Category Archives: Food

Honey, what’s for dinner? Negotiations.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened. I have a feeling it was something like when you go broke: gradually, then all at once. But somehow our nightly family dinners have turned into one big negotiation session (occasionally escalating into a full-blown hostage situation).

It doesn’t matter what I make. It doesn’t matter how many options I give. It doesn’t matter that it’s Friday and it’s been a long week and I’m so over it and mentally checked out around 3 p.m.

My kids never want to eat the dinner I make them.

Ever.

Well, I take back that last part. My toddler does have a very specific list of things he’ll eat.

Yogurt.

Raisins.

Mac and cheese (but only the boxed, chemically-loaded kind…so help you if you give him a homemade cheesy pasta containing anything that resembles a nutrient).

End of list.

He’s cut out apples and crackers and spaghetti and sausage and eggs and corn and the actual chicken part of chicken tenders. All things I used to be able to get him to eat. He’s worse than when you invite your high maintenance friend over for a dinner party and she’s always on some ridiculous diet and acts like it’s YOUR fault that she can’t eat anything because pretty much all the food in your kitchen contains sugar, flour, gluten, fat, soy, chemicals and everything that makes life worth living.

And my 9-month-old is almost as bad as my toddler. I made the mistake of letting her try fruit and now she realizes what a sham vegetables are and spits out anything that is not fruit.

But I did not ruin my body, and my sanity, and my freedom, and that part of my brain that can remember if I’ve seen this TV episode before or not, keeping them alive and healthy for three years only to watch them starve to death because I dared to give them a well-balanced meal.

So, every night, it goes like this:

Toddler: Mommy, I’m all done.

Me: You haven’t eaten anything.

Toddler: Yeah. Cause I’m all done.

Baby: *sound of mashed peas being spit out*

Me: You need to take three bites of mashed potatoes.

Toddler: One bites?

Me: Three.

Toddler: Then I get Girl Scout Cookies?

Me: No. Someone ate all those while hiding and crying in the bathroom last week.

Toddler: Who?

Me: Don’t worry about it.

Baby: *sound of spoon hitting the ground because she whacked it out of my hand*

Toddler: I can’t, Mommy.

Me: Then you’ll just have to sit there while the rest of us eat.

Baby: *emits tiny Viking warrior princess yell because I shoved more peas in her gaping maw*

Toddler: Can I have raisins?

Me: No…(semi-worried he may actually starve to death)…ok, fine, you can have some raisins IF you eat three bites of mashed potatoes and one bite of meatloaf.

Toddler: Nah. I’ll just sit here then.

Me: (don’t give in, don’t give in, don’t give in) …ok, fine, two bites of mashed potatoes (damn it).

Toddler: One bites.

Me: Two.

Toddler: ONE! *starts crying*

Baby: *grabs jar of mashed peas and dumps it on her head*

Me: Sigh…

Toddler: Where you going, Mommy?

Me: To get raisins. I give up. And to get Mommy some of her Mommy grapes.

Toddler: Do you mean wine?

Me: Shut up and eat your raisins.

Call me weak if you must but feeding your children is a primal NEED. I NEED to feed their whiny little faces. Need it unlike anything I’ve ever needed before. Eat! I internally scream in my head pretty much on a daily basis. Or I’ll die! Eat anything! I don’t care anymore! Just. Eat.

And trust me, I did the hard ass routine. I’d make that kid sit in his chair until he ate all (then, ok fine, three, then two, then one, then how about you just lick it to see if you like it?) carrots. And every time it ended the same way: Three hours later, both of us angry and crying, and exactly zero carrots licked.

So, for all our mental health, I backed off. They both respond better to honey than vinegar (just don’t try to give them actual honey…or vinegar…or food).

Which is how we got here. Sitting around the dinner table. Making complicated and ridiculous mediations like a family of rich people in the midst of a strained but somewhat amicable divorce.

Two green beans for a fourth a cup of yogurt. One BIG bite of rice for the rest of Mommy’s cake. More milk if you finish the chicken part of the chicken nugget. I’ll take the beach house and you can have the Benz.

I hope someday it gets better. And I cling to this hope like it’s the last life jacket on the Titanic.

But just like the Titanic, I know deep down I’m doomed. That dinner will always be some version of this.

At least until they go to college and almost drown in the lukewarm waters of Ramen noodles made in a coffee maker.

Who hates Mommy’s lasagna now, suckers?

