.

holiday card flowchart final


Yeah, you’ll need to zoom in. Sorry, it’s late and my Edit Image skills are not up to par right now. I’ll try to tweak it next time I’m looking to avoid any and all responsibility.

So, in the spirit of public service, I hope you’ll find my flow chart both useful and timely. To be clear, this assumes you’ve already made basic decisions about your list. If you’re looking for advice on whether or not to cut out your parents or neighbors, I’m probably underqualified. This highly scientific approach that I’m advocating is really for the gray areas. The ones you and your spouse might not agree on. The ones that test the boundaries of your holiday spirit. The ones that make you question just how you want to use your last holiday Forever stamps.

If nothing else, I hope I’ve made you feel better about your holiday preparedness levels. And if your gifts happen to be wrapped and you’re looking for some amazing holiday deed to perform in the name of humanity, please drop by and I’ll pass you a paint brush. With wine and a straw.


Did you like this? Share it:

A Guide to Luxury Holiday Seating: Teen Edition

So, you might think that my lack of recent blogging means I have been immersed in some highly unproductive habits. Like perhaps celebrating the long overdue demise of pumpkin-everything season as we finally usher in the glorious Month of Peppermint. Or, maybe tying my own hands behind my back as to not engage in any online discussion of the current roster of presidential candidates. Or, possibly overseeing an overly ambitious home renovation that quickly spiraled from “Hey, our powder room looks dated” to “Do you think the house will still be stripped down to the studs for Christmas dinner?”

(Spoiler alert: Probably. Stay tuned.)

In short, although I have not been writing, I have been productive as hell. If hell is where pumpkin drinks and renovation timelines come to die.

And here we are, suddenly in the midst of all things holiday related. Yes, it’s the season of gratitude, and posting about gratitude, and posting about why people post about feeling #gratitude and #blessed.

While I count my many blessings in my head instead of in public list and hashtag formation, it’s hard to reconcile all of the sadness of current world events with our seasonal consumerism – it feels shallow and vapid sometimes. I’m not saying that my kids will be presented with a photo of an adopted heifer under the Christmas tree, but I am making a concentrated effort to find a balance.

This attempted balance is not easy with the shock-and-awe seasonal catalog approach that lands in my mailbox every day and tests even the most resolute observer of local recycling codes.

Old habits die hard, don’t they? No, no, not a longing for Yule Log programming circa 1982. I just can’t stop analyzing the absurdity of some of our favorite kids’ retailers.

Now, to be fair, I had sort of promised a while back to take on the inaugural issue of Restoration Hardware Teen because, come on. How do we just let that go? And then, between the out of control home renovation plans and making sure all of the dark chocolate from Halloween found its way to my secret stash, a few other writers beat me to the punch on RH Teen, and rightfully so.

And so, rather than re-hash what has already been beautifully covered, I’m going to move on. Well, in just a minute.

Can we first just talk about The Versailles Settee?

Classic 18th-century Louis XV chairs – originally designed to fend off drafts and keep the household porter warm – were the inspiration for our settee. With its grand dome, lush upholstery and gracefully carved feet, it provides a cozy and elegant retreat.

Classic 18th-century Louis XV chairs – originally designed to fend off drafts and keep the household porter warm – were the inspiration for our settee. With its grand dome, lush upholstery and gracefully carved feet, it provides a cozy and elegant retreat.

Well, wait, hold the phone. Now that I’ve read the official product description and I understand that this is going to serve as a $3500 European History reference point, well then that’s money well spent, don’t you think? How else would today’s teen know exactly what an 18th century French porter faced?

Not ready to drop that much cash but still concerned about where your teen will rest his or her precious bottom? Luckily, RH Teen will let your kid slum it in the $1700 Orbit Chair (if astronomy is really their focus over that pesky French history).


Or, if they’re *really* grounded, send them to time out in the Tye Butterfly Chair in Mongolian Lamb (just $649).


Can you just hear it now? The exasperated texts?

