Monthly Archives

August 2015


Plant the seed

August 29, 2015

It’s overcast and breezy in the Midwest; autumn is certainly snarking at us from around the corner. Not to mention the ripple of sickness has spread from JoJo, onto Spikey, and then to Sloppy Joan. The coughing and raspy whispers and low-grade fevers have me missing the sterilizing steam of summer already.

So, there couldn’t have been a better day for me to come across this group of shots from the late spring evening we planted our garden. We’ve never had a smaller yield, thanks to a minor flood in our backyard a few short weeks after the last seeds went in. But it’s a good exercise nonetheless.

I’m a firm believer that our food-of-convenience lifestyles are killing us. I love a greasy butterburger and bag of powdered cheese Cheetos even more than the next guy, but as I age, the chemical-laden buns and 50-letter-long, science-lab ingredients make each bite just a little less enticing. I don’t think I can completely change the way my babies see food, but I can sure as kale try.

The garden is a great way to get them interested. They love picking the plants, digging into the dirt and plucking the vibrant fruits from the vine. By the time the season’s a wrap, I’d estimate they consume an extra cucumber here and a bite of bell pepper there, but the real win is the knowledge that things don’t just show up wrapped in cellophane and bundled with rubber bands. Real food is imperfect, tastes a little like earth and contains superwoman properties. Real food is real good and really worth the effort.


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Tune in Today

DietBet: The end is near

August 27, 2015

Tune in today to see if she can … drop enough weight to win that DietBet.

As you might recall, a few weeks back, drunk on optimism and grasping at baby weight straws, I signed up for a Chris Powell DietBet. Thirty dollars in, drop 4 percent of my body weight … bing! bang! boom! I get my $30 back and split the rest of the pot with all the other lucky suckers.


Except, losing 6 pounds is kind of hard. I have been on an emotional roller coaster with dips and peaks and plummets. I’m up, I’m down, I’m bloated, I’m starving. I’ve been within 2 pounds of declaring victory, and within 6 pounds of blowing the whole thing.

I have to track calories and I have to work my ass off; that’s the long and the short of it. But if I’m being real with myself, I’m feeling seriously cheated. Do you know I ran 9 miles the other day? I, who have only run 4 miles max in my prior life, ran that 4 miles, then did it again, then tacked on 1 more mile just to show off. (It was actually part of the training plan and I thought I was going to suffocate mid stride.) Now, in my mind, that equals at least a 10-pound weight loss … no? What’s a girl gotta do to drop some LBs, man?

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The clock is dwindling down and I have less than a week. So, if you have any drop-a-handful-of-pounds-without-hurting-your-body pointers, I’m all ears. Please and thank you.

Help me, before next time … 


Making a case for Girls Day

August 25, 2015

Some of the dearest blessings in my life are my girlfriends. From adolescence through college and certainly my career, I have moved through each day surrounded by some of the most amazing women, and picked up new gems to treasure along the journey.

I’m attracted to friends who speak honestly, but with care. Who inspire me both with their strengths and vulnerability. Who trust me, don’t expect too much out of me and can hold their own. I fight hard for loyalty and except the same on the other end. I find the vast differences among my closest girlfriends fascinating; The fact that there is no one combination of traits, or absolute formula, that makes two people a match. My group of high school girlfriends (a few of which have been in my life far longer than that) are the fiercest example of diverse, strong ladies who’ve formed  bold, unbreakable bonds.

Every summer, we secure childcare, pick calorie-wasted tried-and-true Pinterest dishes, embrace clear, unforgiving liquor and head north for our Annual Girls’ Day at the Lake. It’s not just about the break – although that is part of it – it’s about the connections and the reminder that, before we were wives, mothers, employees, we were a really good time. And, hell, we’ve still got it.


more than moms
Let’s be honest, women are, more often than not, the responsibility pack mules of a household. We’re the ones who make sure there are Apple-Nana GoGo Squeezes for their lunches rather than Apple-Strawberry, which we know she won’t eat. We notice the rings in the toilets, the clutter on the counter and whatever the hell that is caked on the bottom of the refrigerator drawers. Somewhere in the cluttered lines of our to-do lists, we often forget to pencil in fun and pampering and quiet. We replace it, rather, with some menial task that resolves some minor flaw in our home.

