Five, Seven, Five… Starbucks!

written in the form of a
haiku; because duh

Seven syllables:
Caramel Macchiato
Coincidence? No.

Your green signs beckon
like a beacon or lighthouse
or maybe Wendy’s

My kids recognized
your logo before age two
(That’s kind of creepy)

Overpriced java
Three dollars for a dry roast?
Have you lost your mind?

But, oh, the lattes!
(and sometimes frappuccinos)
So totes delicious

I’m frugal elsewhere
so I’ll joyfully indulge
in this happiness

Refillable cup
received as a Christmas gift
(thanks, mom and Steven!)

Which translated as
Free (to me) lattes daily
in January

photo-66Warm deliciousness
during this otherwise cold
cold, cold, snowy month

Daily Starbucks runs
are not normally part of
my weekly routine

But with the prospect
of free lattes all month long,
I could change my ways

I started out plain:
Caramel Macchiatos
(soy milk, decaf, please)

Then came the syrups:
Hazelnut and vanilla,
Cinnamon dolce

Trying drinks I never had
ordered before now

(Because even when
you love Starbucks, fancy drinks
soon become old news)

Gleeful discov’ry –
the Starbucks secret menu
Internet, you rock

I’ve hit up eight stores
within twenty miles of home
Buffalo once, too

Plus one in O’Hare,
three more in the Twin Cities,
one in MSP

Would you look at that –
boldly making connections
Lattes for congress!

It’s a miracle
that I didn’t lose the cup
Take that, ADD

Frothy, foamy, hot
heaven-sent deliciousness
yum, yum, yum, yum, yum

But all good things end
or at least promotions do
(stupid bottom line)

January’s done
Which means that free Starbucks drinks
will then be no more

Tears freely falling
Sadness overflowing from
deep within my soul

(Um, that’s so not true
But no more daily joe will
suck #firstworldproblems)

It’s been a fun month
trying new drinks, indulging.
Feeling grateful, glad

If Starbucks has this
same promo next December,
I’ll be first in line

I’ve got to go now –
The day isn’t over yet;
one last coffee run

In the name of the
Lattes, frappuccinos, and
hot choc’late, AMEN.

Booby prize: we win

So, let me guess: you’ve been having a really rough winter. (Unless you live in California, and then you can just be all smug and sit back in your short sleeves and sunglasses. It’s not like you’re living on an active fault line or anything. SMIRK ALL YOU WANT.)

This hasn’t been winter; it’s been hell. The unending assault of exceedingly low temperatures, gray skies, and constant snow have even worn down the likes of people who adore snow and cold (that would be me and the rest of my nutty family), so that each morning when I peek between the blinds whilst perched upon the ice-cold toilet and see a) an endless gray sky, b) that it’s snowing, or c) both, it takes an almost superhuman effort not to just give in, call it quits, and have a glass of wine at 7 a.m. Likewise, when the girls ask what the temperature will be and they hear, yet again, that it will not rise above the teens – and they know that recess will be cancelled – it takes everything we’ve got to force them to school, where they know they’ll basically be reenacting the story of the Donner party.

I think I may be responsible for some of this misery. See, I reveled in the early snow that blanketed Rochester well before Thanksgiving and continued – almost nonstop – straight through till New Year’s Eve.snow in early november
You’re trying to tell us that half an inch isn’t enough to sled in before school?
WRONG, Mom. Wrong.

I made Yay! First snow! pancakes.snowman pancakes
It’s snowing! Let’s CELEBRATE!!

I giddily took photos of the forecast on my phone.snow forecast in november
Ooooh!! SNOW!!!!

I joyfully documented the snow paths on the walk to school and the sledding and romping and attempted snow forts and gigantic snow piles.
snow path
Sun on the path! So pretty!!

snow in november
Look how happy she is. In the SNOW!!!

snow in november3
Oh! Just look at how much she LOVES playing in that snow! ADORBS.

snow in november for packing
Hey, look – packing snow!!!

snow pile
OMG there is so much SNOW!!!

And we hadn’t even reached 2014 yet.

Then came the New Year… and the cold. The Polar Effing Vortex and its Elsa-like black magic chill.

Did that stop me from reveling in the unusually bone-chilling weather? Hell no. It’s so cold, you worry that the dog’s pee will freeze in midair and then you’d really have a lot of explaining to do to the vet? BRING IT.

I cheerfully took photos of the frozen fractals suffocating our garage windows.snow frost
Oh, perty!

I allowed my child – who is allergic to the cold – to stand outside with wet hair after swim practice because she thought it was fun to feel it freeze.
snow frozen
The line for Parent of the Year forms right behind me.

We took advantage of the the sub-zero air to watch, with awe, as bubbles turned into malleable plastic orbs.snow bubblesYes, it was THAT COLD. How neat!!

I continued to take photos of the forecast on my phone – this time, not for the snow totals, but to capture how damn freezing it was becoming.

snow cold
Hm. I actually thought that was REALLY cold. Silly, naive little me.

I took pride in the fact that, no matter what the temperature, our kids still managed the trek to school with all of their digits intact.snow trudge
Feels like -20? We got this.

snow sun dogs
Sun + snow = awesomeness.

In short, I not only endured winter… I celebrated it.


My very, very, very bad.

Because I am THROUGH. This is ENOUGH, already. I’m tired of being a hermit. I’m tired of having to don gloves just to feed the dogs in the garage. I’m tired of shivering in my own house. I’m tired of shoveling. I’m tired of there being so much snow THAT NO ONE CAN PLAY IN. The photo above, of the packing snow? Pretty much the ONLY packing snow this year, because it has been SO DAMN COLD, the snow is totally useless.

And it’s not even February yet. Shit.

Since moving here in 2007, I’ve been fascinated with Rochester and its snow, and have made a point to follow The Golden Snowball website each year to see just how much we’ve gotten. Rochester is pretty much always within the top five snowiest cities nationally, usually getting edged out by Erie, Buffalo, and Syracuse – all of which are within a couple of hours of here.

In other words, we live in the snowiest part of the country.

When people have asked how we stand living with so much snow, I remark that the snow itself is completely doable; it’s cleared quickly, the roads are salted well, schools almost never close — and, unlike, say, Minnesota, where it remains snowy not because they receive such a large amount of precipitation, but because the temperatures remain so low, the snow they DO get doesn’t melt — it’s not terribly cold.

At least… that’s what I thought. But then a friend posted a link on Facebook to the twenty U.S. cities that are allowed to complain about the cold – i.e., the twenty coldest cities in the country. And I almost didn’t even click on it because I was like, oh, Rochester won’t be on there – it’s not all that cold here.

Well. So much for that Master’s Degree (although it was in Music, so I get some leeway, no?), because Rochester is the 8th coldest city in America.

So. If you’re doing the math… We’re the 8th coldest city and (currently) the 6th snowiest city (although that will surely change in the coming days; Ann Arbor is going down).

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 6.37.17 PM
Look out, Ann Arbor. We’re coming for you.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 6.38.10 PM
Indiana? Really?

Which means (aside from Buffalo – hi, Buffalo!) we’re officially the coldest, snowiest city in the United States.

So, yeah. The kids here haven’t had boatloads of snow days, and it didn’t take anyone seven hours to commute home. It hasn’t been below zero for two weeks straight, and our airport hasn’t run out of de-icing fluid.

