Category Archives: Stuff & Things

The One With The Fake Trish

I found a tube of toothpaste in the laundry this morning. This is the second time this has happened (we’re averaging 1 a year) and it shows that I’m really getting through to the Cherubs as I share my wisdom on how to do life.

But the great news is, I have a cold, so I DON’T CARE! Honestly, who knew congestion and a bit of lightheadedness could be so positively freeing? I pulled the Crest out of the wad of t-shirts, hit “start” on the laundry, and went back to bed.

Folks, THIS is living.

In other whatever, I’m not thinking clearly news, Stitch Fix is sending me a Moto Jacket today.


When I first saw it in the reveal (you can peak on the app once it ships) I laughed so hard the coughing started up again and I had to drink a whole glass of water. Who does my algorithm stylist Katelyn think I am?  More interestingly, can I be that person? I feel like that FRIENDS episode, “The One With the Fake Monica,” where Monica’s credit card is stolen and she looks at the bill and realizes that this interloper is having a better time being her than she is.


But a moto jacket? The closest I’ve ever been to “moto” was my senior year in high school, when my Dad bought our family a secondhand moped to help with all the teen transport. Only it wasn’t one of the cool, easy-start key mopeds. Nope. Our moped was some special brand that was a BIG DEAL IN EUROPE.

I called it The Puke.


It looked like this.

Perhaps my favorite feature of The Puke was that, instead of twisting a key to start it, you had to push a little hidden button down near the engine to release drops of oil (gas? angel blood?) to prime the thing…then use a KICK START to get it going. I could not get that stupid kick start to work no matter what I did. It was endless, fruitless, and loathsome. You’d think at age 18 I wouldn’t mortify so easily, but that moped was my nemesis. I remember standing in the back parking lot of the restaurant where I worked at 11:00pm, trying and failing to get that stupid engine running. Never have I been so glad to be in the dark (although I wasn’t exactly hidden – I’m pretty sure there was swearing). Once, I just left it behind and walked home.

I do have one special memory of riding The Puke, though. I don’t how I got it going, but there I was, cruising through our little town at 22 mph, the wind blowing through my hair…when I hit a patch of gravel and wiped out. The beast fell on me, burning a big scar into my leg.

So moto? No no.

And yet if it’s just a white jacket with some funky zippers that will replace the white cargo jacket I ripped last year, and requires no mechanical know-how? I’m open to that.  As my friend John the Lawyer used to say, “I’ll pay a lot of money to look like someone I’m not!”  He was joking, as he stood there in Center City, Philadelphia, decked out LL Bean gear that would never see a tree. But I remember his point all these years later.

I doubt that this jacket will propel me into a life of new possibilities, the way Fake Monica challenged real Monica to try roller skating and tap dance. But my high school reunion is this summer. What if this is JUST the motivation I need to roll up on a Yamaha Supersport?


Me. Only the jacket will be white.

It’s amazing the things that seem possible after a day or two of cold meds :)

I’ll let you know how it all works out.


I was sick yesterday. You know that weird feeling where it feels like all the blood has been drained from your arms and you just want to go to sleep for the next sixteen days? Yeah, that. Nothing was really wrong. I kept trying to buck up and get with the program. I schlepped Cherubs. I wrestled with an excel spreadsheet for next weekend’s women’s retreat. I thought about how, as much as I love retreats? That’s how much I loathe excel. I sent the wrong spreadsheet four different times to two different people. This is a test of my spiritual fortitude, friends, and I am failing.

Then I scrolled through Facebook and Pinterest until my head swam.

I love the practicality of Proverbs in the Bible, but sometimes I hate it when they’re true. Like the one that says, You can make plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. Sigh.

On a funnier note, I peaked at my next Stitch Fix box (you can see what’s coming once it ships). It’s good that the last one was such a hit, because this one contains a pair of jeans in MUTED PURPLE. I can’t even describe how ugly they are, except that the first thought was That looks like something a cat puked up… And there’s a dress. You know how I feel about dresses. And while it’s true, I requested a dress (I have a Gala early next month for the organization that helped us adopt The Cherubs), I requested a very specific sort of dress.