But on this one day, which typically doesn’t even span a full 24 hours, we aren’t “Mom”. It’s not that we don’t embrace and cherish that dimension of our lives, it’s that a free pass from fueling that functionality is refreshing every once in awhile. Allowing ourselves to be tipsy and stupid and listen to music with curse words and dance like the fools we used to be all the time is invigorating. The fact that we hang our grownup hats at the door and trade them for something a little less mature doesn’t make us bad mothers. It just makes us human.


circle of trust
There’s a sisterhood that comes with shared experiences. While no two of our lives are identical, we have a wealth of shared memories and shared scars. We’ve faced divorce, loss, marital strains. We’ve welcomed spouses, children and careers. Some have moved, some have returned. It’s funny, while we always have this history to come back to, it’s who we are now, at the end of all of it, that makes those ties so tight.

As the date rolls around each year, it seems one of the girls is in need of support. There are typically tears, which I attribute to release. We all want to be heard. We all need someone to place their hand on our shoulder, at some point. But life can get pretty freaking noisy. After we have our fun, it’s the conversations before bed that make our hearts and minds a little lighter.


laughing is good for the soul
Things happen at Girls Day. One-person kayaks, we’ve discovered, tip when two tenants try to pick up the paddle. Pontoons die unexpectedly, and can not be towed by the aforementioned kayak, but have to be pulled by out-of-shape swimmers. Power naps have been tested and approved. Everything is better with club soda and when all else fails, a fall will make some mother of two pee her pants every dang time. There’s laughing and then there’s those gut-clenching, silent laughs that follow something so stupid it brings tears to your eyes and knocks the wind out of your lungs. Those are the kind with aftershocks. Weeks from now you’ll be sitting in a dry meeting about something semi-vital and it will replay, unprompted, through your mind, causing an embarrassing fit of teary giggles.

reconnecting on memory lane
I know these women. I’ve known them since we were girls. While the tides have turned certain characteristics and dulled sharp edges, our group maintains its cast. The nurturer still looks on me with those empathetic eyes. The social chair is still the glue that holds our ties together when the strains of the weeks wear cruelly on them. The sensible one is my most familiar voice of reason. The tough one is still the object of my awe for her strength and resilience. The dreamer is off, catching all her stars. The winds change directions, they pick up or calm, but the strengths in these ladies stand so true at their surface and feel so accessible to me, like the smell of your mother’s kitchen and how it brings calm and happiness.

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Do you have a tradition with your girlfriends? Don’t wait for things to calm down. Hop over to Facebook, start a group message and get something on the calendar.


10 things Papyrophobics totally get

August 21, 2015


For as long as I can remember, I have loathed paper. It’s smooth, but sometimes grainy, and it just feels dreadful and sickening when you drag your bare arm across it. Strange, for someone who became a writer, I know. Strange, also, just for a human being, but it’s very disruptive and, since it has an official name, very real.

I don’t know if mine is a full fledged fear – Papyrophobia is the term – or merely a severe dislike, but there are certain instances that make my insides shrink to raisins, my arm hairs rise and the tiny whisplets of baby hairs around my face stand up. Any time any paper comes into direct contact with dry, scratchy markers or dull, catchy pencil lead the situation escalates to a point where I have to excuse myself. Certain stock or flat finishes are my kryptonite. Now, if it’s worn, recycled or glossy, I’m good. In fact, when I was in college, I used to take a fresh sheet of paper, wad it up, crumple it real good, spread it back out and use that to write notes. (This, my friends, is called owning my weird.)

Here’s the shortlist of situations related to my self-diagnosed mild Papyrophobia that reduce me to a shrieking, shuddering pile of goosebumps.