But still? By definition, if we’re the coldest, snowiest city in America (aside from Buffalo – snowy there, eh?), we can say, without hesitation, that our winter has been the suckiest. IT HAS SUCKED THE MOST HERE.

I don’t know if that makes us the winners or the losers.

If we can just ditch this cold, I’ll be okay. Then, at least I can pack the snow into a snowball and throw it at the forecast. It was in the mid-twenties today – which made it feel like May – and the kids were outside at recess, doing exactly that. I don’t know how we’re all going to burn off the energy that’s been pent up these past couple of months, but when we do, we’re going to be able to power something enormous.

Like a jet to the Caribbean.

I’ll bring the de-icing fluid.

New York… New York

When Ella turned eight, Nick promised her that he would take her on a business trip with him. He travels for work approximately five days a month, and Ella has long been asking just what he does on these trips; rather than continue to explain (“Meetings… a presentation… grabbing something cold from the lunch buffet… another presentation…”), he thought it would be fun to show her.

In reality, of course, it wouldn’t really work to have Ella attend any of Nick’s meetings and presentations (and lunch buffets), so we’d thought that he could take a short flight somewhere, meet some of our extended family, drop Ella off to spend the day with them, do his work stuff, pick Ella up once he was through, hang out with her wherever they were, chill in a hotel room overnight, and finally, fly home the following morning. Ella turned eight in December of 2012 – more than a year ago – but our 2013 was a bit… crazy… So the opportunity for the trip never materialized.

MBAs and new jobs and mourning and nutty schedules don’t really mean much to Ella, however, so she remained determined that such a trip would take place. At last, Nick decided that he needed to make good on his promise – and so, last weekend, a month after she turned nine, Ella joined Nick on a business trip to New York City.

With Ella and Daddy gone for just over twenty-four hours, that left Annie and me to hold down the fort. And, oh, did we ever hold down our damn fort.

Watching her walk to school and greet our beloved crossing guard – without her sister – was a little bittersweet…

special overnight a1
Oh, look: snow. Such an anomaly.

… But once we hit the new indoor trampoline place, all missing-of-sisters-and-daddies was soon forgotten.

special overnight a3
The kid’s got AIR.

special overnight a4
Oh, yeah. I got game.

special overnight a2
When you can’t play outside for ten days because of absurdly frigid temperatures, bouncing yourself into a frenzy is SENT FROM THE GODS, I tell you.

During the hour that we jumped, I think I lost 7 pounds in water weight: trampolining makes you sweat, man (and also maybe, um, lose liquid in other ways; those of you who have birthed a child and are over the age of 35 know what I’m talking about. The bathrooms in these places should come equipped with paper towels, tampons, and Depends).

Downstate, it was a little warmer, so our other halves were able to venture outside and explore the city. My dad and stepmom – Papa and Grand Meg – had met Nick and Ella that morning, then spent the day with her while Nick took care of work business.

special overnight e3
Enjoying a muffin the size of her head at Papa’s office.

special overnight e1
Taking the A train.
(Not literally. They did go uptown, though, so I suppose that was possible…)

Although the temperatures were doable, they weren’t exactly fun, so Papa and Grand Meg decided that the American Museum of Natural History would be a dandy indoor adventure. Later, when she told me about her day, Ella couldn’t stop talking about how incredible the museum was – wisely chosen, Papa and Grand Meg FTW!

special overnight e2
My big girl in action…

Perhaps spotting a sucker when they saw one (or, more accurately, realizing that a grandma and grandpa were enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime one-on-one day with their eldest granddaughter, and would do anything to celebrate the occasion), the museum employees convinced my dad to purchase a photo package, to Ella’s delight and my great amusement. Maybe it was the cold… Maybe it was giddiness from the crazy-early hour at which they all awoke… Or maybe it was just the joy of spending this special day together, but my normally reserved, easily-embarrased nine year-old struck silly poses and smiled with abandon, while my normally reserved, not-too-silly dad pretended to see a flying dinosaur over his left shoulder.

In short, these are some of my most favorite photos, ever.

special overnight e7

special overnight e6Oh, look. A pterodactyl.

special overnight e5 This is the one Ella liked best, in spite of the neckpiece growing out of her cheek.

Knowing, especially, that Ella and Nick would be dining in Manhattan splendor, I’d offered Annie the opportunity to go to any restaurant in the Rochester area, just the two of us…

Instead, she chose to cook me dinner at home.
Could I find out the menu in advance, so I could supplement the meal with additional ingredients? No. Could I help her prepare? No. Could I offer suggestions? WHY WAS I BEING SO DIFFICULT??

And that’s how, on a Friday night in January, I found myself being served gluten-free pasta with jarred pasta sauce (with a little cream added for extra flavor), “the fluffy parmesan from the green container”, and broccoli sautéed with soy sauce.

special overnight a5
You may notice that she changed her clothes after the trampoline place – partially because she was a sweaty mess, and partially because she needed to dress up in order to properly make me dinner. Duh.

special overnight a6
Cutesie poses make everything more delicious…

For dessert, I offered – again – to take her out. Would she care to grab a piece of cake somewhere? Go to a candy shop? Get some ice cream? Indulge in Starbucks?
Or, if she’d prefer to stay home, would she like to bake some brownies? Make a sundae? Create a milkshake?

After some serious eye-rolling and a hissed, “Mom! I’ve GOT this!”, Annie returned with dessert…

special overnight a7
Why, yes, that is a carefully-arranged plate containing two Trader Joe’s chocolate
crisps, one jellied candy, and four Advent chocolates.

I know. She spoils me.

Meanwhile, back in the Big Apple, a slightly different experience was being had. Seeing that Nick had Ella with him (and, therefore, trying to make a kid’s day), the front desk guy at the hotel surprised them with an upgrade to an absolutely ridiculous suite (it had one and a half bathrooms and a 70″  flatscreen television, if that’s any indication of what I mean by “ridiculous”).

special overnight e4
Also? Two bathrobes. Per person.

And an equally ridiculous view.

special overnight e8
That’s Ella posing by the window, for scale…

special overnight e9
Yeah. Not bad.

Post-dinner at a delicious steakhouse (name: The Strip House. That won’t look strange on Nick’s expense report. Especially because he took his daughter there), Nick convinced Ella to take a swing through China Town, where they tried their first – and last – bubble tea.

special overnight e10
Tapioca balls just sound… weird…

Having awakened at 4:15 that morning for their flight, Ella was positively bushed, and passed out in the second of her hotel robes before 9 p.m. Annie and I, on the other hand, were still going strong…

There were nails to be painted:
special overnight a8
I didn’t notice until now that the American Girl doll’s hand had slipped into this photo.
Both super creepy and oddly appropriate.

And much snuggling before the two of us crawled into my bed for the night:
special overnight a9
She doesn’t thrash around but does keep the bed warm. No complaints from the mama!

In the morning, I offered to do whatever Annie wanted for breakfast: head out to one of her favorite restaurants. Enjoy a hot, toasted bagel from Bruegger’s (we could even eat there instead of bringing it home – the luxury!). Snag a doughnut – or two! – from Dunkin’ Donuts.

Instead – say it with me – Annie wanted to stay home and fix me breakfast.

special overnight a10
What? Your seven year-old doesn’t routinely pipe out A (for, you know, Annie) and M (for MOTHASCRATCHA) pancakes and hearts and blobs circles over the wildly hot griddle?
Mine neither. Hence, why I am six inches away in this photo, to Annie’s great chagrin.