I pinned THIS:


Notice how the stripes make it almost not a dress, even though it is a dress? I was practically excited about it.

But they’re sending THIS:


It’s like the striped dress got caught in a wood chipper, then the Duggar sisters pulled it out and added extra fabric to the bottom to make it modest. I’m cringing.

And finally, last night Steve & I discovered that we’ve been using the same toothbrush. For at least a month. Turns out we both like the red one. #Hygiene



Time to Face the Music

FullSizeRenderToday I’m going to one of those specialty gyms for an introductory workout. There will be a weigh-in and nutritional analysis, and maybe if I’m lucky, fat calipers.  Then I’ll join a small cadre of other women who are also there to “pursue our fitness goals.” Every one of us will be avoiding the mirror and thinking, “How did it come to this?”

We’ll be led through a strength training circuit by a bored twenty-something who thought for sure he’d be working with the Patriots when he signed up for that Personal Fitness major in college. Then after that, the nice lady in the front office will try to convince me to sign up for their special package, wherein I will pay an exorbitant fee to show up three times a week and repeat this process. She’ll use phrases like You deserve this!  

Then I will NOT say what I’m thinking, which will be, No, I DESERVE to look like a misshapen loaf of bread, because I drank all that wine this winter…

Whatever. I’ll just smile and pull out my checkbook.

The real problem here is Jesus.

Becoming a Christian has sapped me of all will to work out with any regularity. I mean, I’m not afraid to die, so the whole “do it for your health” angle is lost on me. And I read somewhere that in heaven, we’re all 35. I looked GOOD at 35! If that’s the “reset” age, I’m psyched! Why workout now, if I have that to look forward to? Maybe it’s a SHOW OF FAITH to not worry about my appearance now? You know, because I’m so confident in the promise of heaven?

Yeah, I don’t think that’s how it works either.

I never understood why people stopped working out as they got older. Then I arrived here. My kids marvel daily that you can be as old as me and still have the will to live. (Then again, they think 2001 was a really long time ago. That’s why I send them to school. So they can get educated about what old really is. And give me a few hours to where no one is saying things like, “Do people your age wear hoop earrings?” which of course is code for, I like them, give them to me… )

The other problem is that I’m used to having some sort of sports-related or other athletic goal to work towards. Somehow, getting to a size where it takes less denim to cover me doesn’t have the same motivational force.  But I will don lycra and sneakers and head off to my fate. I may leave my glasses in the car – if I can’t see it it’s not really happening, right? The last time I did something like this, the young trainer looked at me wide eyed and asked, HOW LONG has it been since you worked out???  So I’m expecting a good time.

Pray for me. I’ll let you know how it goes.

When Embarrassing Hobbies Bite Back

We’ve been pretty serious here on the blog this week, talking money, money, money. I thought we’d lighten it up as we head into the weekend. So I give you THIS…

Remember the other day when I shared about my long history of embarrassing hobbies? And I admitted that I’ve been trying to make my own hand cream, and had purchased some things to branch out from there? I said I’d report back.


Friends, it was not good.

Things started out well enough. I made the one good hand cream. And then some lip balm that only sort of stuck my lips together. The trouble started when I gave place to a single evil thought: Maybe these things shouldn’t just feel good…they should smell good too! And then I got sucked down into the rabbit hole of essential oils SO FAST, Steve & the Cherubs were left asking, “Where’d Mom go?” and “Why does everything smell like Patchouli?”

It started so innocently. A Google search for “homemade sugar scrub.” A kindly blogger who offered me her free downloadable e-book. A trip to Market Basket, where I found small brown bottles of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, and Sweet Orange. A sense of victory as I pulled the sugar from the bottom shelf of our pantry that was last used in the Great Oatmeal Cookie Debacle of 2013. I decided to make a fresh peppermint scrub, dreaming of the way it would “brighten” my skin and my mood. 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a few drops of peppermint wonderfulness. This was a recipe even I could not mess up!  It smelled a bit like mediterranean chewing gum, but whatever. Minty freshness from a warm climate! What’s not to love?