1.Hell, for me, is a room full of cardboard boxes, 3 semi-dried-out Sharpies and a directive to label.

2.The only thing worse than being forced to write a 20-page essay on printer paper using a dull pencil while wearing a short sleeve shirt, is doing all that on warm printer paper fresh out of the machine.

3.Whenever someone walks over to show me something on a document, I say a silent prayer that they won’t drag their fingernail across the page to reiterate the phrase they’re trying to highlight.

4.The best thing to come from the digital revolution was the decline of newspaper.

5.Magazine publishers who choose that thick paper stock that feels like it’s tarred and feathered in sawdust for their cover are just showing off …and also, trying to ruin my life.

6.When I get my People magazine every weekend, the very first order of business is to go through, remove the inserts and throw them directly into the recycling. Even if Jennifer Aniston is on the cover.

7.Everyone thinks I don’t send Thank You notes because of my chaotic life and endearing forgetfulness, but it’s really those crisp, disgusting white envelopes. Let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who ever gave us anything or did anything thoughtful for anyone who lives in this home, with its Papyrophobia-riddled matriarch.

8.Handling a new manilla folder is the paper equivalent of a shot in the butt with a footlong needle.

9.The charm of a good library book is the worn, wonderful, soft pages. There’s nothing worse than a tightly bound novel fresh off the press. Reason 387 why I also adore a good audio book.

10.If anyone ever wants to break me, forget the water boarding, skip the starvation, and just wrap me like a burrito in one of those giant reams of construction paper they roll around in elementary schools and put a paper coffee cup in my hand. I will wilt before you.

So Says Sloppy Joan

Face time

August 19, 2015

But seriously, you guys, these facial expressions are so dang tricky.

But when I finally nail ’em, I’m all …


Emma does Port Clinton, Ohio

August 18, 2015

I have been meaning to write this post for weeks now … 6 weeks to be exact. Remember that time I agonized over a career change, and then decided to make it and cried and rolled around in the drama of it all for days? Well, after all of that was a wrap, Hank and I packed up the posse and spent a week with our popup, Emma, and my folks decompressing in Port Clinton, OH. And it was such a lovely little vacation.

We stayed in East Harbor State Park, which was clean and shaded and pleasant. The bathhouses were what you’d expect, with a laundry room in the front portion of the building. I know there was a laundry room only because, about 20 minutes after we got settled, the tornado sirens screamed through the black sky as we crowded into the 10×10 room to sweat profusely with 20 of our RV neighbor folk. I prayed the drill and the mayflies weren’t a sign of the week to come.

Let’s talk about the mayflies for a second because they were something worth discussing. There were thousands of these prehistoric-looking winged insects covering every surface of every stationary object. They disintegrated into mush when you brushed them aside, which always made me feel guilty considering their average lifespan is a brief 24 hours as it is. They exist, essentially, to feed fish, reproduce and die. So strange, isn’t it? We were told they were hanging around later than usual.


On our first full day in Port Clinton, we took in a roadside produce stand and the Cheese Haven, which had, you guessed it, a lot of dairy. There was a cheddar blueberry wedge there I think of often and regret not grabbing to this day. We had a short hike along an inlet of Lake Erie that led around the campground, went back, packed a picnic and ate on the beach. The distance from the campsite to the beach is perfect for a quick jog or bike ride, and there’s a roped off section for swimming that only goes about 3 feet and has a smooth sandy bottom. The girls thought that was pretty sweet. Even Sloppy Joan got in on the action.