To my surprise, the pancakes were quite delicious (and a lovely departure from my usual breakfast of only fresh juice), and she and I had a delightful conversation while we devoured our meals.
special overnight a12

By the time Ella and Nick arrived home (where Nick rushed himself to Urgent Care for a wicked cough, poor fellow), the girls were more than ready to see one another. They played together nonstop all afternoon and into the night, and although they would never admit it out loud, it was absolutely clear that they had desperately missed each other.

New York is a pretty fascinating state. From subways to the museum to bubble teas in China Town, snowy walks to school to devilishly fun trampoline centers, it’s really got just about everything you could need. Or, at least, everything that we need.

Nick and I had been mildly concerned that Annie might have trouble with Ella going on this trip – missing school, getting to stay in a fancy hotel, seeing Grand Meg and Papa… But, not only was she not jealous, she was genuinely excited for Ella (with more than a little sister bothering thrown in for good measure).
girls' text
Conversation between the girls on Nick’s and my phones.
Such love…

Even more to my surprise, Annie wasn’t upset that Ella would be having fun in New York City – because she was having such a blast right here in Rochester. It’s hardly a mecca of entertainment and excitement, but between jumping on the trampolines, having the opportunity to take over meal prep and make it her own, painting her nails, and sleeping in Mommy and Daddy’s “big bed,” Annie was in absolute heaven.

As we were eating our dinner, Annie leaned over and said, “This has been an amazing day, Mama!” I had just started to agree with her when she interrupted me with a grin, saying, “And it’s not even over yet!”

Similarly, Eleanor had a total blast. From the museum to the steakhouse to the hotel room (where she could have happily spent the entire day; she and Nick both agreed was the most incredible room they’d ever seen), it was one big blur of happiness and fun — but the best part, by far, seemed to be sharing the day with her dad and especially her grandparents, just the three of them, something they haven’t had the opportunity to do in the seven years since Annie was born.

It seems that the feeling was mutual; Papa and Grand Meg were heading out of town themselves on Saturday morning, and arrived at the airport early (where Nick and Ella were waiting to board the plane back to Rochester) to savor a few extra minutes with their granddaughter. I know I just said it, but I mean it: we may not live close to our extended family, but that has not diminished the closeness of our relationships with them – and the time we do have together, whether it’s at a large family gathering or on a private day trip, is all the more special.

Both Ella and Annie agreed it was one of the best days of their lives. In turn, it was one of the best of Nick’s and mine. Having one-on-one time with your kiddo is so important, but can be so difficult – almost impossible, sometimes. Having an entire day of one-on-one time is priceless. I know that neither Nick nor I will forget this weekend with each of our girls; having Annie all to myself was really pretty damn fabulous.

Next year, when Annie turns eight and is able to join Nick on a trip, I’m sure they’ll have just as much of a blast. I, myself, am looking forward to a little one-on-one time with my big girl; now, we have some catching up to do.

I bet I can convince her to join me at a local restaurant. Or order pizza. Or just get a bagel.
If not, I know where the leftover Advent chocolates are stored, and I’m not afraid to get them.

All Systems Go

So, remember back when fall started and we were juggling new schedules and grieving the loss of Bill and Nick was traveling and I began substitute teaching and things got a little hairy for a while? No? It’s largely a blur for me, too.

But I do remember kind of, I don’t know, losing it during a visit with my therapist, frustrated that not only did we have a million balls in the air (and I suck at both sports and juggling), but also that the girls were struggling with all of the change. My therapist asked me what I thought I could do to help get things under control (not in an OMG you are such a mess way, but more in a literal way), and I told her that once I had a system for things – a way of keeping us organized, some checks and balances – it would get better.

Or at least we’d know what the hell was going on, when.

Annie, in particular, was growing agitated that every day was different than the one before. Did she have library? Was our babysitter coming today? Would Daddy miss bedtime because of an early hockey game? Did she have soccer practice? Would Mommy be gone at breakfast because she was subbing? Was dinner going to be before, during, or after Ella’s swim lesson? Did Ella even swim tonight?

Damn. Just typing that makes my head spin.

And she couldn’t even have a glass of wine at the end of the day. Or, say, for lunch. No wonder the kid was out of sorts.

In typical ADHD fashion, I hatched a plan the moment I left my therapist’s office and decided to put it into play that afternoon. Yes, it meant that the vacuuming wouldn’t get done and that our dinner might never get made, but we would be organized, damn it.

Home base would be the fridge, in part because it’s in a central location, and in part because the girls open the fridge doors, like, 238 times a day, so I knew they’d be facing the information over and over again.

What? This IS organized. Go with it.

Although we have a large wall calendar, it’s up high and the girls never check it, so I decided to put a monthly calendar above the ice dispenser, specifically tailored to the girls’ needs. Visits to the vet and oil changes and annual checkups for my lady parts? I’ll keep those to myself, thanks. Daddy’s early hockey games and Mommy’s subbing and the visit from a relative at the end of the month? Vital.

Feel free to click on any of these fabulous photos to see them larger.
Come on. You know you want to see the puppy up close.

Next, there’s the two week dry erase calendar, which is more detailed than the monthly view. This way, the girls can know, at a glance, if I’m teaching piano and a babysitter is coming, or if I’m teaching piano at home sans sitter, or if they need to gather their library books or should plan to stay after school for an activity.


Below this calendar are the girls’ weekly homework assignments as well as the monthly hot lunch calendar, which they check nightly to determine which days they’re buying and which they’re not. I don’t think they’ve missed a pizza Wednesday all year long.

Finally, away from the fridge, there’s the daily dry erase board – an idea I got here – which is kept by the girls’ backpacks and lets them know what they need to bring with them that day. systems2

Can you tell we live near Rochester? What gives it away?

Annie and Ella tell me what to write on the list each night, and then they’re responsible for packing their bags in the morning. While they both go down the list to see what they’ve got and what they don’t, only Annie actually crosses things off… but, ironically, she still occasionally forgets things. I don’t know anyone else in our family like that. *cough*


I’d love to say that this has eliminated frantic goings-to-school, but it totally hasn’t. There are still tears some days as we head out the door, because hair doesn’t fix itself, you know, and breakfast cannot magically teleport itself into hungry stomachs… but at least I know that the daily WHAT ELSE DID YOU NEED TO BRING?? craziness has been largely eliminated.

Boots on… bags packed… maybe we can sneak out the door without having a brush come anywhere near our heads…

We started this whole “system” thing back in October (ish), and it’s pretty much accomplished what I wanted it to: namely, I know what the hell is happening,  and when, and Annie feels like she’s got a sense of what each day looks like. Nearly every night around dinner, I’ll catch her standing in front of the fridge, muttering things like, “So, tomorrow I’ve got library… Looks like Daddy’s playing goalie again… HOLY COW WE’RE GOING TO MINNESOTA IN THREE DAYS!” She really seems to thrive with everything laid out so clearly in front of her, and although we’re going through enough dry erase markers to buy stock in Expo, I’m down with it.

