Where are We Going to Live?

I think one thing we can all agree ranks fairly high on the stress-o-meter is the buying and selling of houses.  Both Pippin and I have sold homes before, and high stress has always been a given. Even when we were late getting out of the house during the winning bidder’s showing, they said to us as we exited, embarrassed: so sorry for the stress. 
So we decided this time we were going to try to do it differently: stress free.  I invite you along for the ride.
Last Friday we closed on the sale of the home we have shared for the past five years.  It was nothing special – really only one real bedroom and one bath. We essentially shape-shifted the rest, turning the living room into a shared bedroom for the two youngest girls, and coaxing a few more out of the large basement.  The market is booming in Portland, and we sold in the first weekend.  Now we have less than a month to get out.

True to form, we have no idea where we are moving.  I should be nervous as hell, cause I’m not that chill about the unknown,  but I’m not….yet.  Pippin and I had a conversation in advance and agreed that it could either be stressful or stress-free—that the road would be the same on the way out and the choice would be ours if we wanted it to be enjoyable. He makes a good point—but it’s not easy to just switch to that mindset.

To be honest, It takes great effort to push off the fear that keeps trying to creep its way in.  I am forcing myself into mind over matter mode, because if I don’t there will be a guaranteed meltdown by yours truly, which I just don’t have time for. In addition, and ssshhhh…we haven’t told the kids, but our vacation might need to be delayed.  Living stress free doesn’t come without compromise.  Anyhoo…I decided it’s time to start the search.

That’s step one.  But if we really are serious about purchasing the lot we’ve had our eyes on, we oughta start doing the research about home building in Portland.   At this rate, I’m concerned that we won’t even have time to build.  In any event, we need a Plan B.  I know enough that we aren’t rolling all our new cash into a house rental with no equity.

Of course I know that building a home is expensive, but I still have faith in our collective resourcefulness.  Portland is currently experiencing such a boom, there’s nothing remotely in our price range. I’m convinced we can build something far more space-efficient and have exactly what we want.
It’s a pleasant change telling my habitual free-ranging stress to take a seat. I’m going to join forces with Pippin’s unbridled enthusiasm for this up coming year. So this morning as Pippin fantasized about finally having a garage and a shop to work out of,  I decided to join in and imagine what it would feel like to have enough space for everyone, and everyone’s accumulated life-stuff.
How lovely to be able to imagine spreading out a little more. For now, at least, our world is wide open.
Deliberately Stress-Free,
So Called Mom


Me Time Part 2: Stay in Shape

The toughest thing about being a mom – or at least the thing that my friends and I complain most about – is staying in shape. There’s no time; it’s too hard to get to the gym or yoga studio – or I waste money because I never go; there’s no privacy. I’m here to argue that it’s so important for your sanity, that you need to make time. It’s not an option to do nothing. What follows is my simple fix.

I have four things I try to rotate on a regular basis (and I’m not suggesting you try all four, but just for options):  yoga, dance, strength training, and things for flexibility or stretching.

My rule of thumb is simplify!  I do most of my exercises in my bedroom. I wear as little as possible (so I can see my muscles at work), add some music and let it rip. It is me time with the aim of being disrupted as little as possible.  Of course, this rarely happens, but as we say in yoga, it helps me to stay “On the mat” – which means stay focused.  I used to stop what I was doing when they burst through the door, but I have learned to keep going and they either camp out on my bed and watch or even join in.


I use a blank wall for balance exercises and my dresser like a ballet barre, and the small space around my bed for everything else. Sometimes I focus on resistance training basics – you know, those exercises we all used to hate (and still do!)—I do as many sit-ups as my abs can handle, 10 pushups and about 120 leg lifts and lunges on each side. We have a pull up bar installed in our bedroom doorway, and I do 6 pull ups.  Of course, butt exercises are a must.