I couldn’t wait to try it out, so I took a shower. Before starting the water, I remembered ANOTHER great tip from the free e-book, and put a drop of eucalyptus on the bottom of the tub, right where the hot water would hit. I was filled with happy anticipation and fond memories of eucalyptus wall decor, circa 1991. It was a good moment.

Then I turned on the water.

Holy Vicks Vapor Rub, Batman. Our bathroom turned from a steamy escape to a medicinal holding cell in less than fifteen seconds. And the scent kept intensifying, as that tiny drop of oil was empowered by the water. I grabbed Steve’s shampoo and squirted it all over the bottom of the tub, fending off the attack. Thankfully, the bubbles won the battle, and soon the smell of hospital ward faded into the background. Score one for liquid chemicals.

Then I tried the sugar scrub. What awesome olive-y goodness! This was a moment of redemption for me, because back when my friend Kristen & I had just graduated from college (read: were incredibly wise & sophisticated), I bought a new product called SELF TANNER and brought it to her NYC apartment for us to try. The instructions said to “exfoliate” before using, and I’d read in some magazine that what that meant was to mix sugar into your lotion and put it all over your face. So we pulled out the Jergen’s & the box of Dominos, and proceeded “tan.”  There has been MUCH TEASING about this in subsequent years. So I was excited to realize that I was onto something back then!  Imagining the funny conversation Kristen & I would have, I applied the sugar scrub to my face.

By which I mean, I SET MY FACE ON FIRE.

It was only then I remembered the fine print in that free e-book: something about Peppermint being a “hot” oil, one that should not be applied to sensitive skin. It also said that hot oil was like hot sauce: water made it worse, not better.

I was in the shower.

Thankfully, I had the ONE WONDERFUL HAND CREAM within reach. I dove from the shower, ripped it open, and smeared it all over my burning face.

Friends, my nose and cheeks are STILL bright red, four days later.

That’s when I decided to take a little break from my natural beauty endeavors. You know. To heal.

Meanwhile, back in my inbox, there were no fewer than fourteen emails from my new essential oils blogger friend. Did I want to know the cheapest way to get my very own oils? She asked. I was pretty sure the answer was Market Basket, but sure, I thought, tell me. So she did. Fourteen times.

According to her, the cheapest way to get the oils was to sign up with her for an introductory package, where she would send me 10 or 12 oils for my own personal use, all for the discount price of $275! Now I’m not ALL that great at math, but I was pretty sure that worked out to a bit more per bottle than the $4.50 a bottle I payed at Market Basket.

Then I made the mistake of Googling, “Why are these oils so expensive?” This small blunder landed me in a vast ocean of ESSENTIAL OILS TRAINING VIDEOS FROM AUSTRALIA.  I was mesmerized. There were business videos about getting tough, believing in yourself, and doing the work to meet your goals – those were actually pretty good. But then there were videos on how to use the oils, and it all just got BIZARRE.  One woman bragged that her daughter was 11 and had never been to a doctor…because she used the oils. Another woman talked about smearing oils clockwise around her stomach to heal digestive issues. And then there were these two women, standing awkwardly in a living room, saying something impossible to believe about the use of oregano, black pepper & frankincense oils as an aphrodisiac. I was like, “Your idea of a romantic smell is pasta sauce???”

Maybe I’m too Irish.

The next day, emails fifteen & sixteen landed in my inbox, at which point I was totally annoyed, and yet at the same time wondering, Maybe I DO need $275 worth of my very own oils, two of which I already own that tried to kill me…

I found health food store where there was a WALL of little brown bottles. I was irrationally excited to check these out on my own. I twisted the top off of a bottle of something called Clary Sage and took a little whiff… And that’s when things got REAL. There were notes of barnyard cow, mud puddle, and more than a hint of #1’s dirty soccer socks. I just kept blinking, trying to get the smell out of my EYES.  Certain that strange potion must be an outlier, I moved on to Frankincense. It smelled like wet dog rolled in garlic. It went on like that through all the oils. There was a rose one that spoke of “grandma goes to the nursing home,” and one that started with the letter B that reminded me of mustard mixed with strawberry jello.  My confusion grew as my sinuses begged for mercy. Then I realized: I don’t really like things that smell.

