Category Archives: Amy Brynes

November is the Cruelest Month for Moms

By Amy Byrnes

Anyone who agrees with T.S. Eliot’s assessment that “April is the cruelest month” has obviously never spent time trying to be a mom in New Jersey during November.

This week alone, my fifth grader has two days off. I didn’t even know about one of them until last weekend.

Out of the possible 20 full days of school this month, the students in our district have four of them off and there will be early dismissals for another four of those days to accommodate conferences at the end of the month. Continue reading November is the Cruelest Month for Moms

Why I Won’t Let My Son Wear a Violent Halloween Costume

By Amy Byrnes

The kids and I crossed a lot of things off our to-do list this weekend. We stocked up on milk and Greek yogurt at Costco, cleaned out about seven contractor bags worth of outgrown clothing, old magazines and Nerf guns from our closets and finally got around to buying the 10-year-old’s Halloween costume.

That last one was the biggie.

He had been talking about what he wanted to be for Halloween this year practically since last Halloween. But other than the fact that I’m a procrastinator, one of the things holding up the purchase has been a differing of opinions. While he is totally cool with playing the role of an assassin or ninja with a full battery of weapons, I just can’t endorse such a violent character.

More specifically, what my son really wanted to dress up as was a character from Mortal Kombat, and even though his older brother spent a few Halloweens walking around town dressed as a Ninja – nunchucks dangling from the costume’s flimsy belt – 10 years later I would rather not see my child masquerading as a murderer. Even if it’s make believe.

Not to mention, they wanted like $65 for the costume online.

So after our Costco outing on Saturday we ran into one of those pop-up Halloween shops that mysteriously transform vacant mall and highway stores around here this time of year.

Number one, I don’t know how people with young children can shop in these places. My kids would have had heart attacks when they were little as they eyed all the creepy stuff that assaults you as soon as you walk through the door.

Like, my kids cried the first time they saw the characters at Disney World. Chip n’ Dale had them weeping with a friendly wave. And once we took them to the Rainforest Café in Orlando as a big treat and they almost passed out when it started to storm and the fake animals surrounding us came to life.

My mission was to get in and get out fast, but my son is a slow decision maker, especially when he’s being told to choose something other than what he wants to pick. He drifted around for a while and inspected the big, rubbery Gru mask and the section with all the Adventure Time costumes.

Then we came to what I like to call “The Violent Section,” which included an array of Ninja style-costumes and an extensive selection of weaponry (but, alas, no Mortal Combat). He spent some time inspecting the various daggers, swords and shields lining the wall before reluctantly moving on.

In the end, he quickly chose one of those one-piece skin suits that’s styled to make him look like a crash test dummy. He seemed pleased with it and it fit him so perfectly when he tried it on that it was creepy how much he actually looked like one of those dummies.

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I feel bad that I thwarted his dream to be the Mortal Kombat dude. But I just couldn’t endorse a character based on a video game that is known for its extreme violence. A video game we probably have right now in our basement. My 21-year-old son has all those terrible games, but he didn’t when he was 10.

So maybe I’m a hypocrite, but I just preferred my youngest pick something else. And he did, because he’s that kind of guy. He didn’t threaten to boycott Halloween if he didn’t get his way. He just found something else.

Pretty soon it won’t matter anyway. They stop dressing up by the end of middle school and then I’ll just see pictures posted on social media, if I’m lucky, of them dressed up at costume parties in college. I saw my oldest guy dressed up like a nerd at a party last weekend and thought it was pretty cute. It got my Mom Seal of Approval.

But until then, my little guy will be stuck humoring me. It could be worse. He could have been a girl and then I’d be up against all the sexy fill-in-the-blank costumes that are out there. Then maybe I’d be wishing she’d cover herself up as a Ninja.

Amy Byrnes

Amy Byrnes writes about scary stuff, like divorce and teenagers, at ‘A’ My Name is Amy. Her work has can be found in the August 2015 issue of Family Circle magazine as well as on The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy. She lives with her four children and sinister kitty in Little Silver.
Also, here’s the link to my blog if you could kindly add that to the online post.

Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again


By Amy Byrnes


My little guy and I were talking about something the other night when he turned and asked, “Mom, why don’t you ever volunteer for anything for me?”

“What do you mean, dude?” I asked, knowing full well what he meant.

“You, like, never help out at my school.”

And, since there wasn’t really much more I could say to that very astute observation, I lowered my head and said, “Busted.”

Of course, what I wanted to point out to my littlest boy was the sheer scope of my volunteering history, which began when his three older siblings were very young. It was as their overactive mommy that I cut my teeth on the ins-and-outs of cupcake baking and pumpkin picking and by the time my third child went to nursery school, I was helping to produce the monthly school newsletter.

But those were just the gateway activities to the more heavy-duty volunteering I got mixed up in as the kids got older.

I moved on to some light pumpkin seed counting and pouring juice for the various holiday parties. Later, I served as the kids’ class mom for countless years and rode in school buses to chaperone field trips to museums and local productions of The Nutcracker. I chaired fundraisers, like luncheons and book fairs, and eventually worked my way up to serve as co-president of the PTO the year I gave birth to my fourth child. That was also the year my left eye twitched uncontrollably for months.

As the kids got older, my volunteering extended to overnight activities. I chaperoned trips to a state park about an hour away when each of my older three kids were in seventh grade where I learned that an American Girl sleeping bag was not intended to be used by a 40-something American girl.

I also went twice to Washington, D.C. during each of my girls’ eighth grade year and learned how to herd wily teenagers around our nation’s capitol.

