Category Archives: cleaning


I was trapped in my house for three days this week waiting on various repairpersons. The short version of the story is that home ownership is a bitch. The slightly longer version is that our upstairs furnace died on Sunday night just as we got the first real arctic blast of the season. After a freezing our butts off all Sunday night, it was fixed. It broke again on Monday night, and we froze again. It was fixed again on Tuesday, and then it broke again, but the difference that time was that it was an inferno. Our furnace was possessed. At one point in the night, the thermostat read 88 degrees. Eighty-eight flipping degrees!

I was like Bill Murray in “Scrooged,” except instead of seeing my sad Christmas future, I saw my hot-flashing, night-sweating, menopausal destiny, and it. was. bleak. I thought I was dying. When I woke my husband to inform him of the situation, he said, “What do you want me to do?” He’s lucky he’s not dead.

It’s fixed for real now, and it cost, like, a billion dollars, which is awesome because spending a billion dollars is exactly what we hoped to do two weeks after Christmas, but I digress.

As a stay-at-home parent, I savor the hours my kids are at school. If you’re new here at The Runaway Mama, you might think I spend that precious time meditating, organizing family photos, folding laundry, journaling, and preparing healthy meals, but the rest of you know that’s just silly. When the boys are at school, I do anything and everything I can’t or don’t want to do with them in tow. I exercise. I go to the bank and post office. I go to Target without ending up in the Lego aisle. I go grocery shopping without little hands tossing Little Bites in my shopping cart. I write. I shower. I put gas in the car. I take a ballet class. I get haircuts and wax my eyebrows. I volunteer at school and go to doctor’s appointments. I sporadically have lunch with a friend.

Pacing around my house is not generally on my 9am-3pm to-do list. Call me a martyr (or the best damn multitasker on the planet), but I empty and fill the dishwasher while making school lunches and toasting frozen pancakes at seven o’clock in the morning. I fold laundry and empty and fill the dishwasher again while overseeing (not helping with) homework at four o’clock in the afternoon. I cook dinner while…actually, cooking dinner is a total crapshoot. It’s as hit or miss as my boys brushing their teeth.

When I am home, though, I do pace. I walk from room to room shifting piles of stuff around, picking up dirty socks, hunting down someone’s iPod or iPad or Kindle Fire or Fitbit charger, fetching icy water, and forgetting why I went up or down the stairs only to remember after I walk back down or up the stairs. I’m terrible at relaxing, especially at home. On a positive note, if housewalking were an Olympic sport, I’d be a medal contender. Seriously, I do not sit down. I wrote this entire post standing up. No wonder I’m exhausted every night!

In my experience, when a [fill in the blank] repair company gives me a service window of 9am-1pm, you can bet your bottom dollar that the guy is going to ring my doorbell at 12:59. As such, this week’s endless furnace fail forced me to keep myself busy at home. Here are some of the chores and projects I tackled during Heatgate:

  1. I undecorated the Christmas tree and brought all Christmas decorations to the basement.
  2. I shook crumbs out of every keyboard in the house and wiped microwave popcorn grease off of every mouse and laptop touchpad.
  3. I flossed my teeth.
  4. I paid bills.
  5. I caught up on the laundry.
  6. I filed all of our 2015 paperwork, including real estate documents, bills, invoices, and bank, tax, and health insurance statements.
  7. I hung three framed photos on the walls.
  8. I emptied and filled the dishwasher approximately 1,000 times.
  9. I made two doctor’s appointments.
  10. I submitted a health insurance claim. (True story!)
  11. I folded a fitted sheet, which I pray will never, ever happen again.
  12. I sorted the dog’s impressive (and smelly) rawhide bone collection.
  13. I organized my gift wrap supplies.
  14. I cleaned out the refrigerator.
  15. I joined a 12-step program for moms who hoard children’s socks. Hello, my name is Jen and I have two children and 6,000 pairs of children’s socks.
  16. I ordered new sneakers online for Dylan. I also ordered him two new books. They’re the ones where you get to choose the outcome of the story. My fingers are crossed that he likes them because he enjoys reading about as much as I enjoy folding fitted sheets.
  17. I prepared returns for West Elm and Bed Bath & Beyond. If I ever leave the house, I will make said returns.
  18. I wrote and published a blog post (while standing up) about my newfound infatuation with “Fixer Upper.”
  19. I cleared the kitchen table. Twice!
  20. I sorted the mail.
  21. I cleaned out my email inbox.
  22. I made wild salmon, kale, and quinoa burgers from scratch.
  23. I got crafty. Anxiety is a tricky beast. Some days it causes excessive SkinnyPop consumption. Other days, it results in The Key Jar (thanks Momastery for the inspiration).