Always push yourself – easy to say; hard to do. But try to always increase the reps.  When you do pushups, start with ten and add one more every other day.   The same for plies and planks and any other exercise in your routine. Mix it up.  And most importantly, breathe. If you are holding a difficult pose, picture it as one of life’s challenges.  Picture the air intake enveloping the muscle group you’re working on and use it to breathe out as a stronger woman.

Remember to use your workout time as your time. Let your kids see you taking care of yourself, there is no need to hide behind a locked door or stow them in childcare at the gym all the time. My kids see me dance in the kitchen when I’m putting dishes away. I read vogue while sitting in pigeon pose. When you integrate simple activity like this into your daily routine, and stagger it throughout the day, you give your metabolism and mood a boost. And, you don’t let a lack of time (or money) be your only excuse to getting the strength and endurance you want to feel great.

At the very end of the day, unwind in a tub of epsom salts, stretch out and massage your sore muscles in the warm water. You’re worth it after all!

Your Simple Fitness Guru,

So Called Mom

Using Dinner to Stay in Your Kids Lives VLOG

Hi there!

Here’s a sweet mini-VLOG for today on what our busy blended family does to stay connected with one another.

If you have other tips and tricks to add, please share in the comments below, I’m always open to trying out your ideas.

Thanks and don’t forget to subscribe!

So Called Mom

The Benefits of a Good Fight

pippin kristen kissing The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called Mom

I love a good fight.

I love fighting with my husband, because it helps restore order. Like how I imagine the day after the apocalypse to be. Fighting makes us love each other more; it makes our family tighter. Whenever we experience an imbalance in our relationship, we let loose and drag it through the house, because displaying confrontation is important. You can be sure the dog, the chickens, the kids and maybe even the neighbors know when it happens because we aren’t shy about it. Fight.


Did I say we fight in front of the kids?

You bet.

I know this might sound crazy, but hear me out. There are a few reasons why we fight in front of the kids:

  1. Having an audience keeps our fights fair. I tend to fight like a Queen, but having them watch reminds me that I don’t have a pedestal to scream from. Heads don’t need to roll—every time at least!
  2. Kids can learn conflict just like cooking and balancing a check book in Home Ec. They’re watching what it looks and sounds like to be heard. They are witnessing two people work through understanding each other. The kids are taking mental notes for their own future conflicts. To us, we’re modeling healthy ones.

While there are so many subjects to fight about, let me focus on just one of them:

Making plans.

pippin kristen driving The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called MomI am the type of person that needs to know what the plan is. I want to know the plan, and then I want to know plan B. I just think this is responsible parenting. My husband is not like this. He can board a plane at the last minute and arrive without anything lined up—no accommodations, no map, not even any luggage. We took a red eye to New York City in August like this. I was 8 months pregnant. I had swollen ankles and wanted a plan really, really bad. But our relationship was still new, and I pretended to be more adventurous than I really was.  We arrived with no hotel room, no toilet, and no idea how to get out of the airport.  I learned early in our relationship, that Pippin’s laid back nature, may work when it comes to building sand castles, but it crossed a line when it came to plans.
Plans of any sort.  We are currently selling our house.  We’ve outgrown it with seven kids, four of whom are teenagers.  Pippin has no problem selling our home, going on a (mostly unplanned) vacation and returning, without anything lined up to return TO.  Sounds crazy, no? Well this is about to become my future. Hawaii sounds nice, but what’s going to happen after  Hawaii?

“We will figure it out. We’ll survive!”

But I don’t like Survival Mode.

kristen sun bathing The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called Mom

I like Relaxation mode – whether it’s vacation, weekend plans, or even Sunday breakfast—life is stressful enough. When I’m forced to survive and play like I’m enjoying it, that’s when shit hits the fan. (And side note:  not one of the kids is on board with this type of whimsical lifestyle). So I fight.