“Uh, yeah. My mom seriously made me sit in the Mongolian Lamb chair and ‘think about what I did.’ WTFFFFF? She is the worst. It’s like prison here, but not as cool as OITNB.”

(Is that even what they would say? Or am I like the Smith Corona version of teen texting?)

I figured this focus on luxury teen seating was strictly a RH phenomenon. But, like a Christmas gift from the blogging gods, the never-count-us-out marketers at Pottery Barn somehow blessed my shamefully-unmonogrammed mailbox with their latest offering for teens.

And, friends, I am so glad that they did. Before you finish entering your credit card info to finance the Mongolian Lamb Chair of Shame over 24 months, first consider the PBT seating options. Because they are not fucking around.

You know those PBK mini “everyday” armchairs that lots of small kids have with their names stitched into them? (Ahem, I’m totally guilty of purchasing one.) I am starting to see that this was really the beginning of the problem. Why, let us create personalized, plush seating for the toddler set. And then, let us not regress for one single moment, ever, in offering them size-appropriate lounging options as they grow.

It’s an evil genius scheme that enables parents to rationalize the $159 Owl Fur Critter Beanbag – when, really, it’s the gateway drug of high-end tween seating.

And am I the only one who finds the woodsy creature theme sort of creepy?


(Side note: I spy at least eight wrapped gifts and three hot cocoas just waiting for the kids to arrive home from a tough day of sitting in terribly hard/not-ergonomic school chairs.)

I have to step back for a minute and just frame all of this PBT madness. It is 100% my own fault that I am surprised by any of this. Because anyone who views this cover and goes on to express shock on any level is really just missing context clues by a wide mile.


Is this a personalized re-creation of Frozen for the teen set? Like Anna and Elsa’s perfect American cousins tackle snow shoeing? Or are they hanging at their parents’ Norwegian chalet for a long weekend while their SAT tutor prepares their cocoa? It’s hard to say.

And in what is perhaps the most jaw-dropping display of setting one’s extra piles of cash on fire this holiday season, I give you the PBT Kick Back Recliner Speaker Chair ($699).


The perfect place to kick back for gaming, movie watching and music listening. Features a built-in audio system with Bluetooth, four speakers and a subwoofer.

The perfect place to kick back for gaming, movie watching and music listening. Features a built-in audio system with Bluetooth, four speakers and a subwoofer.

No word yet on when the throw pillows with #entitled will be back in stock to add that certain decorative punch. The Coke is a nice cross-branding touch, though. I guess an iced soy latte doesn’t look as good in a bottle.

But please say that you read the official product description. Because, if nothing else, it will serve as the only reason I’ll ever have for the word subwoofer on my blog. And I can’t let that chance just slip away.

OH, but for the love of all that is holy this season, do not confuse this chair with the Got Game Speaker Media Chair, which is compatible with various video game systems. (And, don’t worry, also has a subwoofer.)

Are we sensing a theme yet? Should the teens sit? Where will they sit? Are you equipped to seat them in the manner to which they’ve grown accustomed? Why are they standing? What is wrong with your home?

I don’t want to act like RH and PB didn’t include other items in their holiday catalogs. There was plenty of decor and luggage, too. And, just when I thought kids these days were growing up too fast, my heart was warmed not only by my spiked Sunday afternoon coffee, but by seeing a sweet stuffed animal available for tweens.


Oh, never mind. It’s a speaker that’s fully compatible with all phones, tablets and MP3 players. And, it’s made of “supersoft faux fur.” Not soft. Supersoft.

And, from a utilitarian standpoint, with all of the emphasis on seating, we cannot expect these kids to walk all the way across the Norwegian chalet to retrieve their own snacks or beverages. Pffffft.



The retro cooler to the rescue.

Look, I know I don’t have teenagers yet, so who am I to judge? Maybe this will all make perfect sense to me in five or ten years and I’ll be all, “Go to your room and sit in that Mongolian Lamb Chair until I tell you to come down here. If you need your mini-fridge re-stocked, let me know.”

