‘Miscellaneous’ Category

  1. That’s All, Folks! (For Now, Anyway)

    August 16, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    As regular readers may have noticed, I’ve been posting less frequently these days. Part of that is due to limited time and shifting priorities, but it’s also due to my kids getting older and becoming more their own people. I don’t ever want to violate their privacy by posting something they would be unhappy about seeing online someday.

    I’m also finding more and more joy these days in living a less public life, if that makes any sense. Please don’t get me wrong – I have no delusions of grandeur about my little mom blog! – but the more I pull back from social media, the happier I am. All blogs have a finite life span, and I am increasingly feeling like Mommy Tries has run its course.

    So while I reserve the right to change my mind and post again someday, for now I’m wrapping things up. The site itself is not going anywhere, so I hope you enjoy the archives and the page on How To Start a Mom Blog, if that’s of interest to you.

    Until we meet again, thanks so much for your guest posts, comments, support, and readership over the years! You guys are the best and have made this a tremendously fun ride for me.

  2. DIY Despair

    August 31, 2015 by Jennifer Carsen

    Is it just me, or does there come a moment in every DIY room painting project when it just seems like the worst idea ever?

    More poorly conceived than that time you tried to color your own hair, or your ill-fated first marriage to the Texan who never laughed, or even your decision to skip childbirth classes and just wing it, sans epidural or clue, through the 14 hours of labor it took to deliver your first child (because how hard could it be?).

    When the bedroom you’re painting – solidly “medium” sized at best, according to all of the paint calculators, two cans’ worth at most, with its modest single door and two windows – swells to the size of the entrance hall at Versailles?

    When the room – the vivid red of an Andalusian sunset; a color you yourself would never have picked and a color whose intensity spurred your irresistible compulsion to paint over it ASAP – resists every coat of concealing primer like a living, fighting thing?

    When it dawns on you that this particular retina-burning shade of red probably originated from the limited-edition Sherman-Williams “screw-you scarlet” collection? When you realize there is not enough concealing primer in the world to erase the muscle memory of your thousands of roller passes back and forth over those mocking crimson walls?

    When professional painters suddenly strike you, along with police officers and child care professionals, as some of the most underpaid and underappreciated members of our society? When you would give your cramped right arm to have the job done right now in even a somewhat satisfactory way?

    When you actually start to ponder leaving the streaky, drippy, half-red/half-white room exactly as is and calling it a triumph of gutsy decorating panache?

    Or is it just me?

  3. Not a Funny Post Today

    September 11, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    Today, of course, is the 13th anniversary of September 11. Other than taking a moment to remember the horror and loss of that day, I won’t write about it here; that ground has already been covered so thoroughly – and well – by people far more eloquent than I am.

    But I have been thinking about a brief exchange I had earlier this week with someone who’s been out of my life for a long time – someone for whom I once cared deeply and treated shabbily. I am not ashamed of much in my life, but this particular situation is an exception (though anyone who’s ever seen me dance at a wedding may reasonably feel I should be ashamed a little more often).

    In any event, I recently found out that this guy’s mom – still a relatively young woman and someone I had gotten to know during my time with him – had passed away.

    I debated for a long time about whether to reach out to him with condolences. Things had, as you’ve probably gathered, ended badly between us (100% my fault), and I didn’t know whether my sudden reappearance in his life might just be rubbing salt in an old wound at a particularly inopportune time.

    (This is not to overstate my perceived importance in his current life, which I estimate as something below that of a gnat buzzing around his living room. I’m reasonably certain, however, that if I ever do cross his mind he’s not flooded with warm fuzzies.)

    Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should say something, so I bit the bullet and sent him an email with my brief but sincere condolences. I thought it quite likely that I’d hear nothing back, but I did. He appreciated my reaching out. He also said he was grateful that he had nothing left unsaid with his mom.