Sloppy Collage

The following day was my favorite. We took the ferry out to Put-in-Bay (Am I the only one who thought it was Puddin’ Bay?). To my surprise, the chicks acted like the boat ride was something we do on the daily; JoJo even fell asleep on her Papa at one point. It was a clear, breezy day on the island, so we rented a family-size golf cart and putzed around. I totally get how it’s a softer Vegas. I can see the appeal of bar hopping in your cart, getting loaded and going for ice cream. We had lunch on the water, soft serve down the street and basically made our way around in a sloth-like fashion that suited all parties involved. (Fascinating sidenote: Our waitress at lunch was a Put-in-Bay resident. For away games, her basketball team took a puddle jumper to the mainland and her graduating class had like 5 people. #themoreyouknow)




Our last stop was the Butterfly House at Perry’s Cave. Spikey loves butterflies, particularly those which land on her, so we knew this joint would be a crowdpleaser. Admission was a little salty but the look on the older ones’ faces when we walked in and saw all of the flashy, flapping wings was worth it. A gorgeous flutterbug first found a resting place on Hank’s arm. Then JoJo. But Spike, she waited … and waited … and waited. She would get so close to them with her little face; whispering sweet salutations and wishing out loud for them to come over, but nothing. Until right at the end, a very special little butterfly with very special little wings landed on her tummy and made that little girl’s day.



The last full day is when things got really. freaking. interesting. My parents took off around 11 am, and we planned to take in the beach, until it started raining. At first, it was an adventure. We placed the E-Z Up over the picnic table and put out the lunch spread. A game of Liar! (think Bullshit, with kids), and we figured we’d be good. Around 2:30 pm, I looked across the trailer and told Hank it was time to make a plan B. The tension and energy needed to shift. So, we improvised with a 40-minute trek to Fremont, OH, for an early evening screening of Inside Out; a cute movie that also prompted JoJo to hysterically cry over the fact that Sloppy Joan was going to grow up. (??) I, of course, cried, too. I mean, Bing Bong … you gotta be kidding me with that.


The next morning gave us girls just enough time to walk up to the camp store while daddy packed up Emma, and plenty of time to have the kindest/strangest thing happen. We were ambling about, analyzing Snapple options and agonizing over which one treat would make the trip home easier to take … a cheap cappuccino for Mom, a powder/sucker baby bottle thing for Spikey … And this gentleman – about my age I’d guess – was also browsing the Snapple case, looking slightly agitated. I smiled. Spike ran in front of him.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “The circus is in town.” He just shook his head.
“Man, I tell ya, my heart is just racing. This little boy just ran out in front of my car,” he shared.
“Oh my gosh,” I offered, as the proper reaction.
“I know.  He ran right out in front of me, and the mom, of course, threw her hands up at me, like it was my fault. I’m shaking.”
“I’m so sorry. I know you must be shaken up.” I said.
“You know what … let me get all your stuff. Please, put everything up on the counter, my treat.”

First thought? Creeper. But then … no.  He totally wasn’t. He paid for our sugary petty treats, told me to have a good day and buzzed out the door. How sad is it that pure kindness never comes without speculation? Maybe the truth was he just needed someone to tell him he wasn’t an asshole, and that it was all going to be alright and the little boy was OK. I mean, let’s be real, it was a camp store and the total bill was like $14, including his stuff, but still. A kind gesture I’m sure to pay forward.

Hank insisted we stop by the beach on our way out of town because the chicks just loved it so much. I will say this, it was breezy. Too cold for this mama and sweet Sloppy Joan, but it made for killer waves. I smiled from ear to ear watching those clowns body surf in Lake Erie. It was so cute … until I had to dress and put those sandy mugs in the car. Have you ever pulled tiny Tangled undies over a cold sand-covered bottom? It’s a joke. But we packed ’em in and made the journey home.


I would 100 percent go back, but next time, I’d take bikes for sure and a plan B for what rain may fall.


Kids, Tune in Today

Kindergarten kickoff and my nervous breakdown

August 14, 2015

Tune in today to see if she can … be that together mom on the first day of kindergarten.

The thing about children that nobody tells you, is that more often than anyone would like, we discover that these little people are petite vessels sent to open, detonate and unintentionally impose utter and complete emotional devastation upon those who love them most. One look, and they can level you. The right phrase, and you’re shattered into 8 trillion tiny pieces. Almost every happy occasion comes gift wrapped in nostalgia and topped with a bittersweet bow. It’s incredibly humbling and unnerving all at the same time.

