As my daughter’s 12 birthday approached, I asked her, “What should we do to celebrate? Curl up in the closet and sob about how fast you’re growing up?”
“No, not that,” she said. “Something more fun. With less crying.”
So we decided there would be some kind of birthday outing – not in a closet.
I was thinking she’d invite a couple friends.
She was thinking of including anyone she had ever met ever.
We compromised somewhere in between.
So what should we do?
A family friend (Ruby!) recommended a mall scavenger hunt. I immediately liked the idea because it wasn’t inside my house.
So we gathered a bunch of Dylan’s friends at the mall on a Saturday, broke them into groups (each with an adult leader) and sent them scurrying through the mall with a list of things to accomplish. Here it is….
Dylan’s Birthday Scavenger Hunt:
-Someone from the group take a photo with a mannequin (5 points). 10 points if you’re in a store window w/ the mannequin.
-Get a stranger to sing the group Happy Birthday (5 points)
-Get a perfume sample (10 points)
-3 members of the team spell out YMCA with a stranger. Take a photo. (10 points)
-Find a mall or other kind of brochure (10 points)
-Take a photo of someone in your group talking on their phone in a phone store. (5 points)
-Get a ketchup packet. (5 points)
-Get a job application from a restaurant or store (15 points)
-Photo of a team member modeling a wacky outfit (5 points)
-Photo of a team member modeling the biggest hat you can find (5 points)
-Photo of a team member modeling the smallest hat you can find (5 points)
-A picture of a team member with high heels on (5 points)
-Photo of a team member with a sales person (10 points)
-Find out the most expensive item in the Brookstone store (10 points)
-Pretend to sleep on the fluffiest thing you can find in the mall. Take a photo. (5 points)
I gave the kids 45 minutes to finish. The winning team was done in 25. Kids are fast. It must be all that Pokémon Go training. Next time, I will definitely add more to the list (and you can find tons of ideas on Pinterest).
Afterward, we had pizza and cake. And then I handed our party goers Starbucks gift cards and thanked them for attending.
It really was a fun idea. My house stayed neat. No one cried in any closets. Mall security didn’t give us a hard time.
In fact, a security guy even sang Dylan Happy Birthday. What more does a 12 year old want?
Dylan is telling me, “an iPhone 7.”
But if you can’t have an iPhone 7, a mall security guy singing you Happy Birthday is totally what you want.
Hey, it’s 3 year old Cash! What up people?! My mom is letting me do some guest blogging and by that I mean, “She’s in the shower and she thinks I’m watching ‘Paw Patrol.'”
But honestly, as long as I’m still in the house when she gets out, she considers herself a very successful parent. You should see the bolt locks they have to keep me from leaving the compound. My goodness, can’t a kid get out for a nice exercise walk and some solitude now and then?
My sister Dylan just had a birthday. She turned 12 or 2 – honestly I have no idea. I do know that she kept opening up gifts and I kept opening up nothing. My parents would throw me the empty boxes like I’m going to be jazzed about that. I’m not one year old guys! I know there is nothing in the box.
And my mom was all like – I can’t believe she’s 12. They grow up too fast. Why do adults always say that? They are like broken records. And another question, what the hell is a record?
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I do some cray cray stuff. Here I’ll provide links. Here’s one. And another. Yup, another. And one more. My mom recently said to dad, “I think Cash is getting a little less nutso.” Now that was obviously my cue to ramp it up a bit. And potty training was the perfect opportunity.
My mother is really into this potty training thing. I would say my interest is somewhere between “I could care less” and “I’m good with this pull up til high school.”
So with complete disregard for my privacy, my mom finally resorted to taking off the pull up whenever we are home in the hopes I’ll finally try out that toilet contraption I hear so much about. And it seemed like a good idea until I pooped on the floor.
Yup, pooped on the floor. And not like a petite toddler poop. Like a Great Dane poop.