    Our exchange ends here, I think, but his point is a very apt one: If you’ve got something to say to someone, say it. Even if you’re not sure they want to hear it. Even if it doesn’t seem to be the best time, or if you don’t feel you’re the best person to do so. Even if you think you might get hung up on…or roundly ignored. Even if you feel silly.

    Just say it. You never know when you might not get another chance.

  4. Mommy Tries Featured on Classroom Comedy Site

    July 17, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    If you attended Gilford Elementary School back in the 1980s, or even if you didn’t, you may enjoy this short write-up of an interview I recently did with Dressler Parsons of Student-Tutor.com:

    You Can’t Fight City Hall

    (And Doug, wherever you are, I’m truly sorry – what kind of teacher encourages a 5th grader to impeach a classmate??)

  5. 100 Things I’ve Learned In 40 Years

    November 29, 2013 by Jennifer Carsen

    Today is my 40th birthday – woo-hoo! It’s definitely a Big Round Number day that gets you to thinking.

    I’m now about halfway through my life, if I am healthy and lucky enough to get another 40+ years, and I’ve had more than my fair share of blessings so far.

    Here are some things I’ve learned in these first 40, for whatever it’s worth – some of these ideas are mine, but many (especially the really profound ones) come from people far wiser than me.

    Fashion & Beauty

    1. Some women can pull off high heels without feeling ridiculous or looking like they’re in imminent danger of toppling over. I am not one of these women.

    2. A haircut that looks good only when it’s professionally styled is not a good haircut.

    3. The worse a moisturizer smells, the better it works. Bag Balm and non-cherry Carmex, I’m talking to you.

    4. I will always dress just marginally better than the small-town, flannel-clad college student I was back in the mid-1990s. This is why I work at home. (Also, I reek of Bag Balm and Carmex.)

    5. There comes a time when you accept that you will never again be on the cutting edge of fashion – or, in my case, that you never even came remotely close.


    6. Parenting can be really hard. Having parented, on the other hand, as blogger Glennon Melton notes, is tremendously satisfying.

    7. Don’t be excessively careful with your kids, or with your life generally. As some wise, long-departed person once put it, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is for.”

    8. Hearing about the injury, illness, or death of someone else’s child will hit you in a deep, visceral pit of your stomach that you didn’t even know you had before you had kids.

    9. Folding baby clothes is a waste of time. We’re talking about people who routinely poop and vomit on themselves. Toss those onesies in a drawer and blindly grab as needed.

    10. People always say that nobody ever tells you how hard it is to raise kids. They actually do tell you, all the time – through their words and actions, in the barrels of coffee they drink, and in the weariness around their eyes. They never stop telling you, in fact.

    But you just aren’t in a position to get it until you have kids yourself. (It’s kind of like the difference between being in the first-class cabin en route to the Bahamas, casually skimming a magazine article about root canals…and sitting in the oral surgeon’s chair as he’s coming at you with the Novocaine.)

    11. Kids are hard, yes – and two kids (unfairly) are way more than twice as hard as one. But the joys are stratospheric.

    12. Nothing kills off any lingering traces of self-consciousness and/or vanity more effectively than parenthood. Once Larry, the hospital’s IT guy, has seen your boobs during a lactation consult, all bets are off.

    13. Parenting doesn’t actually get easier as the kids get older – just different.

    14. Sleep deprivation makes everything feel a million times worse than it is. Knowing this doesn’t, of course, allow you to get more sleep. But sometimes it keeps you from jumping off a bridge.

    15. Elmo isn’t nearly as annoying as I once feared. Dora, however, is much, much worse than I expected. (And don’t get me started on Caillou.)

    16. The moment you enter the crucible of parenthood, you instantly share a great deal of common ground with everyone else who’s ever been there, too. You find yourself deeply engrossed in conversation, for hours, with people you previously would have had trouble making a single canapé’s worth of small talk with at a cocktail party.

    17. Poop is far from the worst thing that can come out of your kid. You pretty quickly learn that anything other than voluminous amounts of blood is A-OK.