It’s reasonable to think that I may be out of touch with any minor over the age of eight. And, truth be told, if my piss-poor attitude in my own teen years is any indication of what karma is going to throw my way as a parent, I’m probably screwed.

But, still. I’d like to go on record as saying that my future teens will survive in standard home seating. If anyone is getting a chair with a subwoofer and a bedside fridge, it’s me.





Did you like this? Share it:

June, You’re Killing Me a Little

Oh, June. Juuuuuune.

You are so full of promise, with your (mostly) warm temps, extended daylight hours and quickly approaching end of the school year.

But we have a few issues to sort out first, if we’re going to hang out together in the future.

Ceremonies: Whether it’s an actual graduation or a dance recital or just a gymnastics trophy ceremony, I’m running around town with the hope of a spare tissue in my bag. As much as I have wished and waited for these scheduled activities to wind down, the finality of each one shows just how big my kids have grown over the course of the year. I somehow made it through Kindergarten graduation’s “Pomp & Circumstance” without making a total slobbering spectacle of myself but only in the just-barely category. But do me a favor and just look away when we attend my son’s Author Day presentation later this week and the teacher fires up the year-end slideshow. Especially if she sets it to the inevitably sentimental piece of music. I’m a goner. Look. Away. Because that’s not me bawling at 8:30am under the fluorescent lights of a second grade classroom.

The Emptying of the Desks: Hey, I get it – the teachers can’t keep all of the kids’ stuff stored in their classrooms and they want to give us a chance to see as much of their work as possible. But they really should warn us to clear out some space first. Because my kids have been bringing home enough paper items to fashion a school year wallpaper mosaic for our playroom/hallway/first floor/tri-state area. On a standard, non-June day, I barely keep my head above water in the Mom vs School Papers battleground. Now, forget it. I hereby raise my white flag in total defeat as I attempt many a clandestine, under-the-cover-of-darkness move to dispose of these treasures while my kids aren’t looking. I would just like to take a moment to be thankful for paying a flat rate for recycling every month. #blessed

Change: Yes, plain old change. June is fulllll of it. As in, my kids were smaller when we started the school year nine months ago and now they’re noticeably bigger and they hate the very themed backpacks they begged for last August and OMG what is happening with time and space. I’m not good with change. When things wrap up, it means the status quo is about to shift and my head is about to explode.





Fall Registration: Let me clarify that last point above. The status quo would shift if I didn’t meet every early bird registration email with utter disdain and denial. And June is throwing a lot of that bullshit my way. Summer camps, fine – their time is now. But can we not, for just few weeks, start pushing the fall schedules and sign ups with the subtitled pressure of are-there-or-aren’t-there-enough-spots-if-I-wait? I haven’t even signed the thank you cards for this year’s teachers yet. I’m still on the lookout for an impossibly flattering bathing suit. I refuse to do anything fall-ish when my summer hasn’t even begun. Got it, June?


What a roller coaster. We’re ending, we’re beginning, we’re still in school and we’re begging for summer vacation. The schedules morph in the span of a few weeks from frenetic with homework and activities and schedules to wide open spaces on the calendar. It’s a shifty time. And if you love transitions and change, then allow me to recommend June as your month. Surely you’ll savor every one of its 2,000+ transitional moments.

Me, not so much. I’ll be much more at home when I’m sitting squarely in July, firmly in the summer and in the grasp of nothing in particular.

June, we’ll ride this out – but you’re killing me a little.




Did you like this? Share it:

Better Late Than Later

The moment took me by surprise. I thought we had more time before I had to have The Talk with my daughter. About the kind of people we really are.

It started innocently enough.

She asked me why, with just a few days left until our vacation, nothing had been packed yet. At first, I dismissed her breezily, with a reassuring “Oh, don’t worry, we still have a few days! It will get done!”

I thought that would be the end of it. But no. She persisted.

“Don’t we have a lot of things to pack? When do you think you’ll start?”

This was more serious than I thought.

“I can help you,” she pressed.

“But honey. We have time.”

“Only a few days. We should get started.”

OH God. It hit me. What if she’s not like us? What if….?