A typical fight starts like this: I go nuclear with little warning.  Pippin might be surprised but is so non-confrontational, he will probably feign complete confusion. Then he may bring up some completely unrelated “transgression” that I did.  A common tactic to confuse and divert the prey!  So begins the circular arguing that, like most conflicts, has nothing to do with the subject.  It’s about power and who gets to win that round.  This goes on until we are finally speaking the same language – mine. And I’m usually crying (it’s exhausting being right). It’s OK, though. I like a good cry. Anyway, I truly believe fighting is the sound of our relationship evolving, and I think after ten years, we are getting better at it.

The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called MomONE upside is that I am learning things about myself.  Our 5 year old, Leopold, recently hushed me with, “Mommy, you are being really rude to Daddy.” As a So Called mom, I have learned to be wrong. That I don’t have all the answers and can still be loved and accepted by my family. It takes the perfection out of motherhood, and replaces it with being human.

With Love,

So Called Mom

Next Post: How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You

Women First, Moms Second

Women First, Moms Second So Called Mom

I have something to say about being this So Called Mom.

When we become mothers, it feels like it is this monstrous thing that steps into your shoes, without your being ready, and takes up ALL THE SPACE. Like, toes crammed to the end; and all you can do is watch your precious Manolos split at the seams as you drift farther away from what you once were, into the abyss of “just a mom”. When this happens, you can forget about your career, forget about being creative, forget about your friends and forget about yourself: Both who you were and who you wanted to be. Because you are now officially one thing and one thing only: A mom. Right? Women first.

Don’t get me wrong, I love motherhood.

But if you think this here woman has given it all up just to be that one thing, you’re highly mistaken. I have already shaken my fists at the sky over this. Motherhood should not be the decision we make that wipes out our hopes and dreams. It is not the Hurricane Katrina of choices. Becoming a mom doesn’t need to devastate the rest of you. But when you have that first kid, I swear, the rest of the world knows it. Just look at your mail: Cosmopolitan and Vogue traded itself for Martha Stewart and Parenting. You also started getting Land’s End catalogues without ordering them, didn’t you? We don’t need to be polite about this. Mom’s only look like the Virgin Mary because we allow ourselves to. Motherhood doesn’t mean trading in your sexiness for a closet full of sweater sets and necklaces made of pasta. I confess I have a few of those necklaces in my jewelry box, but I do feel like feeding them to the dog from time to time, just to get a piece of myself back.

Pippin Kristen cheers So Called Mom

I specifically remember my first experience of becoming “Just a mom” after I had my first batch of kids early. I was 22 when I had Jake, 24 with Milla and 26 with MJ. Timely, I know.

I recall being in a bar shortly after popping those three kids out, toasting with a few girlfriends, some who were new moms, others who were not. A guy (I wouldn’t dare refer to him as a man) approached me and asked to buy me a drink. I let him. We were talking and he was getting pretty serious, so I did what any mom would do…and talk to a guy in a bar about kids.

“Wait. Whoa. You’re a MOM?”

I nodded.

He snatched the drink from my hand.

“You should be home. Why are you even out?”

I felt like a birthday candle being doused with a pan of water. And it has resonated with me for decades.

When I became a mom, I un-became a woman. Women first.

I un-became a dancer. I un-became a dreamer, a creative and unstoppable female with big ideas. I un-became everything I knew to be truly me. I was no longer a pretty girl with fresh young breasts in the fruit section at the grocery store, hip with her eco-conscious canvas bag. I was the basket case in sweats chasing my toddlers down the cereal aisle, with REAL grocery bags—under my eyes. I drove a brand new minivan with vanity plates: 1 GR8 MOM and accepted this as my destiny.