    18. You have no earthly concept of how much your parents love you – or how much you exhausted and exasperated them – until you have kids of your own.

    19. Baby snot is the stickiest substance on the face of the earth, bar none.

    20. Just when you find something – a routine, a shortcut, whatever – that works for your family, the kids change (or you do) and you’re back to square 1. There’s never true mastery, which is what makes parenting the crazy funhouse ride it is.

    21. Happy parents = happy kids.

    22. The only thing in life that you cannot undo is having children. This is not to say don’t have them – far from it – but don’t take it lightly.

    23. Your kids will come to value what you value – so it pays to be extremely careful about what you model for them.

    24. As much as schedules permit, let tired babies sleep as much as they want to.

    25. Teach your kids to be smart and kind and independent. Most of all, teach them to be responsible for the decisions they make. The world is overfull of people who are overfull of excuses.

    26. When your child (who still cannot officially swim) is invited to a pool party, wear something you’d be comfortable getting fully immersed in on short notice – note that this includes shoes.

    Other People

    27. Everybody has their stuff – oftentimes the people who initially seem the most pulled together are, in fact, the ones most in need of multiple carts for all of their baggage. This is comforting, in much the same way as envisioning your audience in their underwear when you’re giving a speech is.

    28. Listen – really, really listen – to people. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to do…but worth it every single time.

    29. The people who knew you when you were growing up (before you became adept at concealing your truest self) will always know the real you – even if you go decades without talking to them.

    30. Beware of people who don’t know what they want but think they do. They will hurt you, even though they don’t mean to.

    31. Life becomes a million times easier when you accept that other people just don’t view the world the way you do – and they never will.

    32. Keeping score in life will always make you unhappy, even if you’re theoretically winning.

    33. The very smartest people in the world aren’t afraid to admit what they don’t know. You can’t learn anything new if you already think you know it all. (Took me way too long to internalize this one, alas.)

    34. The smartest person in the room is never the one who’s doing the most talking.

    35. Being smart in the ways that truly matter in life has zero correlation with where (or whether) someone went to college.

    36. People can change, but most of the time they just aren’t going to.

    37. Everyone always make time for what’s most important to them – look at how they spend their time, and you’ll be able to figure out what it is. If they don’t have time for you, pay attention to that.

    38. People almost always mean well. Even the judgmental nutjobs.

    39. Don’t take things personally – it’s rarely actually about you.

    40. People aren’t thinking about you nearly as much as you think (or wish, or fear) they are.

    41. You can tell a lot about a person by how he or she behaves in a restaurant.

    Love & Marriage

    42. You will never, ever truly understand what’s going on inside someone else’s marriage, no matter how well you know either or both of the people in it.

    43. Marry the right person, and everything else in life just falls into place so much easier. Marry the wrong person, and nothing will ever feel 100% right – no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise.

    44. Don’t marry anyone you wouldn’t want your kids to grow up to be just like (this is true whether or not you have any intention of having kids).

    45. Marry someone you can laugh with.

    46. Do not marry someone who says, “That’s funny” instead of actually laughing. Take my word for it: It’s far more entertaining as a Seinfeld episode than when it’s your life.

    Goals & Success

    47. If you don’t try, you’ll never fail – but you’ll never win, either. Put yourself out there and see what happens.

    48. Most of the time, your best is more than enough.

    49. You can have it all – just not all at once. Ecclesiastes (and The Byrds) had it right; there is a season for everything.

    50. Consistently doing what you say you’ll do, and hitting your deadlines, will set you apart from well over 99% of the people on this planet (in both your personal and professional life). Sad but true.

    51. Trust your gut. It will never, ever lead you astray. But ignoring it will. Note that rationalizing your decision to duck out of something because you’re just plain scared is your brain’s doing, not your gut’s. Your gut knows better.

    52. Remember: Whatever it is you’re trying to do, people far stupider than you have successfully managed it. I take great comfort in this fact when it comes to parenting.

