True story: Jason doesn’t like Halloween. I adore Halloween. He doesn’t think it’s a holiday. I don’t either! But I think it’s a lot of fun. And I don’t hear him complaining as he’s crinkling his way through a bag of leftover candy. AHEM.

We agree to disagree on Halloween.

Last year, we hosted a big Halloween party. This year, we were too busy.

Friday night was Trunk or Treat at our church. A group of young adult members wanted to put together a series of Seuss-themed trunks. We had the Lorax, the Grinch who Stole Christmas, the Cat in the Hat, the Sneeches, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Hazel was roped into duty as the fish in a bowl from the Cat in the Hat.




I made her costume using a red t-shirt, red remnant fabric (felt and velvet), a red bandanna for the hood with black and white felt for the eyes, and a posterboard on which I painted the fish bowl. Total cost: $8.87 and about two hours of time.

Saturday was Halloween. Jason and Tyler went to the FSU game while Hazel and I made chili and pumpkin cream pies for a party that night.


Hazel wore a hand-me-down Tinkerbell costume, which was perfect because it was 85 degrees outside.


Despite my repeated prompting, Tyler failed to come up with any clever costume ideas, so he recycled a mask from last year and that was that.

I’m glad we had a breather this year, but I hope to put a bit more effort into Halloween next year.


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New York, New York

This summer, I asked Tyler what he wanted for his 12th birthday. To my mild horror, he replied that he wanted “to travel.” Specifically, he said he would very much like to go to New York.

It was a lovely, though expensive, answer.

He went so far as to dig up an essay he’d written in third grade, detailing his dream trip to New York.
(Translation: Have you ever really wanted to go somewhere and planned everything, I have. If I went to new York City I would ride the subway. They are very fast. The first sub I went on I almost barfed. Subways are cool. The second thing I would do would see the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty has about 257 steps. I wonder how big it is. The third thing I would do would see the empire state building it is the second tallest building in the world. It’s in the big apple. The fourth thing is to see the FAO Shwarts. It’s a famous toy store. I’m going straight to the Lego sec-shons (said like this). The third thing would to go to see Uncle Bubba. He is awsome (said like this.). I hope I go to New York.)

From this essay and conversations with the boy, I made a short list of things we had to do:

  1. Ride the subway
  2. Statue of Liberty
  3. Empire State Building
  4. The Lego Store in Rockefeller Center (due to the closing of FAO Schwartz)

I needed to get creative. I found cheap plane tickets through Jet Blue, and my friend Jamie graciously agreed to put us up in her apartment. Tyler’s birthday was August 1, but New York in the late summer is almost as oppressive as Florida, but with far less air-conditioning and far shorter tempers. I booked tickets for late October, and then got to work planning.

After an absurd amount of research, I decided to get City Passes for each of us. This was a good decision. I definitely feel that we saved money on tickets, and there was never any issue using them.

We flew out of Jacksonville on October 21, arriving on Jamie’s doorstep near midnight after a flight delay and a long Super Shuttle trip (which I prefer to think of as a low-cost tour of various midtown hotels).

Thursday morning we hit the ground running. First up: a ride on the real-live New York City subway. It wasn’t even 9:00 a.m., and we’d accomplished 1/4 of our goals! Winning!


I decided we should start with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I was just beginning my senior year of college when 9/11 happened, and it very much shaped the end of my college experience. The last time I was in New York, the site was bare, and I was eager to see what had been done.

The museum was very well-done. I was surprised by how much of it focused on the building itself – the engineering that made the buildings possible, and the forces that brought them down. My guess is that because the memory is still so fresh, people are not as willing to part with the personal artifacts that might one day find their home in the museum. That said, the dozen or so Kleenex dispensers scattered around the hall were put to good use.  Untitled

After the tour, we headed to City Hall and Chinatown for some lunch at Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, which serves (surprise!) tasty hand-pulled noodles in a space the size of my family room. I got pan-fried noodles, Tyler got noodle soup with pork dumplings. Both were delicious.

Fueled by carbs, we were ready to tackle another list item: The Statue of Liberty. We made our way to Battery Park and caught the ferry to see a real big lady. It was around this time that I began regretting my choice of adorable gray Converses for the weekend. My pinkie toes had already developed large blisters from sock-seam chafing. Needless to say, I was psyched to sit on a boat for a few minutes.