Ella, however, didn’t really seem to care. Although she’s always been our kid who craves predictability, who struggles with change, and who absolutely cannot handle a surprise, she didn’t voice any opinions about the system. Yeah, I’ll see her rechecking the school lunch calendar from time to time (making sure that she’s really chosen the best options for the week), and she seems to peruse the dry erase checklist each morning, but like I said, she doesn’t mark anything off, and she doesn’t talk about it one way or another. So I wasn’t sure that she was even paying attention.

Because Ella really needs to know what to expect each day – as mentioned, homegirl cannot stand being surprised – I always make sure to remind her, casually, of anything I think might throw her for a bit of a loop. Sometimes, I’ll just work a reminder into conversation while we’re walking to school: “After Sammy picks you up from school, you can try one of our new snacks!” Other times, I’ll be more direct: “Don’t forget that I need to take yearbook photos tomorrow after school, so we’ll need to stay at the building for an extra twenty minutes.” Sometimes, she rolls her eyes at me, but she’s ultimately grateful to be in the know.

Last week, it was already well past bedtime when I remembered that I’d completely forgotten to tell Ella that I’d be pulling her from school the following day to take her to a doctor’s appointment. I was afraid that, in the hustle and bustle of the morning, I might also forget to tell her – and also, I know that she likes to know things like this as far in advance as possible – so I crept back into her room to supply her with this critical information.

Ella! I’m so sorry, but I forgot to tell you – you have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning…

“… at 10:30. I know.”

(She said this without lifting her head or even opening her eyes.)

Oh. Well then. Glad we got that straightened out. ‘Night.


Sooo… I guess she actually is looking at the kitchen calendar. Like, a lot.
Maybe we should buy that dry erase marker stock after all.

Where else would you go for a January vacation?

When we moved to Rochester in 2007, we knew what we would be gaining: a great job for Nick, a super-short commute, a very affordable cost of living, amazing schools, a wildly family-friendly community, a superb neighborhood, more time with my Grandma, and more snow than we could shake a stick at. We also knew acutely what we’d be giving up: living near family and friends. (Because we’re so awesome, we have since made more friends, but the family thing is probably never going to change.)

As a result of living near none of our parents, siblings, or extended family (save for my aforementioned stupendous Grandmother – hi, Phoofsy!), we do a lot of traveling and hosting-of-guests – averaging at least twelve visits a year, both here and there (and everywhere). We try to see everyone fairly equally, but sometimes that’s just not possible.

To whit: Nick’s mom (whom the girls call Gigi, rhyming with jiggy) and stepdad (whom the girls call Grandpa Ray, rhyming with Grandpa Jay), who live in Minnesota, kind of got the shaft in terms of visits over the past several years; we were seeing as much of Grandpa Bill (and GranMary) as we could – quite understandably, and we’re damn glad we did. But still… although they’ve never complained (or even mentioned it), Gigi and Grandpa Ray definitely got the short end of the visitation stick.

But wait! you might say. They could have come and visited you, instead! And yes, technically, that’s true. They’re certainly welcome, and they have visited us, indeed – but it’s not quite that simple. You see, in the fall of 2008, Gigi earned superhero status when she beat the (almost unbeatable) odds and survived a ruptured brain aneurysm. Yes, you read that right: she had an aneurysm. That ruptured. In her brain. And she kicked its ass.

The aneurysm did its share of ass-kicking too, however, causing Gigi some rather significant problems – including making it difficult to travel. Complicating things, Gigi has been battling Multiple Sclerosis for nearly fifteen years; her symptoms have worsened recently, and have effectively prevented her from being able to visit us and Nick’s sister (and her family) as often as we all would have liked.

When it became clear that Gigi and Grandpa Ray wouldn’t be able to head out to New York any time soon, it became equally clear that we needed to book a trip to Minnesota. The long weekend in January provided us with the perfect opportunity for a quick jaunt west, and so we found ourselves headed from one frozen, snowy suburb halfway across the country to another.

Come on. When you think, Where should we go in the dead of winter to escape all of this Rochester cold and snow? the Twin Cities are SO the first place that comes to mind.

Although the purpose of our visit was to spend time with Gigi and Grandpa Ray, Annie and Ella had another mission: to get to know their Aunt Emi’s fiancé, Matt, and decide whether or not they approved of their upcoming nuptials. I bet Emi and Matt are thrilled they asked the girls to be in the wedding.

Turns out, they needn’t have been concerned: Matt (who, by the way, is a freakin’ neurosurgeon. So he’s not smart. I can totally talk music theory circles around him, though, don’t worry) jumped right in and assumed his soon-to-be-uncle role. He carted the girls around on his shoulders, shared his sweet dance moves, watched kid movies, sprung for ice cream, and braved amusement park rides with nary a sigh. He was earning it, you guys.
jan mn visit1
Ready for lift-off at the Mall of America.

Not to be outdone, Gigi took her grandmother role equally seriously. Waking up early because her granddaughters were still on east coast time? Done. Smiling and laughing through lunch at a St. Paul restaurant, despite fighting wicked nausea from her MS medications? Absolutely. Resting in the afternoon so that she could trek to Emi and Matt’s downtown Minneapolis apartment for dinner on Saturday night, then playing an epic game of Go Fish with Annie and Matt, fighting through dizziness to see the cards? Her granddaughter asked her to play; of course, she would.

jan mn visit3
Getting clarification on Annie’s “rules,” which were ever-changing… which might explain why Annie won this round.

jan mn visit4
Come on! It’s not brain surgery!
Yes, I went there. For both of them. Awwww, snap.

Watching the girls with Grandpa Ray so that we could go with Emi and Matt (and also Molly and Molly’s sister, Katie) to a Wild game? Wouldn’t miss it. Braving the American Girl store in her wheelchair so that she and her sister could take the girls to lunch with their AG dolls? You better believe it.

Then finally, on Sunday night, searching through her sewing materials to find an adhesive backing that I could take home with me to sew up Annie’s hole-filled, most favorite silkie blanket, all the while apologizing that she didn’t feel well enough to actually fix the silkie herself… then holding the wall for balance so that she could ransack her fabric to locate an appropriate silk-like piece that I could bring back with us, admitting sadly that if she weren’t so nauseated, she could mend it in no time flat… then explaining that her medication often causes her to awaken super-early, so perhaps she could repair the silkie at 4 a.m. before our flight… then drawing herself up and visibly steeling herself and saying with determination, “No. I can cut these silk fabric patches myself. I’ll make them the right size and you can bring them home and iron them on – it’ll be simple”…? YES. I BEAT A DAMN BRAIN ANEURYSM AND THIS EFFING MS MEDICATION WILL NOT STOP ME FROM DOING THIS FOR MY GRANDDAUGHTER.

Except she didn’t say “damn” or “effing” or actually any of that, but the sentiment was there. And I know reading this will make her laugh. Hi, Karen!

… and then deciding, Screw it, I’m in, and not only cutting the silk patches and adhesive backing, but getting out the iron and the silkie and having everything ready to go to repair Annie’s damaged blanket… When Annie appeared, sobbing, from the bedroom, saying that she couldn’t go to sleep without her silkie, and she just had to have it back.

In spite of all of the superhuman effort she’d just put in to cut the fabric and the adhesive and get the iron ready to repair the blanket, Gigi simply said No problem, she understood perfectly, and handed Annie her silkie, who wiped her eyes with it, then trundled back to bed. The silk circles and adhesive backing were meticulously put in an envelope for me to take home so that I can repair the blanket at a later date. Gigi shook off her nausea once more to climb upstairs just in time to watch Downton Abbey with Grandpa Ray, making sure to get to bed early so that they could awaken at 5:30 a.m. on Martin Luther King day to say goodbye to us before we headed to the airport.