    53. If you have a dream, it does not go on the bucket list. It goes on the to-do list. (Thanks to Jennifer Lawler for this one. She’s right.)

    54. The timing and circumstances will never be perfect. Do it anyway.

    55. There is joy in watching anyone who’s truly good at, and invested in, what they’re doing.

    56. You can make excuses, or you can have what you want. You generally can’t have both.

    57. Very little in life that’s worth having comes easy – though, ironically, realizing the truth of this makes everything a little bit easier.

    58. If you focus on looking at things from the other person’s perspective – what he or she really wants, needs, and values – it’s hard to go too far wrong.

    59. You can’t edit a blank page, in writing or in life. Just get started and keep making adjustments (and correcting typos) as you go.


    60. It doesn’t matter where you’re flying, or where on the airplane you’re sitting – the amazing views are always on the other side of the plane (Exception: When you’re sitting over a wing that completely obscures your view of the ground).

    61. Keep your passport up to date. Because you never know.

    62. Don’t be afraid to get to the airport a little early. Something always comes up (and, in the immortal words of Marx Carsen, my paternal grandfather, “I can sit there as well as I can sit here”).

    63. Take your kids places when they’re young. It’s rarely convenient, and often incredibly messy, but it’s the best way to get them comfortable with new experiences and new people.

    64. Always pack binder clips, earplugs, a small sewing kit, and an old-school alarm clock.

    65. Take a minute to help the old lady who’s struggling with her bag or looking lost and confused. She’s probably somebody’s mom. And, someday, she may be you. (At the very least, don’t mow her down in your haste to make your connection.)


    66. Anybody can come to a party – but real friends are the ones who are there for you even when it’s not particularly fun or convenient to do so. Hang onto these people.

    67. Don’t mistake electronic contact for in-person quality time. Both have their place, but one can’t replace the other.

    Keeping House

    68. Your house should be just clean enough that you wouldn’t be totally mortified if a friend dropped by unexpectedly.

    69. Whoever cares more will always wind up doing most of the housework. I go back and forth on whether or not this is fair, but it’s undeniably true.


    70. Unless you are extremely crafty or just a glutton for punishment, avoid Pinterest. It will just make you feel bad. How come I didn’t think to make pointillist Santas using multicolored Pop Rocks? What the hell have I been doing with my time?

    71. Find a place you really love to live.

    72. Forgive yourself for anything you did more than 20 years ago. Most crimes, including ones you can actually go to jail for, don’t even have a statute of limitations that long.

    73. Don’t multitask beyond your ability to do so. It just enables you to do more things badly. (For me, the extent of this ability goes no further than sometimes – sometimes – being able to listen to the radio while I’m driving.)

    74. “With everything, there is something.” – Wanda Carsen

    75. Getting defensive never helps anything. When you can fight the near-universal impulse to do so, you will always learn a lot.

    76. Whatever it is, even if you think it’s unforgettable, write it down. You will forget. If you have kids, the forgetting often happens even before you can locate a shard of crayon to write with.

    77. Don’t let yourself get trapped in a bad job or a bad marriage – either will break your spirit. It may feel scary or even incomprehensible to contemplate leaving, but once you’re out you will look back and wonder why the heck you didn’t leave sooner.

    78. Do things at off-times, when possible. The toy store at 10 a.m. on a random Tuesday is a far kinder place than it is at 6 p.m. on December 24th.

    79. Back up your computer regularly – before you experience the disaster that is a blue-screen loss of everything you’ve been working on for the last two years. Cloud-based storage is your friend.

    80. Lost socks will always resurface, but usually only when it’s too late to do you any good.

    81. Anytime you find yourself thinking, “Maybe it will just work itself out” – it won’t.

    82. Make decisions as soon as you have sufficient information, and don’t change them without a good reason. It’s hard to tell people “no,” but it’s much worse to string them along for a while and give them false hope before doing so.

    83.Whatever your age, be grateful for it – there are so many people who would have given anything to have reached that number.