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I got thanks coming out the wazoo

Hey, have I mentioned how much I love Thanksgiving? Because I do. Oh, so much. And not just because it’s a holiday where it’s acceptable to drink all day.

This year in particular I’m looking forward to because it’s the first Thanksgiving where our whole family is complete. Both kids are now officially out of my uterus and I plan on having no other occupants in said uterus unless my husband wants brutally whacked with a frying pan. So, I am just filled to the brim with the Thanksgiving spirit (and here soon the Thanksgiving spirits).

Which is why I wanted to make a list of all the things I am thankful for this year because there are just so many. For instance…

Not being pregnant like I was last year when I almost puked on three-fourths of my husband’s lovely extended family.

Not being pregnant like I was last year so I can drink wine before I’m required to stick my hand up a strange turkey’s arse.

Not being pregnant like I was last year so I can eat my famous cheeseball again, soaking up all the delicious possible listeria guilt-free.

Not being pregnant like I was last year because, surprise!, I hate being pregnant.

And in non-non-pregnant things to be thankful for:

Joe Biden memes, which I suspect might be the only thing holding the country together at this point.

Not leaving my house on Black Friday but snarkily tweeting about it from the comfort of my couch.

Both my kids are beautiful and healthy and think Momma is just the greatest. Even when she’s having a bad day and isn’t.

Finding friends who like and accept me regardless of my cliché love of pumpkin spice.

That panty hose are no longer a thing.

I know I say this every year, but toilet paper, because, I mean, think of the alternative.

Being an adult and as such having the freedom to have ice cream for breakfast! And a wheel of cheese at lunch! And a beer whenever I want! As long as I do all those things while hiding in the bathroom from the rest of the family!

That moment amidst the chaos when you’re handing your small children back and forth with your significant other because one needs fed and the other needs a diaper change or whatever the reason, and your hands briefly touch while exchanging the kids and you feel so connected, so bonded to them. And you become more than just a team. You become a tribe. And the love is so strong in that brief moment that you almost can’t stand it.

Basil ice cream (it’s a thing and it’s amazing).

That when I look at my children, I’m still blown away by the fact they are mine and I get to keep them.

Accidentally stumbling upon a recipe for Deep Fried Stuffing Balls while looking up Thanksgiving ideas and feeling a swell of pride at being an American in a year where being an American was extremely difficult.

My family is finally at the point financially that we can afford to get two toppings on our pizza. Three, if it’s a special occasion.

There is going to be a revival of “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix (and more broadly, that we live in a time where the end of a beloved TV show isn’t necessarily the end).

Tiny, chubby baby feet that you have to use all of your willpower not to bite because they are the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen and for some reason humans always want to bite really adorable things.

My stupid dog. God, I love that stupid dog.

Our son isn’t even close to being potty trained yet but at least he is to the point where he can tell us loudly in public that he is “GOING POTTY RIGHT NOW, MOMMA! YAY!”

Having the power in the palm of my hand to reach out to other moms, other writers, other rabid fans of the TV show “Supernatural.” All of those things can be extremely isolating and I can guarantee I’m not the only one who has found a haven online to help get me through the bad days. For all our handwringing about how technology is turning us into a bunch of zombies, at least we are bunch of zombies with online friends who understand what we are going through.

Strangers who randomly tell you to have a Happy Thanksgiving.

And on that note, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Another annoying post defending Thanksgiving

Guys, I love analogies. I love analogies like how bad writers love a good cheap gimmick. Which is why I want to begin this particular column about my love of Thanksgiving with the following cheap gimmicky analogy:

Congratulations, everyone. We have all turned Thanksgiving into the classic middle child of the major holidays.

See, at one time Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal in America. But now, jammed in-between the ever-growing juggernauts of Halloween and Christmas, it always gets overlooked. And sure, just like so many other middle children, it’s maybe not as fun as Halloween or as exciting as Christmas, but it’s still a good, solid holiday.

Now, Halloween obviously plays the role of the oldest child, not so much for any particular trait per se, but because it comes first in the calendar year and I really need this analogy to work. Although, if I really stretch it, Halloween could be like your high-achieving cheerleader daughter who suddenly goes through a goth phase and dyes her hair purple and only wears black and starts getting C’s because she’s focused on writing her death poetry. And also she starts getting drunk, like really drunk, while wearing sexy Harry Potter uniforms.