As I looked at the envelope containing the patches, the circles that Gigi had used sheer willpower to make, I was struck, almost physically, by the depth of love involved in their creation. We may not live near any of our extended family, but that hasn’t diminished our relationships with them; if anything, it makes the time we do spend with them all the more sweet. How incredibly lucky Annie and Ella are to have grandparents – from Gigi and Ray to GranMary and Grandpa Bill, Grama and Pops, and Papa and Grand Meg – who adore them so.

jan mn visit2

It was a marvelous visit. Even if we did go from one winter wonderland to another.

Oh – and the girls gave Matt two thumbs up. The wedding can go ahead as planned.
Thank God, because otherwise, the black and white (“formal”) Rainbow Loom bracelets that Ella has made for the bride and groom to wear on their wedding day might just go to waste. And that would truly be a tragedy.

* Gigi’s story – of her aneurysm and her battle with MS – are shared with her permission and blessing. Although she may change her mind in the future…

Safety First!

If you haven’t been on an airplane in a while, it’s likely that you have not recently examined the safety instructions in the seat back in front of you. Conversely, if you’re a frequent flier, you may have been on a plane so often that you feel like you’ve got this, so haven’t picked up that safety brochure in forever. And if you’re like 95% of the rest of the travelers on the plane, you’re listening to something through your headphones or talking to your seat mate or rooting through your carry-on for some Altoids or perusing the Sky Mall catalogue when the flight attendant is speaking, so it’s probable that the safety card has not made its way into your hands.

But I can fix that for you!

See, even though we fly a lot, and even though our kids can practically recite the safety procedures word-for-word, we still make them put away their iPads and books and actually look at the flight attendants when they’re speaking because, oh, I don’t know, it’s polite to look at someone when they’re talking to you (especially if they’ve asked for your attention). And because they’re giving you instructions about how to, like, save your life in case of an emergency. An emergency in the sky while you are not on the ground. And they’re not getting paid boatloads and other passengers treat them like crap just for doing their jobs and they don’t see their families for days at a time because they’re bringing Diet Cokes and miniature vodka bottles to the folks in row 24… So, anyway, we make the girls pay attention when the flight attendants give their spiel, or at least act like they’re paying attention.

But I digress.

Thankfully, even if you haven’t examined the safety brochure that’s nestled in the seat back in front of you (between the barf bag and Sky Mall and the in-flight magazine, plus whatever treasures were hidden there by the passengers before you), I have. And it is full of fascinating and critical information, let me tell you.

Better yet? Let me show you.

The airlines know that, unlike me, you’re not going to spend a whole lot of time poring over the emergency procedures – plus also, you might not be able to read very well or you might not speak English – so they’ve decided to make things easier for you by illustrating their instructions rather than writing them out. These illustrations can sometimes be a bit confusing, however, especially if you’re looking at them for the first time while in a descending spiral… so I’ve decided to help you out by providing some handy translations and explanations beforehand.



airplane safety rules1
That’s why jet bridges were invented. Use your head, man.

airplane safety rules11
Just reach behind your ankles and grab hold.

airplane safety rules15
That’s what she said.

Is that really her arm? Is that even a woman? Things are so confusing up in the air!

Plane going down? Water landing ahead? Just pull out your orangutan limbs and follow the arrows! No instructions necessary!

airplane safety rules12
Does it count as x-ray vision if you’re looking through something clear?

airplane safety rules24
I don’t know why there’s a colon after “OK”, but this is a fine view, let me tell you.

airplane safety rules23
She may have a totally androgynous hairstyle, but she can see RIGHT THROUGH this porthole.

airplane safety rules21
He looks like he’s taking a dump. Even his face is contorted.
I guess that’s what he gets for fastening that seat belt so low and tight across his lap. 

Airlines can only be inclusive and accepting up to a point.

airplane safety rules14
I’m not sure why this is a rule, because you might suffocate  your baby, but it appears to be true. Then again, this lady’s got a spare infant in the seat next to her, so maybe she’s doing something right. She’s also wearing very comfortable shoes. And a skirt from 1983. 

airplane safety rules3
In the case of a water “landing” (why don’t we just call a crash a crash, hm? Unless your plane is piloted by Captain Sully, you’re not “landing” on the water), a bald specter will appear and hand you a mysterious yellow package. 

airplane safety rules4
Once the vest is on, your baby may begin to kick his leg. See illustration 4.

airplane safety rules5
And violently flap his arms.
Not sure what he’s more upset about: the vest, the water “landing,” or his bizarre, widow’s peak hairstyle.

airplane safety rules6
You can soothe him by blowing gently in his ear. Your balding specter-ness will not bother him; he’s already pissed off.

airplane safety rules7
Your little Eddie Munster will just LOVE his floating light! LOOK HOW HAPPY HE IS!

airplane safety rules8
OMG, honey! She has no hair AND no legs!

airplane safety rules9
Peace out, yo. 

Embracing diversity… or a really disproportionately drawn three year-old?
Either way, secure your mask before helping others!

airplane safety rules10
She hasn’t been watching
Game of Thrones for nothing!

airplane safety rules13
The lady breastfeeding above could show this hussy a thing or two about shoes.

If you can’t have a little fun after a crash landing, you’re taking things too seriously.

airplane safety rules25
Is this really necessary? Don’t get me wrong – I’m about as anti-smoking as you can get – but if your plane has just landed anywhere other than the runway, and you’ve had to launch yourself down an inflatable slide to safety, I’m pretty sure that someone lighting up is not going to be your highest priority. But, hey, I don’t draw these pamphlets… I just translate them.

airplane safety rules16
This rule really applies to life in general, not just airplane safety. For all of you still carrying a flip phone, a pager, a portable DVD player, or a hand-held television… NO. Just no. 

airplane safety rules17
Come on! It’ll be a blast!

AND ALSO ROSE FROM TITANIC.airplane safety rules20
It all worked out for her in the end, didn’t it? YOU’LL BE FINE.


So, there you have it. If you find yourself in an emergency on a plane, you’ll know what to do. You’re welcome.

But still, do give the flight attendants your attention the next time you’re on a plane, okay? Or at least look in their general direction. When they’re down to their last Sprite Zero and they give it to you, you’ll be glad you did.

Like the corners of my mind

You think they forget. The don’t talk about it often, so you think they’re not thinking about it.

But then suddenly you’re rising over the clouds, spread out below you like rolling fields, and your oldest says that way off in the distance she can see Grandpa Bill. His house is there – fluffy, big like a castle – and he’s just chillin’ with Maddy and mommy’s grandpa, Great. It’s neat up above the clouds, closer to where he is.

After hearing this story while waiting for dinner in the C concourse, your youngest becomes uncharacteristically quiet. In a moment, she is leaning in close, and you don’t even realize that her face is wet with tears until she pulls you close to whisper, “We’re just not complete without Grandpa Bill here.”

And you understand that they do remember, after all. It is woven into the fabric of themselves, worn and frayed but making up their DNA, these people and pets they have loved and lost. Most of the time, they do not even mention them… But when the memory bursts forth like a sunbeam, they cannot stay quiet.