A few days later, I mixed up another round of THE REALLY GREAT HAND CREAM. It smells mild, like an olive sat down under a palm tree, but even that scent fades out pretty quickly. I’ve abandoned my small oil collection, all except the cheery orange one, which I take a whiff of from time to time to remind me that somewhere, it’s spring and the sun is shining. (We’re expecting 6-8 inches of snow tomorrow.) I’m not sure what I’ve learned from all of this, other that that the world is a big, surprising place, and some folks find the smell of pasta sauce irresistible.

Adoption Shopping

Yesterday I was going through old Amazon orders and came across a whole section I recognized as my “The Cherubs are coming!” shopping frenzy – items we bought hoping they would make the kids feel loved and welcomed, help us get to know each other, and meet practical needs (like how we had one twin bed and two incoming kids). It reminded me of the intensity of those early, mind-bending days, and how many directions we were looking to for help. Here’s a list of some of the items that delivered. Some of them might come in handy in your non-adoption life (or what I like to think of as your PRE adoption life!), too.

 First, The Thumb Ball.  This humble little ball started our conversation the first time we met The Cherubs. We came to their foster home in the afternoon after school. Their social worker, Janna, was waiting with them and introduced us. We all sat on couches in the living room, looking at each other but trying not to be weird about it. We knew conversation would be awkward (where do you even START?) so I brought this little ball I found online. The concept is simple: you toss it to someone, and wherever their thumb lands when they catch it, that’s the question they answer. “What’s a food  you don’t like?”  Janna didn’t like cinnamon, which gave us something to marvel at together. “What’s a good vacation place?” gave the kids a chance to tell us they’d been to Disney. Perhaps the best part of this, though, was that it was so tactile. When the game was over, #1 Cherub held onto the ball, squeezing it, tossing it in the air. It gave him something to do with all the nervous energy. I think we could have all used one.

On a similar note, Table Topics.  These cards were on our dining room table for months, rescuing  us from dinnertime misery night after night. Here’s why: Dinnertime was AWFUL that first season together. The kids didn’t like our food, we didn’t like their attitudes (and we were stressed about their health) We fought Every. Single. Night. But we had mandatory Table Topics conversations to approximate some semblance of the “value of family dinners” we were grasping for in those ten minute meals that felt like they lasted three hours. And you know what? It worked!  Sometimes you need a question about whether or not you’d travel to Mars if given the chance to get the party started!

A Note for writers: I once spent an entire summer using a box of these for daily writing prompts. Highly recommend.

Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care.  This book FREAKED ME OUT. I was prepared to learn a new world of hair care for my mixed-race daughter, but the author’s personal approach to her child’s hair is a bit extreme. For example, the book suggests that if we went to the beach, afterwards I should use AN AIR COMPRESSOR on my child’s head to remove sand from between the braids. I was like, “The same one that runs the nail gun???”  I cannot tell you how stupid I felt, asking one of my black friends, “Um…do I need an air compressor?”  Thankfully, her answer was No. That said, if you’re looking for a guide for how to care for natural hair, this is great. It has so much helpful information that helped me understand different types of hair, products, etc. and it also has detailed how-tos for different braids and styles. I’ll leave decisions re: the use of power tools up to you.

Patriot Bear.  I think Pillow Pets are brilliant, and wish they were the norm for adult pillows, too. Kids of all ages like soft things. When a child moves in with you, he or she might come with a favorite snuggle toy. But I think it helps with the transition to add something new from you that has meaning and solidifies their life at your house. (If you live outside of New England and aren’t a Pats fan, they have these bears for all the teams.) I covet this bear every night at tuck in time – he’s very cozy.