Tyler and I agree: the Statue of Liberty is surprisingly impressive. I mean, everyone knows what she looks like, but to see her up close is just awesome, in the old sense of the word. Awe-inspiring. We took the free audio tour, which I recommend. I wish we’d had more time to sit by the water and gaze at the skyline, but they were closing up shop by that point.

Back in Battery Park, we discussed our next moves. We were scheduled to meet a friend in Brooklyn for dinner at 6:30, and she’d suggested walking across the Brooklyn Bridge as an appetizer, so we started strolling up the east side of Manhattan. As the Brooklyn Bridge became clearer, I realized that the pedestrian walkway is above the roadway – and I am moderately acrophobic. I wasn’t going to say anything, but Tyler had a mild freak-out about the height as well, so we nixed that idea in favor of taking a cab across the bridge into Brooklyn.




Dinner that night was at Pok Pok, a very nice Thai place, followed by ice cream at the Farmacy, which was straight up the most Brooklyn thing I have ever seen. Ironic mustaches and floral rompers for days, y’all.

Friday morning we headed to the American Museum of Natural History. But first – brunch at Shake Shack. Delicious. I had a caramel shake and fries, Tyler had a chocolate shake and a burger. Don’t judge.

The natural history museum is a heck of a thing. It has four floors of dioramas, skeletons, and other artifacts. We saw probably 75% of the exhibits on display, and that was exhausting. I developed a new appreciation for taxidermists.

Behold, the bear-seal.

After many hours, we were museum-ed out.  Grabbing street food (falafel for me, gyro for Tyler) we wandered across the street into Central Park and rested our brains – and our feet. Tyler spotted a huge rat and tried to pet the pigeons. Oh, Tyler.

Our next destination was Rockefeller Center, home of Tyler’s new favorite place: THE LEGO STORE.

Several dollars later, we met Jamie at The Kunjip in Koreatown for some authentic Korean fare.  Surprising everyone, Tyler did not sear his own flesh on the hot stone pot in which the food was served. Way to go, Tyler.

It’s funny – I’ve been making bibimbap for years, having never tried the real thing. I was pretty close!

Jamie took one for the team and walked us through Times Square. Quickly. Zoom!

Friday night we saw Les Miserables, which Tyler thought was fantastic. It was wonderful to watch him enjoy something so far outside his normal experience. Now he wants to watch the movie for comparison’s sake (and to hear the songs again).

Saturday we stayed in Jamie’s neighborhood. We had brunch at an Irish place, then met up with another Amherst alum and his family at a local playground. They have two babies, so Tyler was thrilled. He loves kids, especially babies. We ended up spending most of the afternoon with them, which was delightful. Then we walked into Fort Tryon Park before an early dinner at a Salvadorian restaurant.

And then it was time to head back to the airport, which ended up being an adventure unto itself. Part of the A line was closed, so we had to divert to the J train and take the AirTrain in from a far north station. It ended up taking almost 2 hours to get to the airport. Then our flight was delayed – for four hours. We landed in Jacksonville at 2:30 a.m.

To his great credit, Tyler never complained. He was a fantastic little companion on this trip, and I will be happy to travel with him any time.


When I got the dirty clothes out of his bag, I found four pairs of clean, folded socks. That means he wore the same socks for four days.

Oh, Tyler.

Overall, the trip was fantastic. The weather was beautiful, the crowds were minimal, and the food was delicious.

My takeaways from the trip are obvious: wear the most comfortable shoes you own, pack a family-size bottle of Advil PM, and budget extra travel and wait time for everything. You’re all set!




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It has been two months since my mom ended the one-two punch of radiation and chemotherapy, and quite frankly, her progress has not been great. She is still experiencing many of the cognitive deficits that caused me to take her in for evaluation in the first place. In addition, the treatments left her fatigued and lethargic.

On Monday, we went to see her neuro-oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Kurt Jaeckle. He is a wonderful doctor, and we’ve been very pleased with his care. I expressed to him my frustration with her lack of progress. She eats breakfast, sleeps, eat lunch, sleeps, eats dinner, and goes to bed. Her mail is unopened. Her newspapers are in a pile, unread. She has progressed from a wheelchair to a walker, but only uses it to go to meals.