Women First Achieving ExcellenceI was also on my second marriage. And it wasn’t holding my attention, no matter how hard I tried to play the part. For a few more years, I wore the sweater sets and the pasta necklaces and pretended it was everything I wanted. Pretended that was the real me. I was always biting my tongue off at PTA meetings and kids birthday parties, careful to not be myself too much. Because the real me, wasn’t very mom-like at all. The real me jumped off the roof of a houseboat naked at a party. The real me did shots and stayed out late with my girlfriends, dancing to Missy Elliot on repeat until we fell asleep in the living room. The real me wore funky clothes and slept in and binge watched shows that I now could only live vicariously through. Sex in the City. The Sopranos. Desperate Housewives. Even Friends. I took dance lessons back then. I was serious about it. I was good enough to be on stage in a tutu, the lead. Now I was just wearing tutus to run errands, just to make myself feel better.

Women First, Moms Second So Called Mom

Having kids nailed me down. I made a promise to them.

“I will always be there for you.” I whispered to Jake, tiny and trembling in my arms. I repeated the same thing to each kid on the day they were born. But it was years before I realized that my interpretation of what it meant to “be there” for them did not mean putting myself last, giving up on who I was, or trading my self worth for theirs. I realized that I greatly limited my philosophy as a mom. That there could NEVER EVER be any cross over with who I was and being a mom. That if there was a license to parenthood, that mine would get revoked.

Women First, Moms Second So Called MomThen I met my third husband, after fleeing New York and moving across the country to Portland, Oregon—truly a place where the wild things are! His name was Pippin, like the musical, and it instantly called a part of me out that I was sure I buried long ago. The dancer, the singer, the stage act in me was set free through his name alone and he went along with it. Our second date was at a playground with the kids. BOTH his and mine. We had five kids under the age of six, running around us like a solar system and it all just felt right. Chaotic, messy, and right.

Pippin not only redefined parenthood for me, but he redefined life for me.

Women First, Moms Second So Called MomHe loved the ME that he met— I was a whack job; completely off the rails. But only because I was working hard at re-establishing myself as a woman first, and a mom second. I think he was greatly worried at the beginning. But he stepped into the role anyway and filled those shoes like no other. And there was still plenty of room for more. More more more. More me, more him, more kids. And we did have more kids; two to be exact. Even with everyone looking down their noses at us. We were called “irresponsible.” He never said no to me. He was the first person who made me feel like I should really be myself. It was like the sky opened up and said, “Yes. Shave your head. Rent that Porsche. Dance in the street. Let them all watch you.” And I would turn to Pippin who would smile back at me and have this “Well what are we waiting for?” look on his face. He was the perfect mirror and he reflected a life that I was searching for. And now we’ve been together for ten years. And it still feels like we just met. Women first.

This blog is a resurrection of womanhood. Women first.

Women First, Moms Second So Called Mom

Its a shout out to all the ladies: single, married, divorced, remarried—to step moms, biological moms, adoptive moms and everything in between. It’s a call for us to return to our hopes and dreams. Do you recall what you dreamed of when you wanted to be a mother or wife? Was it perching on your child’s shoulder when they did homework? Was it soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, games on Saturdays all over the county? Was it late nights of science projects that are more your projects than his/hers? Was it throwing your life away to live it through your child? I say no to all the above. Women first.

This So Called Mom is making an intentional call out to other women. Within these words, you’ll find me raising a glass to those of us thinking about motherhood for the first time, those of us expecting, and those of us who already have our hands full. When we become mothers, it seems like everything else fades to black. Everything that once filled your life: Your friends, the fun —or the way you had fun, the odd hours, the choice—all of it goes away because our culture asks us to become that one thing: A mom and that’s defined in one way.

But not here.

When did we surrender being physically fit and wear ONLY yoga pants because they’re stretchy (Not to mention UGG boots in any color, which my husband calls birth control)? Or pretend to enjoy ourselves in bed with our husbands when we would rather be scrolling on our phones? When was the last time you laughed so hard you almost peed your pants or did something JUST for you, to get on with your wild self? Women first.

Women First, Moms Second So Called Mom

This blog is about being real. A real mom. Here, we are women first, moms second.


So Called Mom.

Next Post: Do it Like a Grown Up