Black Nativity.  I love this adaptation of the Langston Hughes play. It’s gritty and complicated, and yet shot through with scenes that show God’s presence even in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations. It’s by far my favorite Christmas movie. We first got it from the library, and I was ordering a copy to own before the credits were done at the end.

Black or White.  We watched this one early in our new family relationship and it was HARD. But it was also good. The scene with Kevin Costner’s court testimony where he breaks down what really happened? I tear up just thinking about it. This movie does such a good job of showing how complicated these cases are. Not just because of race, but because of people. This brought up a lot of stuff for all of us (Steve and I had been through something similar with Princess Peach) but I’m so glad we saw it. It’s tempting to try to keep everything happy and easy when you’re just getting to know each other. But the Cherub’s foster mom gave us good advice: Bring it up, she said. It’s gonna come up anyway. She was right.

On a lighter note…a friend recommended this South Shore bedroom set as a frugal solution to our two kids/one bed dilemma. We ordered the bed, headboard shelf & nightstand for #2 Cherub, the price was incredibly reasonable, and they’ve been fantastic. Note: leave some time for assembly pre-Cherub arrival.

And finally, three of my favorites, because they’re so personal:

Out of My Mind. I bought this book before we even met the kids, because #2 Cherub listed it as her favorite book in the adoption flyer her social worker prepared to help recruit for them. This book is so good. I couldn’t wait to meet #2 and talk about it. It gave me hope that she & I might bond through books & writing, and indeed, we have. Our love of books and stories is one of the best things we share, and I’m so grateful to her social worker for including this gem in that flyer.

Kyrie Irving Fathead Graphic. We knew that #1 loved basketball. But we were unprepared for his favorite player being from Cleveland :) Kyrie stands tall over #1’s bed, ready to make a move on the basket. (But yes, we also got him a Celtics Fathead to make it a real game. And we might have put the guy in the green shirt on the wall closest to the net…)

cys-sign  reenas-sign

I found these signs at Marshall’s and got one for each Cherub’s bedroom. I want them to see this every single night, and wake up to it every morning. It’s the truth. You can find something similar here, here, and here. As I look at them now, I kind of want one in every room.



The Blankest Page

A few years ago, as I cast about for a writing project that was less, well…ridiculously intense & personal than spilling my soul in a memoir, I started a series of essays about the Fruit of the Spirit – the benefits package the Bible promises to anyone who opts in to Jesus’ offer of a better life. We’re told that somehow, miraculously/mysteriously, Jesus’ people have access to unprecedented levels of nine specific things: Peace, Love, Joy, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control. 

I’ve always loved this list because it’s so precise. I mean, I know whether or not I’m feeling Joy. And when I respond to a frustrating situation in a way that’s Gentle instead of furious, it’s just astonishing; there’s no way NOT to notice.  I appreciate how Jesus doesn’t try to dazzle us with vague promises. Instead, we’re given a litmus test we can use anytime to see if we’re wringing all the pluses from our Holy Spirit benefits package.

Reading through these essays yesterday was fun. It reminded me of interesting thoughts I’d had about Love, and how great it is to feel Peace when on earthly terms I should be freaking out. I cruised through these pages, wondering why I’d never finished this project when I was clearly in such a groove.

Then I flipped the page and dead-ended at this:


I laughed so hard, water came out of my nose. Nothing to say on that subject. Not one word.

Patience has never been my thing. I don’t even WANT it. Patience means waiting, and I don’t like that, so where do I go to turn in this weird & annoying fruit and sign up for double Joy instead?

I never recovered from the Patience page. The essays stop there, almost suggesting (obnoxiously, I think) that God insisted that I process SOME thoughts on this subject before He’ll let me move forward. (Honestly, if this were a Harry Potter movie, I’d still be sitting there in some Hidden Tunnel of Doom, stomping my foot and refusing to wait for the secret key to descend from the ceiling, completely ignoring the reality that even as I refused to wait, there I was… waiting).