We are on our way to Minnesota to visit Gigi and Grandpa Ray, Aunt Emi and soon-to-be-Uncle Matt. It promises to be a fantastic weekend; we are excited and very much looking forward to it.

And if the trip there brings us closer to Bill and Maddy and Great, then so much the better for us all.



Throwback Thursday: Crazy Love

Just tonight, the girls were singing some of their old, favorite songs (while also asking me to put new ones on an iPad playlist for them), and I remarked that I vividly remembered some videos of them singing old, favorite songs of yore.

Back in 2008, when Ella had just turned three, one of the songs on Nick’s and my frequent-flier list was Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love”. I suppose it was only natural, then, that Ella would grow to love it, too.

new years day pensive
Just-turned-three and really feeling the colors.
She’s probably not wearing tight pants*, either.

* as seen earlier today on Facebook…

Ella, surely you have other pants you could wear to school. Your entire closet and dresser are full.
“But they’re not all right, mom.”

What makes them right?

“Well, they have to be like jeggings. You know, tight.”

Tight pants?

“That’s what every girl in 3rd grade wears. Leggings or jeggings or something like that.”

What if they’re not comfortable? What if they’re all dirty?

“They are comfortable, and that’s what washing machines are for. I could even wash them myself.”

How kind of you.

“I’m basically a tween now mom. These clothes are part of my identity.”

I don’t even want to think about what you just said.


annie hat
Just-turned-one and also really feeling the colors.
I don’t know if she’s even wearing pants.

So anyway – here’s Ella singing “Crazy Love”. We really did own a hair brush, and I even used it from time to time, but apparently the maybe-you’re-wearing-a-toupee look was all the rage

But, oh, the way her lips carefully form the word “love” each time. GAH!!
I cannot believe this girl is now nine. And finds her identity in tight pants.

All that glitters is a PAIN IN THE *$$

You never want to assume that your children are lying to you. I mean, when their toothbrushes aren’t wet and their breath could melt a refrigerator, yet they insist that they brushed their teeth, it’s pretty obvious that some fibbing is going on… But still, you’d like to think that your kid is the kind of kid who wants to tell you the truth, whose answers you can trust, rather than always jumping to the conclusion that everything out of their mouths is bullsh*t.

Well, there’s having faith in your kid – which can be a beautiful thing – and then there’s just plain stupidity. Our own girls fall somewhere in the middle of the lying continuum: telling the truth most of the time, but certainly not all; being just conscientious enough to spill the beans but cunning enough to practice some tale-telling; being afraid of the consequences of being caught in a lie but also being scared as hell to get in trouble for the original infraction. Aw, man, I love parenthood.

So, when I found a pile of glitter on one of my darling daughters’ bedroom floors (I shall refrain from naming her to afford her some modicum of privacy, but really, there are only two of them so your imagination can totally run wild), my first assumption was that it had been dumped there. I mean, this isn’t a strip club; glitter is not usually peppering our floors, except after art projects and the wearing of particularly “fancy” dress-up clothes, so it had to come from somewhere – namely, my little Darling.

Upon questioning, however, she insisted – absolutely insisted – that she had no idea how the glitter found its way onto her floor. Maybe a dog had knocked it over? Perhaps it had spilled out of a craft bag? Could it be that the tooth fairy left some behind? No matter how many times I tried to poke holes in my Darling’s reasoning, her denial remained ironclad: she did not put that glitter on her floor. No ma’am. No how.

Seeing that I was getting nowhere and I had no actual evidence that she’d been the glitter dumper, I decided to let it go. Maybe, in all of our post-Christmas comings and goings, the glitter really had just fallen to the floor somehow. And maybe, also, I shouldn’t be so quick to assume the worst of my Darling, but should instead take her at her word. No more Judgey McJudgerson. In fact, perhaps, in the past, she has felt compelled to lie because I have automatically found her guilty before trying her of the crime. New year, new leaf: I will believe in my children. Teach them well, and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Or something.

Monday was one heckuva day – nothing bad, really, just one of those days when your calendar is like a Jenga board, with all of the appointments and To-Dos fitting just so, lest the tower topple. It was in the fifteen minutes between my final piano lesson and Ella heading to swim practice that I first noticed the glitter in the living room. It didn’t seem like much – a small trail in the middle of the room – but it caught my eye, so I asked my Darling about it, the one whose floor still bore a pile of glitter (vacuuming her room was not amongst my Jenga pieces, thank you very much).

And I received the same response: Nope. Not her. She had no idea how the glitter had gotten on the living room floor. Was she sure? Yes, she was sure, damn it (except that she didn’t really say “damn it” because then this story would have a far different ending). And so I again began to doubt my parenting, again chastising myself for assuming the worse of my Darling – after all, the puppy had recently been upstairs. Maybe she’d gone into my Darling’s room and had brought a trail of glitter with her into the living room. I should blow it off, anyway – you know, and let the children’s laughter remind me how I used to be. A bit of glitter? How charming!

After swimming (which was really after two swimmings, because Ella forgot something vital at the pool and we had to go back again to retrieve it after dinner; those top Jenga pieces were tottering, let me tell you), as the kids were on their way upstairs to get ready for bed, I passed through the living room and noticed that there seemed to be more than just “a small trail” of glitter. At that moment, however, I didn’t have time to stop and examine it, much less clean it up, because of bedtime and lunch-packing and teeth-brush-monitoring (see above: saying teeth are clean when they are not) and reading and tucking in and laundry putting-away.

It was not until after the girls were snuggled into their beds and my laundry basket had been emptied and the lunches had been packed that I realized just how damn much glitter was in the living room. It was everywhere: spread across both rugs, on the coffee table, on the reclining chair, wrapped up in a blanket (which I didn’t know contained glitter until I picked it up to refold it and flung microscopic shimmer across the couch). It was as though a unicorn had thrown up violently all over the room. An angry, particularly sparkle-tastic unicorn.

Because the dogs had been stuck in the kitchen for most of the day (see above: Jenga-busy), I had wanted to let them out and have the run of the living room for the rest of the evening, but there was no way I could do that with the amount of glitter on the floor. Indeed, there was so much glitter, I couldn’t walk across the floor without dragging pieces of it with me. There was absolutely no choice: I’d have to vacuum.

Jenga tower: down.

As I ran the vacuum over… and over… and over every square inch of the living room, I contemplated my Darling’s insistence that she had nothing to do with this mess. On the one hand, it seemed absolutely impossible that the glitter found its way into every corner of the living room without some kind of divine intervention. And yet… She had looked me in the eye — more than once — and stated in the strongest possible terms that she was not responsible for the explosion. Could she really lie that deliberately? MY Darling?

After a good twenty minutes or so of vacuuming, I was satisfied that I’d picked up the vast majority of the glitter. Crossing the room to unplug the machine, however, I was nearly blinded by the light reflecting off the floor: glitter – still! – everywhere.

And then I saw what was happening: the pieces of glitter were so small, they were not being adequately picked up by the vacuum. Compounding the problem was the fact that what makes glitter, well, glittery is that it shimmers only some of the time, depending on how the light hits it. So, while vacuuming, the floor looked like this:
Clean. Shimmer-free. Lovely.

But when the light hit the floor from another angle, it looked like this:
And this is AFTER twenty minutes of vacuuming.