I wondered if it might be time. Yes, it was a few years before I had anticipated, but perhaps she is old enough to handle the truth about us. And so I began.

“Sweetie, see if you can say this word: Pro-cras-tin-a-tion.

I thought about how to take her through it slowly. The whole truth. How some families planned and did things in advance. And how we, despite our best efforts, are not those people.

We have tried to be those people. My husband and I have, at times, put in massive, valiant effort with the energy of a thousand burning suns. We have even seen fleeting glimpses of success and danced in the fringes of being those people. But, in the end, we were just pretending.

It’s just not in our souls to be finished in advance with any task. To be early. To have down time. To be the first to arrive anywhere. Ever.

Yes, it has worsened over time with the addition of children. But, if I’m being honest, the history is long and consistent.

  • Homework. This seems like standard operating procedure for kids, yes? I assumed it was normal to finish my high school assignments at my locker between classes.
  • College applications. Not to make excuses, but come on. Every kid in the history of everywhere put off this torturous process. OK, so maybe I put the finishing touches on my essay while weighing the package at the post office. This is attention to detail, folks.
  • Term papers. OK, fine, at this point it’s fair to say that I probably have a problem. I thought it was adorable when we received a syllabus on day one of class that pointed out paper due dates for the entire semester. I didn’t forget, I just chose to spend my time on other, more productive college pursuits. Beer comes to mind. Also, I was pretty proud of that time I completed an entire 19-pager in one night. The advanced technology of the Brother Word Processor was the ultimate enabler.
  • Work assignments. When potential employers asked me if I worked well under pressure, they had no idea what they were signing up for by putting me on the payroll. In retrospect, they probably just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t crack at the 11th hour. They had no way of knowing that of course I wouldn’t crack then — because I would not have started the project yet. It was still in my “concept phase.”
  • Wedding prep. Now that I had come to grips with my procrastination destiny AND the fact that I was marrying someone else just like me, I did the smart thing: I actually hired a wedding planner. And she almost shot me. Just because we wanted to pull together a NYC wedding with 200 people (don’t ask) in five months. Pffft. Come on — plenty of time.
  • Vacation planning. Let me just sum this up by saying Me + Disney World has been an unlikely love affair. I’m pretty sure when I phone in with my 1,448 reservation requests about 30 days before departure, I’m driving the lovely employee on the other end of the phone to slug whiskey out of her mouse ear hat while gritting “Have a magical day” through her teeth.
  • Baby prep. Registries? Product research? Labor classes? All with a “firm” nine month timetable? Good times, my friends. Good times.
  • Kids’ enrollment in (insert any activity here). What do you mean, everyone signed up for fall soccer in June and summer camp in February? There’s a late fee? What? I need to buy snow boots in September? What?
  • Household chores and pretty much everything else. You get the idea.

I could go on and on, but I’m tired because I started this post much later than I had planned. And I should be packing for vacation.


I operate best under pressure.

I have uttered this mantra more times than I can count, more out of obligation than accuracy. The truth is that I’m a reluctant and unreformed procrastinator. I don’t embrace it but I am learning to accept it.

Our destiny as a last-minute, late-to-everything family is pretty much set in stone at this point. Basically, my husband and I wake up on the weekends realizing we are already late for something that’s happening five miles away in about seven hours. We just are.

And my sweet daughter deserves to know that this is the make up of her DNA. From both sides.

But, as I look at her pulling out her little princess backpack and dutifully choosing her vacation outfits to place inside before I’ve even done the laundry that I’ll ultimately pack for myself, I wonder if we’ve achieved the impossible. Perhaps my husband I have canceled each other out.

Could it be?

Could we have actually created humans who don’t procrastinate?

I can’t tell you because I got a D in AP Bio after waiting too long to study for my exam on the Genetics chapter. But apparently, there is hope.



Did you like this? Share it:

August, Can We Still Be Friends?

Welcome, August. I want so much to tell you how good it is to see you, old friend. Because so much magic happens on your watch every year, even though you signal to my brain that we only have this one final month of summer left before school starts in early September.