Maybe patience sometimes takes the form of forgetting all about that thing you’re waiting for. Obliviousness is a grace, I believe. And while I might not use this example as a particularly enticing Fruit of the Spirit (“You’ll lose sight of your work projects for YEARS at a time!!!”) I can admit a certain gratitude that I haven’t spent the past however many months trudging around the world trying to muster up a bunch of bullsh*t concepts about Patience in order to fill a page and move on. I appreciate that Jesus doesn’t traffic in bullsh*t concepts.

Ironically (only not), I’m far more patient than I used to be. Here’s what patience looks like for me now:

-Taking a part time job in the flooring department at Home Depot last winter when I could not read one more adoption book (seriously, I’d read them all) while we waited for our adoption home study to be approved.  Patience = Getting out of the house.

-Stopping writing mid-paragraph when THIS DOG rouses from her 5 hour nap and makes it clear that she needs to go out immediately. Patience = Knowing that bathroom needs always come first.

-Dinner: Every. Single. Night. Patience = Keeping a schedule that helps your kids learn to trust you.

It makes for a mighty strange essay. And maybe God knows I have EVEN LESS to say about Kindness, and is protecting me from myself at this point. But I’m grateful to realize that, just as promised, this Patience thing just grew inside of me when I wasn’t even paying attention. It’s cool to have fruit you didn’t cultivate.

Bergie and her Brussels Sprout

photo copy 5

PLEASE can I have a Brussels Sprout??? PLEASE??? (Note persuasive tail wag)

(If you are a children’s book author looking for your next big idea, this post is my gift to you…)

After seven months of searching, we FINALLY discovered Bergie’s treat of choice.  Brussels Sprouts. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Back when Bergie first came home with us, our trainer told us to find some super-special treat to use to reward obedience and good behavior. Wandering through a fancy pet shop, I accidentally bought a $15 bag of desiccated liver bits (thus learning the lesson, “Never shop where they won’t tell you how much things cost”).  Bergie accepted these million-dollar morsels begrudgingly, like she was doing me a favor.  Seriously: I’d pull down the bag and call her and she’d pull herself up, stretch, shake, then sloooooowly meander over and take the treat, then swallow it whole like a kid trying to choke down a lima bean.

It was like watching her eat cash.

We tried less-fancy options: Milk-Bones, Pupperoni, and some chew thing designed to fight plaque and taste like chicken.  Same response.  She was slightly more enthusiastic over frozen hot dog pieces, but not much. (And given her struggle to regain her swimsuit figure, we weren’t sure hot dogs were a great long-term plan for the Berg.)  But she was pretty well behaved anyway, and we soon learned that her love language is affection and praise. So instead of giving her treats, we trained her with enthusiastic hugs and high-pitched squeals of delight when she finally sat down (after only 14 tail wags) when told.

Then the other night I was cutting up Brussels Sprouts to roast for dinner. Not saying that I’m clumsy or anything (and yet suggesting exactly that) but one landed on the floor.  Bergie came FLYING out of the bedroom like she’d been shot from a missile. She skidded across the wood floor, grabbed that half a sprout, then turned and sprinted back to the bedroom without even looking at me so she could devour her treasure in private. I followed her and she had her head stuffed under the bed, so special was this moment with her and her sprout.  When she finished, she licked her chops, then her paws, then the rug. After which she trotted back to the kitchen and stared at my feet in the hopes that another green globe of happiness might fall.

Waiting. Watching. Hoping.

Waiting. Watching. Hoping.

I was like, Really? Brussels Sprouts?  But we’ve tested this theory and confirmed it.

I’m contemplating a career switch to children’s books. BERGIE LOVES BRUSSELS SPROUTS! The Dog Who Loved Vegetables that Begin With B!  will be a bestseller with parents across the nation who are struggling to convince their kids that green gross things are JUST AS WONDERFUL as mac & cheese and cookies.

*Filing this under “Plans to Get THIS DOG To Pay The Mortgage”