After twenty more minutes, I was through. Yes, it still looks like a Pride parade went through, but we’re pretty strong gay marriage supporters in this house, so I guess that comes with the territory. After putting my Jenga tower back together and completing the rest of my 493 To-Do items, I crashed, not giving the sparkle a second thought.

In the morning, there was the usual mad rush to get off to school, so I didn’t have the opportunity to ask my Darling if, perhaps, there was anything more she’d like to tell me about the abundance of glitter in the living room – if, perhaps, her memory had failed her just the teensiest of bits. It wasn’t until the kids were due home from school that I was tidying up another area of the living room – one that was seemingly untouched by the shimmer explosion – that I found them: the caps to two vials of glitter.

Exhibit C: the evidence. Shiny, impossible-to-vacuum evidence.

My friends, Jambi may be an awesome service dog-in-training, but I can assure you that none of us has ever taught her how to pry open the lids of glitter bottles, toss the contents all over the living room, and then leave the caps lying on a table that’s taller than she is. No, this had to have been done by a human, and the most likely suspect was the aforementioned, I-swear-it-wasn’t-me Darling. And to think I’d spent all that time cleaning… It seems they can take away my dignity, damn it, Whitney.

At bedtime, I sat her down, prepared to have a really difficult conversation about the glitter, fully prepared for her to push back with all her might and continue to insist she had nothing to do with it. Or, as Nick put it, to do what it took to “break her.” I opened by asking her if she had anything more to tell me about the glitter in the living room. Before she could even answer, I decided to pull out the big guns: I told her that I’d found the caps, and would she care to change her story?

Well, little Miss may have been able to lie straight to my face when I had nothing tying her to the crime, but when faced with cold, hard facts, she crumbled faster than my Jenga tower. After ‘fessing up and apologizing for lying (I’ll take my therapy money back, thanks), she still seemed unsure as to why flinging glitter around the living room was such a big deal. My spending the better portion of an hour cleaning it up didn’t seem to bother her, nor did the fact that we’ll be discovering glitter in our food for the next two months. Actually, that may have made the whole episode seem more appealing. Explaining to her that it was bad for the dogs – dangerous, even – to have that much glitter around also did not seem to move her.

And so I did what any noble parent would do: I lied.

You know why else it’s a problem?


Because if you continue spilling glitter all over the floor, magicians won’t have any left for their acts.

*long pause, followed by a statement made in a wide-eyed whisper*
“I’ve never seen a magician use glitter.”

That’s probably because you and your friends are using it all up.

*solemn nodding* “You’re right. I won’t ever do that again.”

I’m glad we can agree on this.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, may truly be the greatest love of all.
On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t throw away the therapy money just yet.

The Real Housewives of Rochester

Okay, I’ll just put it out there: I’ve never seen a single Real Housewives episode. In fact, I’ve never even seen a moment of an episode, not from Atlanta, nor Orange County, nor Miami, nor wherever else these so-called “housewives” live. I have, however, read People magazine (and the occasional Us Weekly) enough to know that these ladies are Just Like Us! except there’s a lot more plastic surgery involved. And cat fights. And heels that make me topple over just by looking at them.

When I was at the Y the other day, a group of moms and I were chatting about how our winter breaks had gone, about our ever-so-darling children, and about what was on our collective to-do lists for the week. We were amused to discover – despite the our kids’  differing ages and genders – just how similar our experiences had been. One of them joked that we’d make for a wild reality show – The Real Housewives* of (Suburban) Rochester.

* the majority of my local mom friends, like myself, do have jobs outside the home, and if you actually called any of us a “housewife,” we’d deck you with a shovel. But this is art, people. Work with me.

While I may not have seen an actual Real Housewives episode, I have watched my fair share of reality television (especially cooking shows), and I’ve seen more than a handful of episodes of Melrose Place and Desperate Housewives, so I’m confident that I have an excellent idea of what it takes to produce a successful show of this nature.

Real Housewives of (Suburban) Rochester.
We’ll call ourselves the Real HORz. It will be fantastic.


RHOR: Episode One

The opening credits are a delightful montage of local families – just like us! – enjoying the highlights of the region. The kids go for a spin on the Strong Museum carousel and giggle with awe as a butterfly lands on their fingers in the Butterfly Garden. Parents cheer their offspring on from the sidelines at Little League, lacrosse, and soccer games, and the audience chortles at how many layers the parents are wearing for these scrimmages on a thirty-degree October Saturday. People rocket down a sledding hill (snow!), followed by a quick cut to everyone cuddling together, steaming mugs of hot chocolate in their hands. Spectators beam from their seats while watching a performance by the Philharmonic, or perhaps Disney on Ice.

The music swells as fans cheer on a hit at a Red Wings game (while the camera zooms in to avoid showing that the stadium is only 25% full), and then pans to a crash! as players bump into one another during a hockey game on the Erie Canal (snow!). The seasons change, and now families walk (hand in hand, naturally) and bike and tote gorgeously groomed dogs along the canal path; fireworks burst overhead for a Fourth of July celebration. Children jump into a lake as parents watch adoringly from the dock. Next, cut to apple picking and going for a hayride… which morphs into a sleigh ride (snow!) through a powder-white field. People smile as they haggle over prices at the Public Market, and women clink their glasses together on a visit to a local winery. (Note: despite the wineries and Niagara Falls being equidistant from Rochester, there will be no Falls coverage in our montage; that’s Buffalo. We don’t do Buffalo.) The opening credits will, of course, end with a panoramic shot of Wegmans.

As our Real HORz day begins, Real HOR1’s kids are really in a tizzy: her oldest has left a mitten at school and her middle child accidentally wore a classmate’s boots home. Will there be outdoor recess today?? A quick check of the local weather shows that the wind chills will be in the single digits – well above zero! – and it’s not supposed to snow today, so yes, of course there will be outdoor recess. The Littles help themselves to breakfast (Wegmans cereal) while Real HOR1 dons yoga pants and boots to help her husband shovel the driveway before he leaves for work; his commute will take him approximately 12 minutes and he doesn’t want to be late. Real HOR1 drops off her youngest at the coop preschool around the corner, then takes off for the Y in her minivan.

The scene changes; Real HOR2 has successfully seen her kids off to school in their North Face jackets and is making breakfast out of their leftover toast. She takes a conference call in the kitchen, sliding a towel around the tiles with her feet in order to “clean up” the mud and melted snow. Satisfied that the floor is at least mostly dry, Real HOR2 finishes her call and jumps in her car (minivan!) to head to the Y. After the workout, she and the other Real HORz stand in the lobby and change out of their sneakers and back into their boots, discussing how nice it was when the sun came out yesterday for fifteen straight minutes.

We follow Real HOR3 as she returns to her car (minivan!) and brushes off the snow, then heads back home to let the dogs out and take a shower. She slops up the kitchen floor with a towel, then gets cleaned up and gets dressed, putting on fresh boots. She finds some Rainbow Loom bracelets to match her outfit, then realizes that she needs to grab some snacks for the Boy Scout meeting later that week, so she hightails it to Wegmans. The employees in the produce department know her by name (after all, she was just here two days ago); she laments how frequently she’s been to the store this week to Real HOR4, whom she’s bumped into by the canned goods. They bond over purchasing ice melt and organic juice boxes (lest the other Boy Scout parents doubt their dedication to keeping their kids healthy).