But, August, each year you seem to get more aggressive in barreling toward fall, toward school, toward tasks and the routine of getting us back to business. And the truth is that I want my old Augusts back, the ones from my childhood where a full month was still a pure 31 days and nights of all that summer vacation brings.

August, I could learn to love you again. If you could just let me finish up what summer means to me.

Because I haven’t yet caught a firefly in a jar for my kids.

I haven’t marveled nearly enough at how late the sun stays out.

I haven’t even bought that pair of flip-flops I wanted.

No, August, I’m not ready for the retail displays of fleece and Uggs and leather boots and jackets.

Not ready for the fall PTO sign ups, the scheduling of which day we’ll do soccer or swimming or ballet.

Certainly not ready to give up ice cream and popsicles and the smell of my grill and the sight of that rainbow of fresh fruit.

Not mentally prepared to abandon sleeveless sundresses for my daughter and me, and easy onesies for the baby. And bare feet for us all. The very thought of socks and closed-toed shoes makes me shudder. Say it isn’t near. Say that I have time to try that other bright pink nail  color on my toes and not the deep dark hues of grays and purples and browns.

You see, August, I still have two (yes, two!) legitimate family summer vacations I haven’t even taken yet. I have packing to do. Twice. I have more sunscreen to buy. I am not thinking about unpacking or vacation ending or looking back on it. Not even a little. The snapshots that I will etch into my memory and put into photo books haven’t even been made yet. This house is still ripe with the anticipation of new destinations and shorelines with friends and family.

August, I don’t want to spend your days filling in my calendar with the school closings for the year. I want to hang damp beach towels and bathing suits on my deck rail and smell the faint chlorine and sunscreen and perhaps the rain left on them.

Surely you understand that there are meats I haven’t yet grilled, sangria recipes I haven’t tested and frozen yogurt combos I’ve been meaning to try. I still feel like putting my coffee over ice is a seasonal novelty. I haven’t had a single lobster roll yet. And we haven’t begun to grow remotely tired of the new deck lights strung overhead as we eat and drink. Our new fire pit barely shows the wear of the s’mores it has created and the late night cocktails it has beckoned with friends and neighbors.

The camp backpacks we were issued have hardly been broken in. And my older two kids have plenty of places on their summer wish lists left to visit. The zoo awaits us, August. So does our annual trip to Daddy’s office, not to mention more mini golf and the boardwalk rides of our beloved Jersey Shore. There are many more waves to jump over and outdoor showers to take after the sand stays between our toes and the taste of salt water sticks to our lips.

August, I’m just getting used to the down time that allows me to give the baby the two naps a day he deserves. This sweet boy has enjoyed a summer not dictated by his next schlep in a car seat to pick up or drop off a sibling somewhere. I imagine that his tiny head can barely even fathom how much time he has to explore his newfound mobility and just play. If you rush us, August, he’s right back in that car seat and we’re just not ready yet. There are blocks to stack and steps to take and mashed fruits to wear.

Yes, I know you have certain obligations to prepare us for school and I have made a few related purchases here and there. You would be remiss if you didn’t present any of this to me. But I feel like you take it just a little further every year. I’m not sure you need to associate yourself with corduroy or Halloween. Don’t you want to be all about shorts and sundresses and deck chairs?

I’m here to tell you, August — as your old friend — that it’s not too late to reclaim all of this as yours. Don’t let April or May take it from you.

I know it’s possible for us to remain good friends and rediscover how things used to be between us. So, come find me while I get ready for two beach vacations. Visit me as I grill at home and listen for the ice cream truck on my street.

And, by all means, join me over the next 31 days on the deck, barefoot and sipping summery evening drinks under the long-lasting sunlight.




Did you like this? Share it:

Back it Up

The colors of the world look a little sharper today. The birds are singing a little louder. My arms look slightly thinner in photos (not really). It’s a lovely, lovely day.

Because I have my computer back.

I’ll give you a minute to finish rolling your eyes. Are we good? OK.