I painted the crap out of that Mason jar. And yes, that’s the kitchen table that I cleared twice.

p.s. The kids love it!

  1. I made a Happiness Jar (thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert for the inspiration). Actually, it’s a Happiness Hurricane Vase, but that doesn’t sound as poetic. As well as the boys have coped with our move and a new school, new friends, new weather, and new everything, it would be dishonest for me to say the transition has been seamless. My emotional creatures have good days and bad days, and sometimes I want to scream into a pillow from the negativity that oozes from my little darlings. We’re going to jot down one thing that makes us happy each day and drop the notes in the jar because it’s worth trying, and I’ll do anything to help my kids find happiness. You get what you give in this glorious universe, and we’re in desperate need of some positivity around here.


When my house arrest was finally over, I wrote the word “heat” on a little yellow slip of paper and dropped it in the Happiness Jar, because the night sweats were behind me (for now…gulp), and I could finally get out of the house and be productive again.


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Filed under chores, cleaning

The Things We Keep

You guys. I love love LOVE telling funny stories. Nothing makes me happier than to tell a good poop story or document reckless shopaholic behavior. Motherhood is freakin’ hilarious, and the funny bits are what I cherish the most, but motherhood is also sometimes confusing, lonely, gritty, messy, and sad.

When I’m not writing about the crappy (pun intended) aspects of a colonoscopy or toys that make me positively loony, you might just find me writing about my dying dog, my son’s sensory processing disorder, my fear of death, or my long ago molar pregnancy. It happens. I can’t control it. It’s me. It’s my journey. It’s my story.

Today, I’m proud (so proud that I have tears in my eyes) to introduce you to my first ever essay published on (Holy crap!). It’s a piece about a not-so-fabulous chapter of my story, but it’s also about cleaning shit out, and cleaning almost always feels good. Except when I’m cleaning pee on the floor next to the toilet. That kind of cleaning never feels good.

So here it is:


Thank you to the moon and back for reading AND SHARING!   Please, oh please, share this link!  In doing so, you will be a part of a collective shout from the rooftop that shit happens. That motherhood is a climb. That sometimes we start off on the wrong foot, trip in the middle, or face-plant near the end. But, we pick ourselves up, we carry on, and we find the courage to let go of the things that hold us back and keep the things set us free.

What are the things you’ve kept (or thrown away)? I love comments. Leave them here or on

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Filed under cleaning, molar pregnancy, motherhood, pregnancy, vacation

How Does It Feel To Want?

So, the house was tented.




Been there.  Done that.

Except for the fact that I haven’t stopped moving for three weeks (pre-tent prep and packing, tent survival at the Residence Inn, and post-tent unpacking), it was no biggie.  In fact, on the morning we handed the keys to Armando from Terminix, I spotted a few ants in the kitchen and was like, See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!

If there was a silver lining at all to the Great Tenting of 2104 (besides that my house is termite-free…for now), it was that I got to Clean Shit Out (CSO).  I tackled three bathrooms, five medicine cabinets, the entire kitchen and pantry, and the laundry room.  As nutty as it was, it was epic stress relief for a Mama who, on occasion, calms her inner Crazy by organizing the cabinet under the kitchen sink (I did that, too, by the way).