He listened, and then gave us a name for it – lack of initiative. This is not the typical lack of initiative, where you can’t find the motivation to get to the gym. He described it as an inability to initiate action.

The naming of a thing is powerful. I felt like the clouds parted and I could see, clearly, her problem.

It’s like this: Imagine you are standing in your kitchen. You mentally run through the list of things that need to be done: start laundry (but wait, first I need to fold yesterday’s laundry so the basket is available), unload dishwasher (but first I need to clear the counter so the plastic containers can fully dry), pay bills (but first I need to check the bank account), etc. etc. You can see the myriad of things and sub-things that need to happen, and you get paralyzed trying to figure out where to start.

That’s what my mom’s life is like. All the time. She lacks the ability to formulate a plan and execute it. All the countless options of life circle her head like a disorganized flock of birds. It must be maddening.

And this condition doesn’t just apply to paying bills and doing laundry. If she is sitting, she can’t get her act together to stand up. Either the message doesn’t get from her brain to her legs, or she gets distracted somewhere in the middle. Her brain gets exhausted trying to process all of the inputs, so it short-circuits – hence the sleeping.

Dr. Jaeckle gave us a few options for addressing the lack of initiative, so hopefully we will see some progress in that area soon.

Cross your fingers. For her sake and for mine.


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Scenes from Suburbia

On Tuesday mornings I pick Tyler up at his bus stop and take him to school early for Brain Bowl. Yesterday, as I was approaching an apartment complex near my house, I noticed a line of cars behind a school bus making its regular stop. As we sat there, I realized the bus was picking up a disabled student. The driver had to perform a complex routine of opening the side of the bus, deploying the lift, getting the child onto the lift, etc etc. The minutes dragged by. I’m not going to lie; I was aggravated. I was already cutting it close to pick up Tyler, and I’d left my phone at home while it installed a software update.


I resolved to stop being a negative ninja. I began by imagining that child’s mother, who probably feels the glares from the line of stopped cars every single day. I applauded the bus driver for taking such care with the student. I offered a word of thanks that my children are generally healthy. I started to feel my aggravation subside.

It was approximately at this moment that one of the stopped drivers began laying on the horn.

SERIOUSLY?!?!, I thought.


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Back on the horse

Like most new moms (and my baby is not exactly new!), I struggle to make exercise a priority. I thought that my lack of actual employment would give me ample opportunity to work out, but I was mistaken. I could never get my to-do list under control long enough to squeeze in exercise.

Complicating this situation is my longstanding struggle with anxiety and depression. When I graduated from college and parachuted into the real world, I was paralyzed with worry. Suddenly, there were no grades, no report cards, no affirmations of my cleverness. I was put on Zoloft and took it for the next five years. In 2007, I started exercising regularly for the first time in my adult life, and I was able to wean myself off the Zoloft. But if I don’t exercise, the anxiety nips at my heels and threatens to overwhelm me. 

After Hazel was born, I made 150 excuses for not exercising. Some were more legitimate than others. I developed chondromalacia patella, or “runner’s knee,” which required a few months of physical therapy. (That was a good excuse.) I didn’t have any proper-fitting sports bras. (That was not.)

Of course, when my mom got sick I went into survival mode. Every time I traveled to Jacksonville, I would pack my running shoes and workout clothes. And every time, I would find dozens of things to put ahead of exercise. And the anxiety nipped at my heels.

In the second half of August, the anxiety caught me. I found everything exhausting and overwhelming. I dreaded leaving the house. I had to change my behavior. I had to get back on the horse.

My limitations were few, but significant. I had to work out with Hazel, or while she was napping. And I had to work out during the day, as my domestic engineer shift starts when school gets out and ends when I go to bed. And I had to work out on the cheap. 

I feel ridiculous admitting this, but one thing that really helped me prioritize exercise was buying a few new pieces of workout clothes (from the Target clearance rack). New socks were an especially nice treat. 

In an ideal week, I walk with Hazel three times and use Amazon Prime Instant to do yoga twice during Hazel’s nap. I’ve stuck to this schedule for several weeks, and it has made a huge difference in my attitude. I don’t feel so helpless and overwhelmed. It’s not like I have less to do, or less to worry about, but I feel competent to handle my own life. 

