Adventures in Chaos

A peek into the life of busy working mom Kristin van Ogtrop, managing editor of Real Simple and author of Just Let Me Lie Down. Follow her on Twitter @kvanogtrop.


Self-Inflicted To-Do Listosis

[Note: A version of this article first appeared in the December 2013 issue of Real Simple.] You would think that I’d know this about myself by now, but it recently hit me that I have self-destructive tendencies. Does this ever happen to you? You find an ambitious home-improvement job and think, I can do that! Then a friend asks you […]

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On Paying Attention

[Note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2013 issue of Real Simple.] The other night I saw the documentary Deceptive Practice, about the life and work of Ricky Jay. In one scene, the magician describes spending a hot California afternoon on a bench with one of his mentors observing men who were about to enter a […]

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Is Arguing With My Son About Screen Time Decreasing My Life Span?

I realized with despair over the weekend that this is how I now seem to spend my time: 30 percent: Working 20 percent: Sleeping 10 percent: Moving clutter from one room of the house to another 40 percent: Arguing with my teenage son about screen time You could make the case that working and sleeping are absolutely necessary, if I […]

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The Mysterious Round Object That Appeared in My Yard

Yesterday my youngest son, who is 6, was having a double playdate with two of his dear friends. (A.K.A. practically the best day of life.) I was trying to be a Very Good Mom and was in the backyard with the boys, building a lean-to. Our backyard has this small wooded section that was once, if not an ancient Indian […]

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Halloween Scares Me

[Note: A version of this article first appeared in the October 2013 issue of Real Simple.] Halloween scares me. It’s not the teenagers roaming local streets wearing Scream masks, although that’s pretty creepy. It’s not the fact that complete strangers are ringing my doorbell from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., although that’s pretty unnerving. It’s not even the presence of […]

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A Son Has Gone to College, Leaving His Adoring Mother Behind…Wait, Did I Have Three Kids?

In March of this year, I had to get a root canal. I’d never had a root canal before and, in preparation, I interviewed every acquaintance I could get my hands on to figure out how awful it was going to be. I came to the following conclusion, expressed by many: “It’s not that bad.” Right. It wasn’t that bad—it […]

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Anything is Possible With…

Yesterday I was walking to a meeting and wondering—as I often do at 3:00 p.m.—how I was going to get through it. Not that I don’t completely love my job every waking minute of the day. But there is that midafternoon exhaustion that always seems to hit me like a wave. Weirdly, chanting “IlovemyjobIlovemyjob” does not make it go away. […]

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Are You My Mentor?

That is the title of a story in our September 2013 issue, and one of my all-time favorite Real Simple headlines. Yes, it’s true that Are You My Mother? is one of my all-time favorite children’s books, one that I forced on my children, even though they never really sparked to it and preferred awful books that I would try […]

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A Son Leaves for College, and Mom’s Life Miraculously Goes On

My oldest child, my firstborn son, went to college on Saturday. I say “went,” although my husband and I (and my two other sons, and my father-in-law-with-the-mini-fridge) dropped him off. I say “dropped him off,” although it was actually a slow separation, like a boat going down a ramp into the water and then gradually disappearing into the distance. And […]

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Listen to My Mom, and Help Save a Life

I can’t tell you how many times during my childhood, when I was in the middle of a late-day meltdown, or identity crisis, or dramatic, my-heart-is-breaking crying jag, my mother would say to me, “Everything will be better in the morning.” And you know what?  She was right. As the mother of three strong daughters, my mother consistently broadcast the […]

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