Long story short, the universe was trying to tell me something on Mother’s Day when my daughter began my alleged day of rest with a vomit bender. And then, in a span of 12 hours, the following items broke: My refrigerator, my Keurig {again} and my laptop. Happy Mother’s Day to me! I know it should have been abundantly clear how to prioritize those repairs but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with that. What’s wrong with a few days of non-perishables for dinner?

Fine, the fridge would be fixed first. Fine.

As for the Keurig and the laptop, I ask you: How does one choose? It’s like trying to pick a favorite child. Out loud, I mean.

Thankfully, my husband was able to work some magic on the Keurig, which entailed something about YouTube instructions, bargaining with God and just repeatedly unplugging the damn thing until it complied. I don’t think this was the official approach in their FAQ section, but desperation spoke to us.

This left only the lifeline of my computer to be resuscitated. Things looked bad.


I’ll spare you the drama of my Genius Bar encounter when they basically asked me to sign my life away and agree that they are not responsible for any of my data. There was also some fine print about, with the push of a button, they are going to wipe it all out and OMG THE BACK UP BETTER HAVE BEEN WORKING ALL THIS TIME.

{Are you backing up your computer? Please say you are.}

I signed the terms on the shiny retina screen. I braced myself and watched as they pressed the button and wiped everything out — my photos, my documents, all of it. And that didn’t fix the issue. They were going to have to keep the machine for a while.

They should serve shots at the Genius Bar. Just saying.

The trauma of leaving my beloved Mac behind was cushioned only by the fact that the Apple store is surrounded by some pretty magnificent shops in the mall. I fretted over my laptop and wondered about its uncertain fate and then I — oh, are those shoes on sale?

The Geniuses called me after four days in my new shoes to tell me to pick up my laptop. Much like a medical follow-up, they would not discuss their findings over the phone, so you can imagine my anxiety. Speaking of anxiety, I was determined to find a window in which I could drag as few children as possible to my Genius follow-up. And so it took another week before I realized that was never going to happen and the entire crew came with me. Just to make the experience as chaotic as possible.

The Geniuses told me they were able to repair my laptop! All hail the Geniuses! And then I was told I still had 52 days left on my warranty, so everything was covered. Wait, I had a warranty? Things were going my way.

If there’s one way to come spiraling back to Earth pretty quickly, it’s having the Genius remind me that it’s now up to me to restore my data. All of it. Right now, she tells me, the laptop is just a blank slate.

{OK, really, you’re backing up, right?}

Seriously, there are no shots at the Genius Bar? This place is poorly named.

After asking about why I had three shoe purchases in the bag with my newly retrieved laptop, my husband then reminded me that this is exactly why we had a back-up system.

We’re geniuses too! Right?

Then he reminded me that we’ve been having periodic “issues” with the back up system and there’s really only one way to know if it has actually been working. Had I not been through enough first world technology trials in the last few weeks? I left him with the task of “making  it happen or else we go on a family Entenmann’s strike,” or something like that.

And so it was 15 days from when my computer gave me the finger until today, when I sit here typing with seemingly full functionality and birds singing.

It was a long 15 days. Sure, I had access to my phone but I’m not really to be trusted anywhere near an Auto Correct setting.

And while everyone loves a good and righteous tale of going unplugged and how it was magical, refreshing, etc, whatever — I’m just going to say it.

It’s not fun and freeing to be unplugged.

It’s overrated.

Go ahead and sing the songs of how motherhood is better when you unplug. How you can stop and smell the roses and be more present. You know when I’m more present? When I have access to the tools that make my parenting machine hum with (some) efficiency. I can look at my recipe on my computer, OR I can wing it, turn it into a teachable moment that I savor and scrapbook, and apologize that the end result is largely inedible. If God wanted me to parent with carrier pigeons or an abacus, he would have made my last name Ingalls and put me in two braids with a floral frock.

So, thank you Geniuses. I’m happy to have my technology back. Just start offering shots while people wait.