    84. Life is far too short for fake food. (And who even came up with the idea of fat-free half-and-half? What is in those halves?)

    85. Salad is not a meal.

    86. Unless an actual, bona fide medical doctor has diagnosed you with celiac disease, eat bread. With real butter.

    87. At least twice a year, “Ice cream!” should be the answer to the question, “What’s for dinner?”

    88. For some reason, chocolate chip cookies and mashed potatoes always taste better when someone else makes them for you.

    89. I’ve never understood when people say, “It’s too hot to eat.” Those people must live on the surface of the sun.

    Integrity & Manners

    90. Always do the right thing – even if no one is watching, and even if (especially if) your lawyer would advise otherwise.

    91. Chronic lateness, failing to properly acknowledge gifts and kindnesses, and paying more attention to your phone than the people around you are all still really rude – despite how common they’ve all become.

    92. If you’re not willing or able to tip well, then you should not be eating out.

    93. On a related note, don’t forget to leave a tip for the housekeeping staff at the hotel. Their job is harder, and grosser, than you could possibly imagine.

    94. Respect authority, but don’t be afraid to (respectfully) question it. Sometimes there’s a reason for things that you don’t know about – and sometimes people just make mistakes.

    95. When you borrow something, return it. And, on the flip side, don’t ever loan anyone anything you truly need or expect to get back. This includes money.

    96. There’s enough to go around – there always is. Be generous with your knowledge, your time, and your stuff.

    97. Apologize quickly and sincerely for your mistakes. Note that any apology with a “but” in it doesn’t count.

    98. When you admire someone, or something they’ve done, tell them – even if you don’t know them all that well. It may mean more to them than you could ever know.

    99. Learn to become good with names, even if it doesn’t come naturally to you. It means a lot to people – even those among us whose first names are more common than dandelions.

    100. It’s important to be smart. It’s even more important to be kind.

  6. Taking the Bar Exam, Mom-Style

    March 11, 2013 by Jennifer Carsen

    Two weeks ago, I took the New Hampshire bar exam. Why, you may ask? It’s a reasonable question.

    It’s a long story, but the short version is that I had an offer several months back to become part of a thriving local law practice, which I wound up reluctantly turning down; the commute was just too long.

    I am admitted to practice in Illinois (where, unhelpfully, I no longer live), but I’ve been out of active practice for so long that the only way to get back in here in New Hampshire is by re-taking the bar exam.

    Currently, I have no immediate plans to start practicing law again, but the job offer had landed me squarely in bar-exam-study mode, and it just seemed to make sense to go ahead and take the damn thing already. As Winston Churchill famously said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

    Which is how I wound up in our state’s capital in the middle of a snowstorm for a few days the last week of February with a pile of freshly sharpened #2 pencils. It was, to put it mildly, a very different experience than taking the bar exam in Chicago as a brand-new law school graduate back in 1999:

    Bar prep then: I am 25 years old and spend my days studying the tiniest minutiae of every conceivable area of testable law, and my nights at Chicago’s finest bars and restaurants. The Great Big Law Firm at which I have an offer is paying me handsomely to devote myself full-time to my studies for two months. I know everything cold, backwards and forwards.

    Bar prep now: I am pushing 40 and skim outlines for broad concepts during breaks at my full-time job and when my kids are sleeping. I glean the general gist, more or less, of what I need to know. My nightlife consists of two-for-$12 bottles of red wine and attempting to stay up past 8:30.


    Bar nerves then: The bar exam is the single biggest thing in my life. I am a bundle of nerves and sleep poorly for several days before, during, and after the test.

    Bar nerves now: My children are the single biggest thing in my life – and far more physically and mentally challenging than anything you can study for. The prospect of filling in 200 little circles on a standardized test now holds no particular terrors for me. I sleep poorly only because that’s what moms do.


    The day before the test, then: A frantic flurry of flashcards, mnemonics, and prayers.