And Christmas is clearly the beloved youngest child, who can do no wrong and no one ever tells it no, which is why it has turned into a spoiled brat that sucks up all of Mommy and Daddy’s time and money.

Poor Thanksgiving. The quiet peacemaker. It’s just trying to get the whole family together at the table for nothing other than good food and good, but strained, conversation that is desperately trying to avoid bringing up politics. Would you like more mashed potatoes, it quietly but excitedly asks. Or maybe some of the turkey that took 18 hours to prep and cook? Or any of these other eleven side dishes?

Except, no one hears it. Because there’s Christmas, screaming in its highchair for more attention and throwing poinsettias at everyone, while Halloween mopes and snacks on the giant bowl of leftover candy that is mostly just yellow Starbursts and generic Tootsie Rolls at this point. Thanksgiving just wanted one day that is focused on them but no, because not only is Christmas making a scene but Christmas also had to bring over its rowdy, juvenile delinquent friend, Black Friday. And now everything is chaos and everyone is at the store because Black Friday conned them into thinking that getting into fistfights over cheap flats screens and environmentally irresponsible Keurigs was a great idea.

And so poor Thanksgiving just sits there alone at the table, sullenly eating a turkey leg and drinking wine straight from the bottle (which they will replace because Thanksgiving is a polite, responsible holiday…as long as no one brings up politics).

Well, I, for one, refuse to let Thanksgiving drink that wine alone. One, because I have never turned down a glass of wine in my life. And two, this holiday is worthy of our love and attention.

I love Thanksgiving. LOVE it. I loved it as a kid when the women of my family would shoo me out of the kitchen while they mysteriously made magic happen. And I love it now as an adult when I’m the one in the kitchen mysteriously making moderate-to-severe knife cuts and a whole symphony of curse words happen (and somehow, magically, edible food).

Everyone gets all dressed up but goes absolutely nowhere, just looking hella fancy while hanging out in the kitchen. There’s no stress to look skinny in a sexist costume or pressure to find the perfect gift for a husband who thinks “whatever, you know what I like” is an acceptable answer to the question “what do you want for Christmas this year?”

The only goal for the whole freaking day is just to devour food that has been bathed in almost illegal amounts of butter. To drink wine and watch a parade and talk about the weather with your uncle for an uncomfortable 12 minutes because it’s a topic least likely to bring up politics.

There’s no pressure to have a good time, even, or to make it a magical day for children. It just is what it is. The only thing you’re required to do is give a list of things you’re thankful for and even then you can lie because, I mean, who’s going to know?

So, guys, I think we all should apologize to Thanksgiving for our benign neglect of it. It truly deserves better. A prominent place on the fridge to hang its construction paper turkey hand art.

Christmas will just have to learn some patience. *ducks as another poinsettia is thrown at her head*

The Church of Latte(r)-Spiced Pumpkins

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The Case of the Missing Dino Nugget

It’s lunchtime.

Again.

I know.

You can’t believe it’s lunchtime again. Wasn’t it just lunchtime yesterday? And the day before that? How many times does this kid need to eat?

But so goes the life of the parent of a toddler.

Only, the thing is, this lunchtime is different. This lunchtime, you’re already hour 16 into your new diet. That stupid, stupid new diet you Googled and pledged an oath to after not insignificantly injuring yourself on that deceptively sharp pork chop bone at dinner last night.

But what? Like, you were supposed to waste food? There was still a slightly visible morsel left clinging on there. And people are dying, man. Of hunger. That bandage on the upper right side of your mouth is proof you have a heart and care and stuff.

And so, you make lunch. Again. A semi-acceptable lunch (depending on who you talk to as long as who you are talking to is not Sienna, mom of Coco, from the playground) of corn on the cob, peas, applesauce and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets for junior. And a plate of vegetables (a.k.a. tasteless dirt fruit) for you.

Within 10 minutes, you’ve already inhaled your carrots and hummus* and assorted green crap (crap meant quite literally here as, at some point, some cow probably defecated on all these things).

*Fancy word for “not ranch dip.”

lunch_kale

Which means, you have a good 45 minutes left of sitting at the table just staring at The World’s Slowest Eater as he happily smears ketchup into not only his hair but also his ears. Which, luckily, gives you plenty of time to reflect on just how hungry you are. And you ARE hungry. You’re starving. I mean, look at you. You’re wasting away. You’re practically a stick figure.

lunch_stick

And then there’s that last dino nugget. Just sitting there. All lonely on his plate. Getting colder with every passing second. Chockful of delicious fat and salt and cancer-causing chemicals that magically makes boring, old chicken taste like deep-fried unicorn.