My siblings were all flabbergasted and my mom was like “Let me get my camera and document this for your dad.” I should probably be grateful she didn’t stream it live on Facebook. Although who cares if a bunch of old people see my epic poop.
By the way, there is no quicker way to get your mom to put your pull up back on then pooping on the floor.
Well, I knew I had to immediately redeem myself so my parents would keep me around so I learned how to raise my eyebrows. Big crowd pleaser around here.
Cute, right? They pretty much forgot about that poop thing. Anyway, I gotta run. Need to focus on picking the right outfit for my bitmoji. There are so many choices! And obviously, the right outfit is everything. xo Cash
This anniversary makes my heart hurt.
It is such a dark day that comes along at one of the most beautiful times of year.
Below is a piece (slightly updated) that I wrote a few years ago.
And here we are again.
I remember that day and all its horrors so vividly. I remember the endless aching that followed as I and everyone else futilely tried to make sense of something so violent and cruel and of course, completely senseless.
I remember pouring over the “New York Times’ Portraits of Grief” where the paper honored each and every victim with poignant, beautiful details of their lives.
And for some reason, Michele Coyle-Eulau always stuck with me. I didn’t know her. Only what I read. She had three sons, 2, 5 and 7 years-old.
Matthew, Mark and Eric. The children who were waiting for her to come home that day.
I wasn’t even a mom yet. But those ages. Those boys. I couldn’t stop thinking about them.
Michele was a working mom, who juggled a full and hectic schedule, including a three day a week job as a systems analyst. She worked one day from home and two days on the 96th floor of Tower One. The World Trade Center.
She was 38 years-old.
At night her husband would yell out to her, “Michelle, it’s 11 o’clock! Could you just come to bed?”
And the piece ended like this…
What took her so long to get to bed? Packing lunches, making grocery lists, arranging play dates. “I never understood,” her husband said. “Now I do.”
Since 9-11, I’ve been thinking of Michele and her family.
I’m absolutely sure that I always will.
And not a day goes by that I don’t hear the roar of an engine, look up and notice a plane flying high above.
I always look up. And I always think of that day and the nearly 3,000 victims who were robbed of their lives.
And the ones who died from inhaling toxic fumes at ground zero.
And the ones who gave their lives fighting overseas.
Every single day.
There is no forgetting.
For the past few weeks, Facebook has been a steady stream of back to school pics. Children marching into the future without even a glance back. And every year, we parents wonder, “HOW CAN OUR KIDS BE THIS OLD?”
You’d think we’d eventually get used to it but we somehow we don’t.
Kids are forever changing and maybe it’s time for the parents to change too.
For awhile, I’ve been a bit stuck. I was living in a town that didn’t fit me, I desperately missed my friends and the energy of New York, I had grown weary of the daily responsibilities of parenthood (laundry, dishes, clean up, repeat) and I felt isolated by my career (freelance writing).
My world needed to change or I was going to dye my hair, get a neck tattoo and hitchhike to Europe. Can you hitchhike to Europe? Well, I would find out.
I think midlife can come with a lot of stuck. As our children forge onto new frontiers, we watch from the sidelines. Which is wonderful. But people (even parents) need more than sidelines to thrive.
It’s not a clear path how you get unstuck in life. But I have found you take a bunch of steps (that usually involve fear) until you feel a little better. And that’s when you know you’re moving in the right direction.
In the midst of my stuck, a friend said to me, why don’t you go back to TV reporting? I was a TV reporter before I had kids. I had a million reasons why it wouldn’t work. But I decided to ignore them all. Because I truly did miss the energy and pace of a newsroom.
And I know how to be a TV reporter. I have no clue how to hitchhike to Europe.
I emailed my former boss to see if I could come back as a freelance reporter when I was up North for a month this summer. He said yes.
At this point, I had no idea how I would possibly work out childcare. I have five children. They would all be up North with me. But my plan was – say yes. And then figure out how to make it happen.