A friend has suggested that she and Real HOR4 meet for lunch, but there’s a road crew repairing the potholes – which causes delays – so it takes a godforsaken twenty minutes to get there in her Suburban. (Insert several frames of footage of drivers in the left lane refusing to turn left even though they have plenty of room, and other drivers refusing to go around them on the right. Viewers in NYC and Boston are warned that they may suffer coronaries while watching this ten-second segment.) Once seated, they discuss how many times their kids have listened to the Frozen soundtrack in the past thirty-six hours, administer a stern admonishment of Common Core, and grouse about how long it took to help their children with their math homework last night. Real HOR4 confesses that, even though she’s trying to shed pounds from the holidays, she couldn’t resist Abbott’s custard yesterday; her friend murmurs her support – an Abbotts craving is impossible to ignore. As they’re finishing up, the friend looks outside and notices that it’s snowing quite heavily (the audience will already have known this because the clever, baiting producers will have cut away to footage of the snow coming down during lunch, with the friends blissfully unaware – the drama!); Real HOR4 remarks that she didn’t think it was supposed to snow today.

Real HOR1 brushes the snow off the van and stops by the ad agency to go through her emails, then picks up her youngest from the coop and makes it home just in time to wipe up the kitchen floor before the bus drops the older kids off from school. There are hugs and how was your day?s and arguments as the children disagree about who actually left the Old Navy jacket and one snow boot in the middle of the front hall. The madness continues during snack (an organic apple and Cheez Its, because no one is perfect, for God’s sake) and Real HOR1 decides that they need to blow off steam outside, but the children whine that a) it’s not good packing snow, b) they’ve already gone sledding in the neighbors’ yard three times this week, and c) their snow clothes are still wet from recess. Real HOR1 reminds them that they have extra snow pants in their closet – this is Rochester, after all.

In a house around the corner, we meet Real HOR3’s children, one of whom is in tears because he forgot it was Team Spirit day at school, so he was the only classmate not in a Buffalo Bills or Syracuse Orange jersey. In a moment of temporary insanity, Real HOR3 offers to take him and his sister to an indoor play place, and there is an animated discussion over which of the 836 overcrowded sweaty bacteria-infested super fun options will be best. The conclusion has just been reached and they are just about to stuff themselves into the car when Real HOR3 realizes that it’s snowed enough in the past 90 minutes to need to shovel the driveway again. Donning her parka (second-hand from a local shop; people give away fabulous things here) and boots, she grabs the damn shovel as the kids are just about to begin wrestling the dogs… when one of them fires up Let it Go on the iPad, and suddenly they’re racing around the front yard – no hats or gloves, L.L. Bean coats unzipped – screeching about how the cold never bothered them anyway. The cameraman eggs them on, and the scene ends with a plop of snow thrown directly at the lens.

Post-commercial (likely for a car dealership or a personal injury attorney), we see that the salt crews have already been out, so the roads aren’t too bad, but it seems that half of the Rochester population has had the same idea because the jump club is packed. No worries, though – the kids race off to bounce themselves into sweat-covered oblivion as Real HOR3 finds Real HOR2 amongst several other parents in the sitting area, and they open the bottles of water they’d brought for their kids while squatting at a table to wait it out until their darlings have exhausted themselves or someone is bleeding. They lean conspiratorially into the table as one of the other parents shows off a new starburst bracelet – she made it herself last night after the kids went to bed, and if they knew she’d used their Loom, they’d be furious! Another parent asks if anyone knew it was supposed to snow today, and Real HOR2’s daughter emerges, a sweaty mess, and asks for a sip from her water bottle. Real HOR2 looks sheepishly at her child as she hands over the (now empty) bottle.

We cut to Real HOR4, who has just dropped off her daughter at gymnastics and is now taking her son to swim lessons. He moans that he’s hungry, and she fishes out some Oreos from an old package in the driver’s side of the van to tide him over until they can dig into the pulled pork that’s been cooking in the crock pot all day (thanks, Pinterest!). After her son’s lesson, his hair is still wet as they head to the car and it freezes slightly to his head; the camera zooms in to show us the ice crystals just as the commercial begins.

Real HOR1’s preschooler squeals with displeasure after he shrugs off his Target jacket and then steps — sock-footed — into a pile of snow by the front door. Real HOR1 mops up the mess with a towel, then fields a call from her husband, who informs her that he needs to pick up a prescription at Wegmans, and should he grab dinner? Real HOR1 is visibly relieved, shouting, OMG, YES, anything from the prepared foods section, and then sits down to help her middle child with her math homework. They are still at it forty-five minutes later when her husband comes home, rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes in hand, and they hiss about why can’t kids just learn their damn times tables the old-fashioned way anymore.

Her husband enjoys it, but Real HOR4’s children aren’t crazy about the pulled pork – her son requests a Zweigle’s hot dog instead – and she explains that this isn’t a restaurant; they get what they get and they don’t get upset. Thirty minutes before bed, Real HOR4’s daughter remembers that the Family Snowman – a project that they’ve had two weeks to work on and will require glue and scraps of fabric and maybe some dried pasta – is due tomorrow. The scene ends with Real HOR4 pouring herself a glass of wine as her husband opens some Elmer’s.

We officially meet Real HOR2’s children after they’ve emerged from the shower (to wipe off the grime they accumulated while bouncing). Her youngest pretends to be Olaf, the snowman from Frozen, and melts into a puddle, draping her towel around her, while her sister drops blue Rainbow Loom rubber bands on her from above — it’s summer, Mom, so it’s raining! Once they’ve cleaned up the bands and hung their towels, it’s time to pack their snow gear into a reusable Wegmans bag to take it to school tomorrow. Real HOR2’s oldest daughter reminds her mom that the school secretary said “snow clothes look alike; they need to be labeled!” and Real HOR2 sighs as she finds a Sharpie and writes her daughter’s initials inside her boots.

The show ends with Real HOR3 sipping a glass of Pinot and checking out her profile on She tugs the Rainbow Loom bracelets off her wrist as she opens the email from the Boy Scout troop leader — there’s been a mix-up, and Real HOR3 needs to bring drinks for twelve boys, not just eight. She lets the dogs out one last time – it’s snowing again? Was it supposed to snow today? – and scootches a towel along the kitchen floor to clean up the mud. She takes off her boots before climbing the stairs, nearly tripping over her son’s hockey stick. One of her kids has let the toilet paper run out without replacing the roll, and Real HOR3 is dismayed to discover that there is only one extra roll.

But wait, that’s okay… She needs to go to Wegman’s tomorrow for more juice boxes anyway.

End credits.


The rest of season 1 is basically a repeat of the first episode, but it takes us through two more months of winter, mud season, and spring (will Real HOR1’s preschooler enjoy his first trip to the Lilac Festival??), before culminating in a riveting finale that features the Real HORz debating the merits of the Garbage Plate while attending book club.

Although I’ve never envisioned myself as good reality material, I think I may have been wrong. Real Housewives of (Suburban) Rochester is gritty and, well, real, but also exceedingly family-friendly. There’s very little Botox (boring) and lots of shoveling (also boring, but as-yet-unseen on other Real Housewives episodes). We could absolutely rule the airwaves, probably taking over the primetime slots in several key markets.

If anybody knows an agent, please pass my info along. Thanks.