He wouldn’t even notice, you reason to yourself. Look at him. Completely oblivious. Too busy leading the corn on the cob on a Viking-esque raid against the defenseless peas. Smash. Smash. Smash. Meanwhile, the nugget sits all alone in the southwest corner, completely undefended. You should eat it just to teach him a valuable military strategy lesson.

No. No! You would never do that. My god. Stealing food practically from your child’s mouth! What kind of monster are you?

EXCEPT…”technically” the nugget is nowhere near his mouth. I mean, he doesn’t seem to have any interest in it or anything. It’s so bad for him anyway. The only reason you gave him the dino nuggets is because it’s the only way you could force some protein down his tiny adorable throat. And he’s already eaten four of them. You eating that last one would only make his lunch all the more healthy.

No. No! My god, woman, think about what you’re proposing here. He’ll want that last nugget. You know he will. Just as soon as he’s done drowning the defeated and maimed peas in applesauce. Rise above this. Find some willpower, lady.

Just one taste, though. A tiny bite. Just to make the temptation go away. And he can have the rest.

No. No!

But then, without even realizing it, you look down in horror and see the nugget is gone. And you are chewing. And then swallowing. And it’s too late now. That hormone-stuffed, vaguely shaped Tyrannosaurus Rex is already halfway to your stomach.

lunch_nugget

Maybe he won’t notice.

And that’s when the crying begins.

Now, you have three options here.

Option 1: Confess and Bribe

“Baby, Momma’s so sorry. She didn’t mean to. It just…happened. And, I mean, I’m not trying to pass the buck here or anything, but really, it’s society’s fault for making me think I have to be skinny. So, in a way, you could say it was Vogue magazine that ate your nugget. Now let’s go get you some ice cream!”

Option 2: Straight Up Lie

“I don’t know what happened to your last nugget, honey. Maybe you ate it? Yeah, I think I remember seeing you eat it. By the way, and this is in no way related to the missing nugget, but I’m totally buying you a new car when you turn 16.”

Option 3: MacGyver Your Way Out

“Don’t cry, sweets. Momma is just going to reach down into your onesie and see if we can find…yep! Look here! A perfectly good half-eaten nugget stuck between your Buddha belly and chest. Oh! And 13 more peas! And soggy Cheerios from yesterday. See, no reason to cry.”

The thing to keep in mind here, terrible though your behavior has been, is that he’ll never even remember that this happened. So relax.

That is, of course, unless you’re the idiot who posted the whole thing on the Internet to live on for all eternity.

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Rage Against the Green Bean

As someone who was born into a loving family that lived in a prosperous country during a fairly enlightened historical period, I have rarely had to use that most basic lizard part of my brain. You know, that section of the human mind that is devoted entirely to mere survival.

From the moment I was born, I’ve always had shelter. I’ve always had clothes on my back (even if those clothes were all neon from 1985 to 1988). I mean, I’ve never even really had to worry about where my next meal is coming from, let alone had to hunt or forage for my food (which is good because I have a suspicion that cheese, the main staple of my diet, doesn’t grow naturally in the wild).

Hell, I’ve never even been in a physical fight, unless you count the endless Thunderdome sessions I had with my cousins growing up, which I don’t. Sure, we may have legitimately been trying to kill each other but none of us had the upper body strength to actually do it.

So, you know, it was all good family fun.

But then I became a mom. And when you become a mom, that primal part of your brain is constantly lighting up like a Christmas tree. Actually even before you become a mom. During pregnancy, you turn downright feral at times. Or at least I did. We’re talking “hunched over and devouring a steak with my bare hands while growling if anyone else got too close to my meat” level of feral.

feeding rage 1

I mean, we’re talking “striking out at anything that is a perceived threat” level of animalistic behavior.

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And then there was the heightened sense of smell, which allowed me to tell which bushes other pregnant women had peed on within the last two weeks.

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And when your baby finally is born, it only gets worse. For example, take how I reacted anytime someone else tried to comfort my screaming newborn. That sound, those piercing, stabby cries that are like throat punches to your very soul, should have had me overjoyed that someone, anyone, would be willing to take over for awhile (especially considering newborns like to breastfeed every 13 minutes and my body was still recovering from the gaping exit hole they slashed in my abdomen because my darling fetus thought the original exit was beneath him).