Through a combination of camp, before care, after care, babysitters and the help of amazing grandparents, I was able to do a bit of freelance TV reporting this summer. And yes, when I got home from the station, I had to make 5 lunches, fold laundry and get kids to bed. But it didn’t matter. I felt so normal again.
Donald Trump Rally, Fairfield, CT
The pursuit of happiness requires a certain boldness. If you stay on the same path, you will get the same results. Or you say, yes. It’s kind of like that “lean in” thing. Except you are leaning into your true self.
I got a call the other day from BBC radio. They wanted to interview me about baby name regret. I get interviewed on this topic from time to time because I’ve written about it for The Washington Post, Alpha Mom and some other outlets. What time was the BBC interview? Smack in the middle of my kids’ bingo night.
I said yes anyway.
I’d figure out the details later.
I sent my older kids into bingo night and brought my 3 year old to the car. That kid pulled out every single item of my wallet and purse while I blabbered in my American accent about baby name regret.
It all worked out. And the next day I did an interview for BBC Ulster in Northern Ireland. Same topic. And I still had that American accent. But thankfully, my 3 year old was at preschool.
Just forge ahead.
We all get overwhelmed by the enormity of a goal. But it’s the small steps that actually get you there. So you make a promise to yourself. Make one small step today or this week towards what you think might bring you more happiness, more fulfillment. Closer to your true self.
Our children are marching into the future. Let’s march with them.
It’s really important to find the right place for yourself in the world. Whether it’s the city. The country. The suburbs. Europe. The midwest. New York City. On a boat in the middle of the Atlantic. Wherever. The place where you feel the most like yourself.
Because you really know it when you aren’t there. And it doesn’t matter how many people love Europe. Or the midwest. Or New York City. Or that boat in the middle of the Atlantic. If it isn’t your place. It’s not your place.
It’s like dating.
Remember that guy or girl you once dated who was ridiculously perfect on paper. Attractive. Smart. Educated. Awesome family. Great hair. I mean, you couldn’t do better. Except you didn’t feel that thing. They just didn’t do it for you. And you couldn’t exactly figure out why. They just weren’t it. And you moved on.
Well, living somewhere is a lot like that. It either fits or it doesn’t.
For the past three years I’ve been living in a town that people love. And I mean LOVE. Beautiful neighborhoods, great schools, no traffic… a South Florida Pleasantville.
It’s perfect for a lot of people. Except I didn’t feel at home there.
As someone who lived many years in New York City, I need more noise, more grit, more life. I need more stores. And restaurant choices. And to be closer to the water. It was just too quiet. With my flock of children, I can handle suburban living. But this was too isolated for me.
I lived there three years. That’s like dating the wrong guy for three years.
This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this kind of thing in my life. My first TV reporting job was in Great Falls, Montana. Everyone kept talking about going hiking and I was like – where is there a sushi place? Turned out, sushi was three hours away in Missoula. And I made that drive. Often. (Does driving burn as many calories as hiking?)
In that situation, I couldn’t move. I came for the TV job and I stayed for the length of my contract. And that’s often the case for people.
Maybe you want to move but you can’t sell your house. Or moving doesn’t make sense financially. Or your partner’s job requires you to be in a certain location. Maybe you don’t want the kids to change schools. Or a million other reasons.
But eventually you need to try to get where you feel more like yourself. Even if today you’re just taking a few baby steps in that direction.
Because the flip side can be a bit soul crushing.
Like I once lived in this depressing basement apartment. The place really bummed me out. I was starting to wonder if melancholy was my new personality when I realized, I just had to not live in a basement apartment. So I moved. And soon, I felt like myself again.
Not along ago, we left that perfect-on-paper town and moved to a small city by the ocean. We were lucky that our kids attend a charter school so we could move without them switching schools. And that we’re close enough to our former town that we can still keep our friends.
Suddenly, in this new place, I feel more like myself again.
Is this our forever place? I have no idea. But I know it’s a place that I fit in. A place that feels a lot more like home.