I was even a Girl Scout leader for five or six years and served a three-year term on our school board and had a magnet on my refrigerator that read, “Stop me before I volunteer again.”

I just had too much on my plate.

Eventually, I stopped feeling guilty about not volunteering to make a dinner or help starving children in Africa. I was no longer convinced that things wouldn’t get done without me.

And that thinking was fine until it wasn’t. Until the people around me were raising money to improve the technology at our school or working at our local soup kitchen. I started to remember how good it felt to be a part of something and make a difference.

Probably right when I was having this major epiphany, an email arrived in my inbox trying to get folks to help out with the annual middle school art show and before I could overthink it, I signed up to help.

I arrived for duty on the appointed day and immediately ran into the music teacher who’d taught all of my kids how to play an instrument. I waved “hi” to the school nurse and exchanged pleasantries with the teachers who’d tutored my kids during the summer.

And I was in the school for, like, an hour.

But seeing all those familiar faces of the teachers my children have had over the years reminded me why I spent all that time pouring juice and selling raffle tickets in the first place. I loved being a part of the process.

As I was pulling masking tape off the wall, the bell rang and middle schoolers exploded out of their classrooms. They flooded the hallway and I noticed one happened to be my very own 12 year old.

“What are you doing here?” he asked when he saw me frantically waving to him in the hallway.

“I’m VOLUNTEERING,” I shouted.

“Oh,” he said as he began to walk a little quicker past me. “That’s weird.”

And just like that, my baby learned to be careful for what he wished.

I’m thinking I should sign up to be his class mom this year. This could be really fun.

Amy Byrnes

Amy Byrnes writes about scary stuff, like divorce and teenagers, at ‘A’ My Name is Amy. Her work has can be found in the August 2015 issue of Family Circle magazine as well as on The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy. She lives with her four children and sinister kitty in Little Silver.


Also, here’s the link to my blog if you could kindly add that to the online post.


The High Price I Paid to Get My Teen to Clean Her Room

By Amy Byrnes

Sometimes, I can’t stand to hear some of the words that come out of my mouth.

Usually, they are the same words that used to come out of my own mother’s mouth:

“Chew with your mouth closed.”

“Put your napkin on your lap.”

“Make your bed.”

“Clean your room.”

As it turns out, those same reprimands that were so annoying to hear as a kid are doubly irritating having to say as a grown up.

It’s a parent’s job to instruct. We are like the audio versions of the “How to Be a Person” manual. Sure, some of us are missing pages – heck, some of us have entire chapters ripped out– but for the most part it’s our duty to guide our youngsters towards becoming functioning members of society.

As a result of more militant housekeeping when they were younger, my first two children still keep pretty neat-and-tidy bedrooms. Dirty laundry makes its way into the hamper and beds are generally made most days.

My youngest two children – an 18yo girl and 12yo boy – are lovely people. They are easygoing and team players and have great senses of humor. They also happen to be pigs.

So I’ve wasted a lot of breath over the years telling these two to clean up their acts.

But these two do not perceive these admonitions as an attack on their collective character. Having a clean bedroom is simply not high on their priority list.

Which made what I walked in to find after I returned from dropping that messy girl off at college all the sadder.

In the days leading up to her departure, there were clothes all over the floor of her room. Her collegMaddie bedroom 1e stuff had even spilled down the stairs into the den where a mound of Target bags filled with sheets and towels and lady products had started to grow.

When I last saw the room it was late at night and I went in to say goodnight and make sure we were still on for our 5:30 a.m. departure. By then, most of her stuff had made it into some type of bag. But the nightstand and desk were still in disarray and the pillows that decorate her bed were still scattered everywhere.

“Please try to leave your room clean,” I said as I kissed the top of her head. “At least make your bed.”

We hit the road and I drove the four hours in the rain while most of the other passengers in the car dozed intermittently. We squeezed into a lot about a quarter-mile away from her dorm and tracked down a cart to carry her stuff upstairs. A college move-in day in never complete without a trip to the nearby Target or Wal-Mart so we climbed back into the car and set out to purchase another $200 in last-minute throw pillows and power strips. Finally, after her bed was made and we oohed and aahhed over how cute it all looked together matched with all her dorm essentials, we decided to say good-bye.

And it was sad.

Very. Very. Sad.

We got home and I went upstairs to change into my pajamas but when I got to the top of the stairs, I took a left rather than a right into my own bedroom and walked down the hall to my daughter’s room.


I pushed open the door and my heart almost stopped.

In all those years of asking/suggesting/demanding that she clean her room, my daughter would eventually comply but never 100 percent. There was always stuff piled under her printer table or clothes shoved onto her closet floor.

But I opened the door to find something out of a magazine. The bed was made and the throw pillows artfully arranged. The desktop had been organized and no clothes lurked at the bottom of the closet.

She had outdone herself.

And now it all just sits. Empty. Lifeless. All that energy that used to fill up every last inch of that room has now relocated 263 miles west of here.

So now I have that made bed I’ve been asking for, along with the clothes put away and emptied garbage pail.

I just hate the price I had to pay to get all of it.


But good luck to her new roommates. They’re gonna need it living with that girl.

Amy Byrnes

Amy Byrnes writes about scary stuff, like divorce and teenagers, at ‘A’ My Name is Amy. Her work has can be found in the August 2015 issue of Family Circle magazine as well as on The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy. She lives with her four children and sinister kitty in Little Silver.
Also, here’s the link to my blog if you could kindly add that to the online post.