Filling a dozen garbage bags with unnecessary “stuff” in the course of a weekend was like a giant Ommmmmm from deep inside my core.  The most satisfying moment of Operation CSO, though, had to be when I emptied the refrigerator the night before the tent went up.  During the week prior, we ate what we could, salvaged what still had a manufacturer’s seal, which wasn’t much, and tossed the rest.  The morning we relinquished our keys, she was nearly empty.  Gloriously empty.

I hadn’t seen her like that since we first bought her.  I wiped clean the shelves and drawers.  I scrubbed the dried up drips and dribbles that had collected over the years.  I even found a knife stuck in an unidentified sticky brown substance underneath the cheese drawer.  I had no idea we were missing a knife!   I marveled at the bright, empty space inside the refrigerator and freezer, which had also been hiding a vast amount of long-forgotten and expired treasures.  The bare space soothed me.

Editor’s note: During Operation CSO, I defrosted and ate my matzo ball soup from Rosh Hashana.  It was like saving family pictures from a fire.

When I pack for a trip and put exactly what I need in my toiletry bag and exactly what I need in my jewelry case and exactly what I need in my suitcase (plus a few extra things because a Mama needs choices!), and exactly what I need in my carry-on bag, I almost always think to myself, Why do I have so much other stuff?  THIS is all I need.  THIS is enough.

When the tent came off and we moved back in, we first unpacked all of the exactly-what-we-needed items we brought to the hotel.  Then, we unpacked the shopping bags filled with miscellaneous items we hauled with us, like the last few rolls of paper towels, hand soap, vitamins, Kefir, snacks, juice boxes, and other supplies for school lunches.  The cabinets, pantry, and refrigerator began to fill up again.  Next, I went to Publix and then I went to Publix and Whole Foods and then I went to Publix again, and the house filled up even more.  Finally, we picked up the dozen boxes and plastic bins (and our pet fish) we stored at a friend’s house, and I don’t know where to put any of it!  All the more, we seem to be managing just fine without any of it!

Saturday night at dinner (we had a babysitter, a necessary expense after the Great Tenting of 2014), I told Mike I wanted to spend less money on stuff we didn’t need so we could buy window treatments.  Wine was consumed, so it seemed like an odd rant, but I what I meant was:  (1) We spend too much money on stuff for our kids and ourselves and on food for our monster refrigerator that we lose sight of, which inevitably expires and/or grows mold and is thrown out before we have a chance to eat it, (2) I do want new window treatments.  Woven shades would be lovely, and (3) I want new window treatments because investing in our home – the center of our family – matters.  Party in the Tub doesn’t (although Riley might disagree).

God help me, I want to start my (financial) diet tomorrow.  I do.  I want to stop rushing.  I want to stop packing and unpacking.  I want to unplug.  I want to sit down more.  I want to marvel at my bright, empty refrigerator (and woven window shades).  I want to throw out more and bring in less.  I want to run out of hangers.  I want to stop going to Publix and Whole Foods and Publix all over again.  I so badly want to live with less and I want my kids to want the same, which doesn’t seem humanly possible, and, yes, I’m aware that wanting less is still wanting.

When I was a little girl and I would whine and groan and plead and cry for stuff, my dad would say, “How does it feel to want?”  For a long while, I didn’t understand his question because I thought wanting felt fantastic.  Perhaps it was because a lot of the time I got what I wanted.  (This, by the way, is not a judgment on my parents.  They did a darn good job raising my sister and me, and they should pat themselves on the back.  And they should move to Florida so I can drop the kids off at their house every Saturday night, but I digress.)

Where was I?  Right.  “How does it feel to want?”  Eventually, I figured it out.  I know now that wanting feels empty, or bad, not to be confused with an empty refrigerator, which feels really good.


Filed under anxiety, cleaning, Crazy Mama, food