{And go back your data up! Yes, now.}




Did you like this? Share it:

The Rules of the Road

I’m lucky that my husband does not travel very often for his job. There was a time — an exceptionally crazy time — in our lives when he did, and it was nearly the end of me. I’m grateful that those days are behind us. At least for now.

He did have a trip this week to Los Angeles for the annual big convention in his industry. Since we are in New Jersey, it seems that a jaunt to LA really isn’t “worth it” for any less than four days. So off he went.

Now, because I met my husband while working for the same employer a million years ago, I know his business well and have attended said convention. So I know that, while there are “meetings” and “networking opportunities,” let’s just call a spade a spade and say that he has just enjoyed nearly a week of fancy dinners, cocktail parties and shows. But it’s all for work, so it carries a Mission Critical label. With a side of steak.

Left here in the sheer chaos of the house alone with three kids, I just have a few ground rules for my husband’s business travel.

Do not call or FaceTime us from a fancy dinner or party. We love to hear from you when you’re on the road. Really, we do! But dude, it’s like fucking Lord of the Flies up in here because we are out of ketchup for our chicken nuggets, so try to abandon the not-so-faint clink of wine glasses in the background and step outside to call home. Bonus points if you can first finish that mini shrimp rangoon that was passed to you on a pretty napkin while I negotiated even distribution of the last Chips Ahoy without bodily harm. At least pretend to be in a conference room working on an Excel spreadsheet. Throw us a bone.

Do not complain that you are tired. Was it the late night parties? The early morning knock on the door with your breakfast room service? Or maybe the phantom pain in your rib from the absence of Parent/Child H-Formation Sleeping. Doesn’t matter. Don’t even say it out loud. Repeat after me: You are not tired. You actually don’t know what tired is this week.

Accept that, upon your return, you will be solely in charge of our children for a still-undetermined period of time. Probably in the 6-9 hour range. I’m working on a fair calculation but I think it involves number of hours spent watching in-flight movies x number of hours of uninterrupted sleep. Times infinity.

Carefully hide any and all evidence of a golf outing incorporated into this trip. Remember the time when you rolled on out of here with your checked luggage in one hand and your golf clubs in the other while I stood in the doorway, agog, with spit-up on my shoulder? I understand that’s how the “networking” goes at these things. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy yourself. OK, maybe I am. But I like that we’ve now made Business Trip Golf the dark secret we no longer discuss. So, thank you for hiding your golf shoes deep in the recesses of your luggage. And I assume you either now rent your clubs or carry them out to the car under the cover of darkness the night before your departure. It is the thing of which we do not speak.

Be completely available for any home front technical support on a 24/7 basis. This week, for example, we had serious rainfall here. As in, why did I not get the minivan upgrade option to convert into an ark? Anyway, I was worried about the basement and needed information about the sump pumps. So I’m glad you picked up the Travel Bat Phone to talk me off the ledge about my wine supply potentially being carried away by a moderate current. And then, my beloved Keurig machine started making horrible noises, followed by the equivalent of a Mac White Screen of Death. Me. Three Kids. No coffee. I ask you, does it get any more terrifying? Before interrupting your networking session/Cabernet tasting, I decided to troubleshoot on YouTube. I followed several instructional videos meticulously, to no avail. Thankfully, a helpful if not borderline insane guy on Amazon knew the highly delicate approach of repeatedly unplugging and re-plugging the machine while pushing the power button at a frantic pace. Crisis averted, thanks to ExtremeCaffeineNut007.

Pretend it wasn’t really that much fun. You really have mastered this art over the years and have your talking points down. “Oh, you know, it’s the same old stuff every year.” “It gets old after a while.” Etc. Etc. I’m not listening because we both know it’s utter bullshit. But I appreciate the gesture, honey.

* * *

I know, I’m a total wimp. Plenty of people have spouses who travel regularly for business. Others have loved ones deployed in military service. And of course there are tons of single parents out there as well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I tip my hat to you. I don’t know how you do it.

And yet, I survived, despite my kids’ best efforts to take me down. And we missed my husband. But he better not even think of putting his golf clothes in the laundry pile.



Did you like this? Share it: