Thursday, October 22, 2009


Although Halloween has not yet been crossed off the calendar, the Christmas marketing campaigns are now entrenched. They arrive in camouflage mode in summer. By early fall they are in full-scale bombardment.

Choked by the country’s economic nosedive, most parents are scrambling to deliver the array of presents their children have come to expect living in the material world. While visions of video games and new wardrobes dance in their kids’ heads, parents are holding onto theirs wondering where it’s all going to come from.

After all, we need more. We are a country of more. Most of us were raised on little. Yet the notion of attainment was a seed that was planted and fertilized well. We gave and continue to give television our full attention. And the advertisers have their way with us.

I'm just as guilty. I worked in advertising for years, writing copy for nondescript products, propping them up as exceptional when the company and I both knew they were mediocre at best.

As a kid, I was captivated by television. I can still sing the jingles from McDonald’s, Burger King, Coke, Pepsi, Roto-Rooter and Oscar Mayer (both weeners and bologna, mind you). Somehow, somewhere along the line, the thought that “happiness is derived from having more” became a part of my psyche.

The older I get, the more overwhelmed I feel by my stuff. Why are we Americans in a constant state of lack? Are we so empty inside that we need to grasp at something, anything, to fill the void?

Perhaps we just don't know how to be happy.

Apparently, the Danes do. They are considered the happiest people on Earth. Oprah set out to find out why.

“Less things, more life,” the smiling, statuesque woman explained as she Skyped into the show from Copenhagen.

The city apartment she shares with her husband and three children is shockingly small, yet behind every sleek white surface is an entire town of organization.

On Oprah’s recent visit to Denmark, she met with a group of women to discuss Danish culture. It’s one that focuses on values over money, they explained. Values like education and family and creativity. They choose careers that fulfill them, not based on how much money they will earn.

They are heavily and happily taxed. Yes, happily.

“We feel we get a lot for our taxes,” explained Stine. She described how taxes allow everyone to access health care and get a university education, and how that makes for a healthier society – physically and mentally.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this segment. Happy with less? Truly a foreign concept.

In Peter Walsh’s book, It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living A Richer Life With Less Stuff, he writes, “We are at the center of an orgy of consumption, and many are now seeing that this need to own so much comes with a heavy price: Kids so overstimulated by the sheer volume of stuff in their home that they lose their ability to concentrate and focus. Financial strain caused by misplaced bills or overpurchasing. Constant fighting because neither partner is prepared to let go of their possessions. The embarrassment of living in a house that long ago became more of a storage facility than a home.”

In the end, more stuff makes us feel smothered. It’s more to manage. More to care for. More to look at. More to distract. It closes in on us. It clutters not just our environment, but our minds. It blocks us from being the best we can be – as individuals and as families.

We intrinsically know that real happiness comes from the level of our connectedness. Yet we go against our true nature when we put our money in things that separate us.

Last Christmas/Hanukkah, my husband and I told the kids they would get a few presents, but what we really wanted to do was spend more time together. I was expecting to hear groans. Instead, their eyes lit up.

My daughter hugged me and whispered, “There’s nothing I like better than to be with you.”

This year, we will add to that by giving things away and carefully selecting each gift by its level of interaction required. Board games with four or more players are high on the list.

I am clear on my New Year’s resolution for 2010: Less things, more life.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Good List

I’ve decided to be the assistant coach of my daughter’s soccer team this fall. My knowledge of the game is limited to which team has possession of the ball and when someone scores. What I bring to the table is four years on the sidelines reliving my cheerleading days, shouting, “Go, Ally!”

Let’s just say, these 11-year-olds will be teaching me a thing or two.

Tonight is the draft. I will attend fully prepared having studied the players like a gambling man examines his hand. My clipboard has the names categorized by ability and position. I am pumped up, my head spinning with plan A, plan B – whatever it takes to amass the best players. We are going to dominate that field, I’m thinking.

I asked Ally to review my picks.

She nodded.

“Mom,” she said, scanning the names, “Don’t pick all the good players.”


“Leave some for the other teams.”

I stared at her blankly.

“Some of the players I want on my team aren’t the best at soccer, but they’re really nice girls.”

The record scratches. In the midst of my plan of attack, my young girl reminds me that greed isn’t good. That sharing the bounty with others is the right thing to do. And more importantly, that judging people on their inner goodness, not necessarily their outer successes, is perhaps the higher road -- the road I’ve been talking a lot about, but not always walking on.

I rearrange my list and Ally gives me the names of the nice girls. And off I go.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Recycle This

My son, Jack, is the serious one in the family. Don’t know how I spawned a stone face from this pack of clowns, but I am forever on a mission to convert him to the cult of the ridiculous and sarcastic from which I was born.

Today he and his friend, Christian, barreled into the kitchen overflowing with giggles.


Christian: Lisa, there IS!

Me: I know. Dad and I thought we could put it in the corner of the yard to make it convenient for you when you’re playing football with your friends.

Jack: MOM! You can’t do that! That is against the law!

Me: No. People do it all the time. We all have to use the toilet. This will save you time and keep all the kids out of our house.

Jack: I am NOT using that.

Christian: Me either.

Me: Okay then, I’ll make it into a seat. You guys can sit on it when you’re tired.

Jack: Mom, I won’t sit there. That would be so embarrassing.

Christian: Totally.

Me: Guys, we are a recycling family. You know that. So it’s either going to be a toilet, a nice seat for you to sit on or we’re going to put dirt in it and make it into a flower pot. I found a nice spot for it right under your bedroom window.

Jack: No WAY!

Me: Pick one.

Jack: I don’t WANT a toilet under my window! Put it under YOUR window.

Me: My room faces the back of the house. Then no one will see it.

Jack: No one WANTS to see a toilet in our yard.

Me: Pick one.

Jack: All rrrrright I’ll pick the flower pot.

Christian: Seriously, what are going to do with that toilet?

Me: Well, the other thought I had was to wait til the middle of the night and put it in someone else’s yard. Sort of like the Neighborhood of the Traveling Toilet. Whoever gets it will know it means that someone likes them. And then they can put it in someone else’s yard the next night. And so on.

Christian: I don’t think my parents will think it’s a good thing.

Me: No they will. They’ll like it. Trust me.

Jack: Mom, you could get arrested.

Me: Arrested for giving my neighbor a gift? I doubt the police officer is going to see it that way.

Jack: Mom, please don’t.

Me: All right. We can keep it.

Jack: Ya, but I don’t like any of the choices.

Me: Honey, this is the country. A toilet on our front lawn is cool. This will help us bond with people.

Jack: Mom, now I think you’re just kidding with me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Feeling of Home

We’ve all heard the cliché, “Home is where the heart is.” But what if your heart doesn’t feel at home? For almost 23 years, I’ve lived in California. And if you ask me where home is, I would still tell you: Boston.

Anyone who knows Beantown like I know Beantown understands my love for the city. For me, it has little to do with the Red Sox or Patriots or Celtics. It has everything to do with Bostonians and who we are. It’s about the culture I left behind -- a culture of real people who talk funny. People who tell it like it is. People who practice sarcasm as much as their religion. People who say things like, “Put yeh shots on and get in the cah. We’re goin up noth to ride the hoss."

It’s about people who are as salty as the air they breathe. It’s about generations of families who put up with the winters and each other because they can’t imagine being away from one another. Their lives overlap and intertwine.

It’s about neighbors who define “neighborly.” Growing up, I witnessed almost daily acts of kindness. It was natural for people to help each other shovel out their cars. On rainy days, someone in the neighborhood would collect the soggy kids trudging home. When our gardens overflowed with vegetables, we divided them up and left bags on our neighbors’ steps. When someone got sick, parents rallied to babysit and make extra meals and clean house.

What I miss is the sense of responsibility we had to each other. A commitment to our community.

So what’s not to love about California? There’s so much to brag about: almost year-round sunshine. Dry, warm days. Miles of untainted seashore flanked by sandy cliffs. Valleys polka-dotted with orange trees. Green and rocky mountains in the distance. Natural beauty in every direction.

It’s the transplants like me who have a measure of comparison. We realize after so many years that one cannot live on sunshine alone. Something is missing.

Marti Emerald, a local TV news reporter in San Diego, was quoted once about her take on Southern California culture. She called it a “social disconnect.” Aha! I thought. That describes it.

Too often, I have witnessed a lack of connection amongst people. Neighbors will drive straight into their garages, only to be seen when taking out the trash or retrieving the mail. Perhaps it is the absence of real connection that leads to a lack of accountability. No-shows and cancellations are a way of life. I’ve been to several kids’ birthday parties where we were the only ones singing happy birthday to a tearful child at the end of an almost empty table. I’ve seen teachers and community leaders with a skeleton staff of volunteers who take on more than they can handle.

For years I have lived my life looking back at the city I left behind. But everyone knows that when you spend your life in the rear view mirror, you never really see what’s right in front of you. I realized that if I wanted a sense of community here in San Diego, I would have to either find it or create it. So I started a playgroup when my kids were little. I created an online network for parents in Southern California. I give of my time to the local schools. I extend my hand at my kids’ games. I’ve become politically active. And I’ve gotten to know my neighbors.

Little by little, I am doing what I can to cultivate a community for my family. Because in the end, if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring Cleaning

What defines a good friendship? Like all relationships, some are healthier than others. So how do you know if a friendship is good for you?

I read once that the way to assess a friendship is to evaluate how you feel – physically and emotionally – right after you’ve spent time with someone. If you’re drained, resentful, defeated, hurt, or anything on the negative end of the spectrum, it might be time to look at the merits of the relationship.

Over the past two years, I’ve thought about where I am invested. Like any busy mom, carving out time away from my kids is difficult enough. Wasting time with the wrong people is futile.

With great thought and care, I conducted a spring cleaning. I took a look at each friend the way some people look at a shirt to determine whether it still fits, and plucked a few from my friendship wardrobe. I don’t mean to imply that this was a simple, overnight endeavor. It was anything but.

I’m one of those married types who loves and needs my girlfriends. As much as I adore my husband, I cannot survive on his level of relating. We are two very different trains; me, the turbo tram and him, the early model steam engine that takes a long time reaching its destination.

What my husband wants from me is less talk. Bullet points. Background info, not necessary.

What I want from him are details. And that's not going to happen

So this is why I need my girlfriends. We have no problem filling time and space. We make those chicks on The View look afraid to speak up.

The process of ending my friendship with Christa (not her real name) took years. I couldn’t seem to let go yet I had no reason to hold on. I got to a place where I lost respect for myself. I became pathetic.

We had all the things that, from 30,000 feet, seem to make for a good friendship. We made each other laugh. We were always game for fun. Had similar issues with our kids. Same age, socio-economic background, political affiliation, and a love of travel and music and food. It took me a long time to see the cracks in the foundation.

I’ve often thought there are some friends that we shouldn’t get to know better. If we stayed on the surface, it would still be fun. Once you venture into anyone’s “basement,” you will undoubtedly find something you don’t like. And they will find something rusting in yours as well.

My problem is an inability to stay on the surface. I think it’s common for women; we yearn to connect. We want to know more about each other. But the knowing more has the potential to strengthen or weaken the bond.

There was something about Christa that always made me feel less than good when I drove away from her house. She had a broad circle of friends, neighbors that communed with each other almost daily and a social life that brimmed with concerts and parties and weekends away. But it wasn’t envy that got the best of me. It was the subtle nose-rubbing on her part. She knew many of my friends lived out of the area. She knew my neighbors recognize my car more than my face. She knew my weekends revolved around my kids’ sports and an occasional date with my husband. She knew.

Her phone rang incessantly. Taking that call was always important. I spent most of our gatherings waiting for her to hang up. When the phone wasn’t ringing, we were bumping into someone she knew. Someone she had to chat with while I waited.

Why she continued to seek my companionship is still a question mark in my head. But the bigger question is: why did I go along for the ride? For more than four years, we took our kids to the playground, the beach and amusement parks. We shared birthdays and spent weekends in San Francisco and Las Vegas.

One day, we made plans to meet at her community pool. The kids and I arrived at 12:30, the agreed-upon time. They splashed in the pool, asking every few minutes where they were. I reassured them they’d be there soon. At 1:00, she called to say she’d be there in a matter of minutes. At 2:15, my kids were chlorinated prunes and wanted to go home. They were wrapped in towels as she breezed through the gate.

I’m embarrassed to say that I ran to get her a chaise lounge.

She said, “Oh, don’t bother, I have work to do.”


“Ya, I have wine charms to put on these glasses that I bought for a party I’m going to.”

She sat behind me at a table making the charms while chatting to a man who lived a few doors down from her. I sat there seething with anger. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get up and go home? Why couldn’t I confront her?

I never said a word about it. She didn’t either.

I didn’t see her for almost a year after that. She didn’t seem to notice that I had pulled away.

There we were, one summer later sitting side-by-side at the beach. Our kids played merrily in the surf. We made small talk. Suddenly, an acquaintance of hers yelled to say hello from across the sand. Christa invited her to join us. The two of them chatted the afternoon away while I stared blankly at my magazine.

That was the last time I saw her. She called two months later. I didn’t return the call. Her Christmas card said, “Let’s get together soon!” No indication that she knew anything was wrong.

The silent, unresolved ending of our friendship revealed the truth about our connection. She didn’t care either way.

So what’s the take-away? I have learned to pay attention to how I feel in a friendship – especially in the beginning when the getting out is easier. My inner voice has always been my compass. The difference is, now I’m taking direction.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teach Your Parents Well

One morning this week, Jack’s hair dried in a wind-swept fashion that gave him a real mod look. Like a stage mom, I ran to fetch the gel to enhance the style. As I was tugging on the pointed wisps that fanned out against his cheek, Jack asked, “Why are you putting gel in my hair?”

Me: Because your hair looks very cool today. You look like Zac Efron.

Jack: Everyone has that look at school.

Me: I know, and it looks really cute on you.

Jack: Ya, but I don’t want to look like everybody else. I want to look like me. Don’t you want me to look like myself?

Me: Of course I do.

I stopped the primping and felt a lump in my throat. Since he was a toddler, my husband and I have been talking the talk:

“Be true to yourself.”
“Stand up for what you believe in even if it’s not popular.”
“Be an individual.”
“Listen to your own voice.”

There I was trying to bend him into the mold. And it wasn’t the first time.

Up until this year, I picked out his clothes every morning. I thought the horror of mismatched clothes would be perceived by school personnel as neglectful parenting.

One day he said, “I don’t like the clothes you pick for me. You always try to make me look fancy.”

Me: Fancy?

Jack: Ya. I want to wear t-shirts, not polo shirts. Just plain t-shirts. Is that okay?

What was I doing? Why was I robbing him of the opportunity to be himself?

When I was growing up, I perceived the world as a tunnel of thorns. Everything was personal. I realize now, most of it wasn't.

Jack, on the other hand, has comment repellent built into his skin. One day, some boys called out to him from a tree they were climbing.

“Hey Retard!”

Jack looked up.

“Ya, you, Retard!”

Jack: Ha! That is funny! [started laughing]

Boys: We’re talking about YOU!

Jack: I know. You are really funny! [continued to laugh]

Unable to bother to him, they moved on to taunt other kids.

When I picked him up, he recounted the story. I was ready to hug him and wipe his tears. But his voice was normal -- upbeat and unshaken.

Me: Why didn’t it bother you that they said that to you?

Jack: Because that’s what they think. It’s not what I think about myself.

These are the moments when the paradigm shifts. I realize I am the student and one of my greatest teachers is sitting right next to me in the front seat.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dead Funny

My son makes me laugh every day. But he isn’t trying to be funny. If anything, he’s dead serious most of the time, which makes him even funnier.

He’s been a diabetic since he was six. One day I was getting out his insulin and syringe. I handed him an alcohol pad.

Me: Hold this and don’t put it in your mouth.

Jack: Mom, children cannot drink alcohol. It’s against the law. Unless you’re from France.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Film Strip

Fruit BasketImage by Shutter Ferret via Flickr

There are some people who should just stay the hell away from all things photographic. I am the Grand Puba of that bunch. I make my very-Martha-Stewart-mother-in-law throw her French manicured hands in the air when she sees me reach for the camera. She knows it won’t end well.

All that will be evidenced on film will be random body parts. An ear. The scalp. An elbow. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but it’s clearly very wrong. It’s either an aiming problem or the fact that my children never stop moving.

What child, in this day and age, does not have an entire video and photo library dedicated to them? Oh, that would be my kids.

In my endless quest to document my children’s life, I ordered a gently used, but highly touted video camera from some guy on Ebay. A week later, camcorder in hand, I read the manual diligently.

Ally, only seven at the time, was leaning on my shoulder as I tested out the buttons. I hit something and suddenly up came a series of photos.

At first, they looked like cropped pictures of a naked baby. The belly was swollen and shiny. There was no head in the frame. Then I saw something very tiny dangling. Ah, it must be a baby boy.

Then we arrived at the close-up. It was definitely a male. Definitely over 40.

Ally: What IS that, Mom? It looks like a fruit basket.

Me: Yes, it does.

Ally: Why are there pictures on the camera?

Me: Oh, I think the man who sold it to me wanted to say, “Thank you for buying my camera.”

I felt compelled to write him and express my appreciation.

Dear Naked Torso Man,

I received the camera today. Such speedy delivery. Oh, and I found the photos you sent me. While I appreciate the sentiment, I’m more accustomed to receiving a note asking for Ebay feedback. My seven-year-old daughter got an eyeful as I scrolled through the photos. Thank you for giving me a reason to prematurely discuss crazy naked people with her. No offense, but you should reconsider your modeling career. There are some things that should never be captured on film.

Sickened In San Diego

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Blah Sunday

Yawn, yawn. It’s Super Bowl Sunday this weekend and even if the Chargers or the Patriots were playing, I wouldn’t be remotely interested. I’ve been on the planet long enough for my brain to have grasped the concept of football if it was willing.

It is not.

Anytime someone tries to explain it to me, it’s as if a fist comes out of my head, sort of like Rock’em Sock’em Robots, and punches the information right in the face. You’d think with all that aggression I’d find the sport entertaining. But football is a language I don’t want to speak. I tried to sit through ten minutes of a game. More like ten minutes of torture.

All I saw was a mass of little critters in matching outfits crawling all over each other chasing a pineapple with no top. I will never be able to comprehend its ability to revert grown-ups into Trunk Monkeys in a matter of minutes.

This Sunday, my husband and son will join the masses. They’ll punch their fists. They’ll call the plays. They’ll blame the coach. They’ll stomp and bolt from their seats with indignation. They’ll high five and belly bump. They’ll stand like ice sculptures, frozen in time. I could put on a gorilla suit and swing from a rope crossing their line of sight. Jack wouldn't notice. Don would grunt at me to bring over more of those Macho Nachos.

I get a kick out of Superbowl Sunday. It’s a day that I can say anything and get away with it.

Me: Don, I cashed in your 401K because I wanted some bling-bling.

Don: Okay. This guy sucks. What a moron.

Me: By the way, I sold the house for half of what it’s worth because the people were so nice.

Don: Good deal. I cannot believe he just did that. What is he in Pop Warner?

Me: I want to move to Memphis to be closer to Elvis.

Don: Right. Oh My God. Who DOES that?

Me: Wants to be near Elvis?

Don: What? No, who can’t get the field goal?

Me: An idiot?

Don: That's right.

Me: I’ve also decided I want to be a man. Can I wear your underwear?

Don: Sure. Hey, can you get me another one of those Janet Jackson Breast Cupcakes?

If I’m forced to go to a party, I will make sure to step in front of the TV and purposely linger. It’s a lot of fun pretending not to know I’m blocking their view. I love when the men get all red and feisty, waving all crazy for me to get out of the way.

I also like to cheer wildly for a team that isn’t in the Superbowl.

“Go Patriots!!! Woohoo!!! You ROCK!!!” I holler.

You’d think someone pushed their panic buttons.

They fire back, “They’re NOT even PLAYING!!!”

I retort, “I KNOW THAT. I can cheer for them if I WANT.”

Truthfully, Super Bowl Sunday is entertaining for reasons that have nothing to do with football. For most women, we’d rather be shopping or drunk. Or both.

At parties, we like to gather and cluck about our husbands. This is the one day you can drink margeritas and let it all out. In fact, you can sit on your husband’s lap with a megaphone and announce to the crowd that he still likes to be tucked in at night, yells out, “MOMMY!” in his sleep and will only eat melon if it's balled. No one in the room will hear a thing. If you can get him to look at you, he’ll nod in agreement and then bark something back at the TV.

One year I went to the mall during the game and it was like stepping onto a studio lot where they have those fake streets and façade houses. Everyone was gone. The roads were barren. I walked into the mall wondering if it was really open and then noticed I was their only customer. Everyone was so nice to me. They made me realize how special I am.

This year, I’m going to put my Super Bowl Sunday to good use. I’m going to do something adventurous and meaningful. I’m just going to close my eyes and pick a spot on a map and go there.

Okay. I’m closing my eyes. Here I go.

Oh, look at that. I landed on the Queen for A Day Spa. I’ll feel so guilty having all that pampering -- my shakras balanced, finding out who I was in a past life, a mani-pedi and a seaweed-algae-fungus-mud wrap -- while my husband and kids are home without anyone to deliver the snacks. Then again, if I just drop a plate of pork in Don’s lap it will probably be Monday before he realizes I’m gone.

Happy Grunting!

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Exercise in Parenting

As my kids get older, I often forget those early toddler years when the simplest tasks were seemingly insurmountable. I could not change my clothes without an audience pointing to body parts and demanding an explanation. Attempting to speak to another adult was futile and consisted of half-finished sentences and lots of peanut butter and tears smeared on my pants. I could never make an appointment on time because invariably, someone vomited on my way out the door. Grocery shopping was more a search and rescue mission as my two Lucans-raised-by-wolves climbed out of the cart and dashed off in different directions only to empty shelves and knock over displays. Those years were so teeming with minute-by-minute obstacles, it’s a wonder my kids are alive and that I still know my name.

Now that my kids are 10 and 11, I have to remind myself of how much easier life is. Don’t get me wrong: they have moved on to new ways to torture me, some of which I have written about in this blog. But at least now I can shower, change and use the bathroom in private. Most days, I can usually have a complete thought. I can get to places on time without puke on my shoe. And we can grocery shop while having meaningful discussion about why Hot Cheetos and Double Stuffed Oreos are not part of the four food groups.

Two of my New Year’s resolutions for 2009 are: 1. getting organized and 2. putting my health back on the list. I promised my husband I’d sift through old files and actually throw something away this time.

In my sifting, I came across an email I wrote to my mother back in 2000. My kids were two and three. I saved the email to read to them one day, to instill an appropriate level of guilt for all they put me through.

Here it is:

Hi Mum,

I decided I was going to work out upstairs this morning and take the kids up there with me. I figured, with three boxes of toys, I could ensure at least 30 minutes of sweat.

Did I just infer "time to myself"? Somebody slap me.

I gated the top of the stairs and got them situated: Ally on Legos, Jack on trains. Hopping onto the Stairmaster, I admired my brilliance. Why hadn’t I tried this before? Look at them, lost in their wonderland of imaginative play.

Into my second minute, all toys were abandoned. The kids were orbiting me. Ally had her arms out and was whining like a broken appliance. Jack had joined me on the steps of the Stairmaster and was holding onto the back of my shorts (underwear included) and pulling them down giving me a classy, refrigerator repairman look. Ally grabbed one of Don’s barbells. Before I could reach her, she dropped it on her foot causing her to emit a screech not unlike a fire alarm. I’m pretty sure I need new tubes in my ears.

After much hugging and redirection, the kids were engrossed in new toys and seemingly reaching a state of nirvana. I tiptoed back to the Stairmaster and resumed minute three. I lost myself in my book and one page later I was jolted by the sound of broken glass.

Jack was perched at the gate with his arms up in a SCORE!-like position. He had discovered the meaning of cause and effect. A proud smile took over his face. He looked at me to share the moment. Gulping fear, I inched my way over to the stairs. I looked down. Littered at the bottom was a vast array of hurled objects -- toys, books, pillows, sippy cups, toilet paper, my Thighmaster and a broken vase.

Witnessing my horror, Jack unleashed a machine-gun ripple of a laugh. Ally took a peek and joined him. This was toddler humor. I wasn’t feeling it.

I figured I burned a few hundred calories between the stress and cleaning up the shards of glass. I decided it was time for Plan B: the tent. If there’s one thing I know about kids, it’s that they all love to hide under things. It’s universal. I tied my best sheets together and erected a tent that Jeff Probst would have marveled over.

Back on the Stairmaster and into minute 7 of my workout, I heard nothing but silence. It was an unfamiliar, out-of-body experience. Two minutes later, I was on the verge of breaking a sweat and was thinking this tent thing was the key to my new buff self.

Suddenly, I heard a muffled scream. I dropped my book and ran. Jack had taken the tent and rolled Ally into a burrito. She was about to be mummified and was hollering beneath the layers of sheets. I started to panic as I unraveled her. She was crying and red and panting.

I decided I had to separate them. I put Ally in the bedroom with a stack of my In Style magazines, thinking to myself, “Read this and grow up already.” I brought Jack with me and tossed him some Consumer Reports hoping he’d be able to figure out which Belgian waffle maker was best. They seemed enthralled by their new reading material and I attempted to finish another minute of exercise.

Somewhere in that time frame, Jack had slithered away into the bedroom with Ally. I was too busy basking in the silence to notice. Rounding my 10th minute of stair climbing, I heard the terrifying sound of giggling.

Oh no.

Every mother knows that giggling means we-are-destroying-something-and-loving-every-minute-of-it. I rushed to the bedroom and upon opening the door, I saw a large green fitted sheet on the bed under which two heads were bobbing up and down. As I lifted up the edge, out popped two guilty faces covered in crumbs. All over the bed were mashed up animal crackers. They grinned at me with the we-weren’t-jumping-on-the-bed look.

After cleaning them up and vacuuming the bed, I decided that I don’t need a Stairmaster because my kids are the greatest workout of all. Exhausted, I grabbed my two little monkeys and we fell asleep on the couch.