JoJo started kindergarten on Wednesday and, as she lifted that construction paper sign announcing her foray into elementary school for the world (or just Instagram and Facebook) to see, something terrible happened. I started sobbing. Big, dreadful, embarrassing, ugly tears. It was like they were all holding hands. Once they started falling, there was no reprieve from the infinity pool of self pity.



But when we got to the sitter’s to drop off the younger two, I said I was fine. I was fine with her looking like a 12 year old who picked out the most mature outfit in her closet. I was fine with her telling her sissies goodbye. “Wait until she goes to college,” the sitter said. And again, I cried.

But when I got back into the car to drive her to school, I said I was fine. I was fine with her sitting, crossed-legged, mouthing all the words to an Ed Sheeran song while looking longingly out the window. You know … like teenagers do. “Are you coming in with me?” JoJo asked. And again, I cried.

But as we walked hand in hand, side by side, into the school, I said I was fine. I was fine with how, as I looked down at the pavement, I noticed her shadow was catching up to mine. I was fine with how her tiny hand felt not-as-tiny nestled in mine, and how I could feel her anxious excitement on the other end. “Here we go,” I said. And I tried so hard not to cry.


As I watched her sit up so straight in her little chair, only looking back to meet eyes with me a few times, when she thought no one was looking. As I watched her walk to her cubby. As I watched her line up and march with a tentative confidence down a hallway alongside the big kids. As I watched her eyes light up at talk of reading and adventures and friends, I told myself I was fine. Everything was fine.

But as we set her on the little round seat in the lunchroom, situated with her compartmentalized tray and carton of apple juice, I didn’t feel fine. “Are you guys leaving now?” JoJo asked. I leaned down, kissed her little baby-skinned cheek, pulled down my sunglasses and didn’t try not to cry. In fact, I let it rain. I let those tears fall for the milestone and for my mourning of the past and the fact that it will always be the past, and in the past, she was tiny and snuggly and so close to me always.

“Find joy in the journey.” my friend Lindsay posted.

“This is what we do. We raise them to give them wings and let them go.” Kel offered.

“It’s a testament to you as a mom that she felt OK to go in there with confidence. It’s OK to be upset. Part of being a mom is loving them so much and worrying and crying.” a sweet coworker said (as I snotted and sobbed over her desk).

But when I got home from work, and I listened to her describe their bear hunt, and the playground, and her new friends … I knew, deep down, everything was just fine. But I still cried today, just a little.

Mil School Bus

Until next time … 



August 12, 2015

As a parent in my early 30s, there is no greater dilemma in childrearing than the one I face when Regulate comes on the radio and the kids are in the car.

You’ve been there, you know you have. It might be a different song, but those first few beats come across the factory speakers in your third-row-seat-havin’ SUV or, better yet, sensible mini, and, even if only in your head, you say, “Ohhhhhhhh, shit!” and start pumpin those shoulders and swayin like it’s the early 2000s on penny pitchers night. I certainly don’t know all the words. It doesn’t really matter, does it? I still feel like a badass. Is it the best parenting move … debatable. Is it necessary for my spirit … oh, 100 percent.

It’s a crossroads we all face at some point: To Mount Up! with Warren G. and Nate Dogg, or switch it to Taylor Freaking Swift and trade in a piece of your soul so your four year old can mumble through Blank Space for the 75th time that day. I think you know what I do. We don’t have to say it. Parenting is full of tough choices.

If you know like I knowyou don't wanna step

What’s your song? C’mon now … let that freak flag fly!



hair pieces: Nelson’s vs. Sloppy Joan

August 10, 2015

When a dear friend of mine came to meet Sloppy Joan for the first time, she first smothered her in snuggles and auntie adoration, but as soon as she set her down, she grabbed her phone and started searching. “So … you have to see this,” she said. “This” was an SNL skit about infant toupees, which begs the question, who wears their hair with more confidence?

Nelson’s squad …  

… or sweet, sweet Sloppy Joan: 
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