    The day before the test, now: A trip to the pediatrician with my six-month-old in response to a pinkeye scare at daycare (diagnosis: negative. My eyes are actually far more red and goopy than Nicholas’s, but we’ll deal with that later).


    My fellow test-takers, then: Competition, all of them.

    My fellow test-takers, now: Those poor stressed-out kids! Resist the urge to hug the girl at the end of my row, who has bags under her eyes the size of Cleveland.


    Test fatigue then: By the end of the second day, I am a puddle of mush, physically and mentally.

    Test fatigue now: Having spent two nights in a quiet hotel room away from my children, I am more rested than I’ve been in months. By the end of the second day, I feel ready to scale a mountain.


    Test conditions then: Two days in a completely silent room is both stressful and unnerving.

    Test conditions now: Two days in a completely silent room is delightful. Wonder if perhaps I should have signed up for California’s three-day bar exam instead.


    Test conditions then (cont’d): Slightly annoyed at the requirement that a proctor come stand over my test every time I need to get up and go to the bathroom.

    Test conditions now (cont’d): Am simply happy that the test proctor, unlike Lorelei, does not insist on coming inside the stall with me and being in charge of the flushing.

    Update, 4/26/13: I passed!

  7. And The Winner of the Scary Mommy Book Giveaway…

    April 21, 2012 by Jennifer Carsen

    Is Ashley Boucher! Thanks so much to all who entered – Ashley, I will get the book to you next week.

  8. This Is Why People Hate Lawyers

    March 16, 2012 by Jennifer Carsen

    Below is a portion of the actual disclaimer found on Lorelei’s swim diapers:

    CAUTION: Like most clothing, pants can burn. Keep children away from any source of flame…Do not expect swimpants to prevent the transmission of diseases.

    I guess this means the end of my plan to send Lorelei through a raging kerosene-fueled inferno, followed by a refreshing dip in Lake Cholera, wearing only her Li’l Swimmies and a smile. Back to the drawing board.

  9. No-Dinner Tuesdays? Horrors!

    March 6, 2012 by Jennifer Carsen

    I just returned from a mid-day meeting at Lorelei’s daycare (we’re planning a 20th anniversary celebration for the school in June; should be fun).

    One of the committee members, a teacher, ate a salad during the meeting. She mentioned that her family’s schedule is such that “I don’t get to eat dinner on Tuesdays.” She said this casually, in a way I might say, e.g., “I hear it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.”

    But having a day of the week where you regularly don’t get to eat dinner? I was, to put it mildly, horrified. I was doubly horrified that her lunch of choice on this no-dinner Tuesday was a salad.

    I have always firmly maintained that a salad does not a meal make, no matter how much meat or cheese or whatnot you adorn it with. Throw all that stuff between two thick pieces of bread, with a slice of Swiss, and maybe – maybe – you’re onto something there.

    My lunch would never consist of just a salad. And, especially if there were a night I knew I wasn’t going to eat dinner, lunch would be something more along the lines of an entire roast chicken. With mashed potatoes.

    When I got home from the meeting, I made myself a tuna melt and tried to remember the times in my life I’ve skipped dinner. I am embarrassed to admit I can’t come up with any. The day my lung collapsed, I still ate dinner after I came back from the ER (I don’t remember what it was, but it sure as hell wasn’t a salad).

    Even as my water was actively breaking the night before Lorelei was born, I distinctly remember trying to talk Eric into ordering Chinese food. “Even if we have to go to the hospital, we can leave a note and money on the door, and you can come back and pick up the food later on.” I wish I could write this off as the delusional rantings of a woman in the early stages of labor, but, sadly, I’m like this pretty much all the time.

    Whatever extracurricular activities Lorelei and the Chickpea eventually sign up for, we won’t be doing anything that necessitates no-dinner Tuesdays for Mommy. (Even if it means smuggling a contraband Hot Pocket into a little league game, a school play, or a flute recital.)

  10. Das Boot

    February 28, 2012 by Jennifer Carsen

    The menagerie sets forth in the S/S Diaper Pail Lid.