For me, exercise is not about losing weight (although that would be great!). It’s my therapy. It took me a long time to treat it as something other than an optional leisure activity. 

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Friday! High Five!

And it’s not just any Friday, it’s a long weekend Friday.

I plan to spend the long weekend soaking up the last chlorine-infused hours of pool season. JUST KIDDING. I’m driving to Jacksonville, AGAIN, to try and take care of some administrative life tasks for my mom.

Le sigh.

The trip to Jacksonville has been made far more bearable by my (late) discovery of podcasts. Here are five that have gotten me through many, many miles of I-10:

  1. The X-Files Files. True love lasts for a lifetime, and I can safely say that 20+ years after it’s debut, the X-Files is my favorite television show. Ever. My best memories from high school involved being home alone with a Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza and the X-Files at 9:00. Turbo nerd. This podcast is hosted by Kumail Nanjiani, who is about my age. This means that we experienced the X-Files in the same way – in the dark pre-internet, pre-cell-phone, pre-social media 1990s. His commentary is insightful and hilarious.
  2. Ear Snacks. Andrew Barkan & Polly Hall have put together a delightful podcast for children and families. It’s sweet without being cloying, and even Tyler (12) enjoys it. He commands me to “Examine your fruits!” on a weekly basis. Full disclosure: Andrew and Polly both went to Amherst, which makes them indescribably awesome as well as talented.
  3. Sword & Scale. This true crime series examines horrific crimes from different aspects – the state of mental health care in the US and Canada, for example, or why some psychopaths can function in society and others end up like Ted Bundy.
  4. History Chicks. Two women discuss other women from history, but they provide interesting trivia (I love trivia!) and commentary along the way. I want to get the older kids to listen to this one with me.
  5. The Nerdist. This podcast is hosted by Chris Hardwick. I wouldn’t say he interviews people so much as chats with them while a recorder is running. I’ve really enjoyed the episodes featuring Jeff Bridges, Paul Rudd, Gillian Anderson, and David Tennant.

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The Time Eater

I’ve been absent.

I’ve been absent not just from this blog, but from my whole life.

It started at the very end of April, when my mom started acting unusual. On May 1, we found out why:


Yikes. The non-technical diagnosis was “big-ass brain tumor.” This particular tumor started out as an oligodendroglioma, a relatively slow-growing variety. Some time in March or April, part of the tumor began growing as a glioblastoma, a very aggressive type. Mom had the vast majority of the tumor removed on May 6. She spent the next few weeks at an inpatient rehab facility, and was then discharged home to begin radiation and chemotherapy. When she went back to her house, we hired an agency to provide 24-hour supervision, because the surgery left her with cognitive and short-term memory deficits. It quickly became clear that the supervision was inadequate, and she moved to an assisted living apartment at the end of July.

This is an abbreviated version of events; my mother’s story is not really mine to tell.

My story has been one of constant movement, constant change. I have memorized I-10 between Tallahassee and Jacksonville, having made over a dozen trips back and forth since May. I can draw you a detailed map of the Mayo Clinic, where mom stayed for 11 days and where Hazel learned to walk. I can tell you more about brain tumors and proton beam therapy than you ever wanted to know. Untitled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Even when I am home in Tallahassee, my mom’s situation consumes my time. When I am not making or taking calls on her behalf, I am worried that she’s safe, that she’s comfortable, that she’s okay.

I feel I have become a terrible friend, a distracted mother, and a needy wife. My temper has never been long, but now my fuse is even shorter. I don’t sleep well. I find it difficult to socialize. My creativity has dulled.

The last four months have been filled with crises and setbacks, and each one has tested my competence in ways not previously imagined. However, I am grateful to have been able to spend this time with my mom. I am grateful that I am able to help her, and I am grateful that she believes I can make good decisions on her behalf. I am grateful for her community – her friends and neighbors are just amazing.

I am grateful for Jason, who has never complained about our trips to Jacksonville. I am grateful for Hazel, who has been a consistently delightful companion through some very un-delightful situations. I am grateful to my Tallahassee friends, who have supported us by animal-sitting and bar-tending.

Life seems to be settling into a new normal, and I finally feel like I can breathe. A little.


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