And yet, the maternal animal in me couldn’t bear to not be the one comforting him. It took everything I had not to rip that kid away from the nurses, or from my husband, or from both of our more experienced mothers when he was crying and scurry off into the corner with him like Gollum holding his precious. Because it was actually less painful to have an infant screaming in my face than to hear him crying in someone else’s arms. I just HAD to comfort him. HAD TO. My lizard brain wouldn’t let me not do it.

(Luckily this feeling passed quickly and by the time he was 2-months-old I was practically begging any stranger who had at least one arm and was not currently murdering anyone to hold my hysterical wailing BANSHEE for a FREAKING second just so Mommy could eat her sandwich WITH TWO HANDS FOR ONCE).

And then there are the lightning quick animal-esque reflexes that suddenly appear because nothing in the universe moves as fast as a message from a mom’s brain to her hand to “stop the baby from eating that firecracker.”

But nothing, NOTHING, brings my cavewoman brain front and center quite like when my now one-year-old refuses to eat the food I give him. I was actually shocked the first time I felt the rage building up inside me as he spit out green bean after green bean. And the more he resisted the food, the angrier I got. It got to the point that I was actually shaking and had to get up from the table and walk away.

Because, see, when you’re a mom, you only have one prime directive and that is to feed your children. (And judging by how my mom still stuffs me with food, this prime directive never goes away. Although, by the time you are grandmother, it has morphed into “must feed everyone within 500 yards.”). So, while the modern, logical part of my brain knows that this is just my son being a picky eater, every fiber of my cavewoman self is internally screaming “EAT IT! EAT IT NOW! OR YOU’LL STARVE! YOU’LL DIE! EAT IT EAT IT EAT IT! EAT ALL OF IT! AHHHH!”

And I know it’s only going to get worse the more he grows toward toddlerhood (the official toddler motto: “No! Icky! Poo Poo Head!”).

So, I guess the only thing left to do is buy a leopard skin unitard and a gigantic Nerf club and fully commit to this new role. Because he will eat those green beans.

Oh yes, he will.

Oog. Ugh. Grrrr…

If my blog were a sitcom, this would be the Thanksgiving episode

OPENING SCENE: Camera zooms in to clock beside Aprill’s bed. Time reads 4:43 a.m. Sound of baby crying.

APRILL (lying in bed, eyes still closed): “Nope. No way. (Voice gradually getting louder) You wish I loved you enough to wake up this early on a holiday! Go back to sleep, Riker!”

Crying continues.

APRILL (eyes still closed, kicking her husband, Ryan, with her leg): “I’ll give you $50,000 if you go get him right now.”

RYAN (raises head from pillow, his bedhead making him look like a deranged muppet): “Please. I’m still waiting for the $100,000 you promised me when I took the dog out during a blizzard last year. And the $4 million you promised me when I gave you my last mozzarella stick Tuesday.”

Cue laugh track.

Crying gets louder.

APRILL (slowly and dramatically rolling off bed, eyes still closed): “Ugh. He’s so dramatic. I bet when I go in there, he’s not even missing a limb.”

Cue giggle track since the joke is so-so at best.

Camera fades to black and reopens on Riker’s nursery. Aprill is getting ready to change Riker’s diaper.

APRILL: “Well, happy first Thanksgiving, kiddo. (Opens diaper) WHOA! How did all that even fit inside your tiny body? I’m not even mad. I’m impressed. (Note: Check with legal if we can use this and not get sued by Will Ferrell) Guess you’re thankful for having the bowel movements of a Budweiser Clydesdale, huh?”

Aprill carries Riker into the kitchen, which is pristine and huge and has a funky vintage fridge just like all sitcom kitchens, even if the people in the sitcom are poor and live in a ridiculously expensive city.

APRILL: “Well, since we’re up, we might as well get a jump on Thanksgiving dinner.”

Aprill opens funky vintage fridge, which is full of colorful fruits and vegetables and POM drinks, and not leftover Chinese food and Kraft singles and a carrot that committed suicide in 2011.

APRILL: “Shit!” (if this airs on late-night cable) “Darn it!” (if this airs on network TV) “Babe! I forgot to defrost the turkey!”

Stumbling noises heard off-camera. Ryan enters the kitchen, bedhead now making him look like the love child of Nick Nolte and Justin Bieber.

RYAN: “Huh. Well, that sounds like a pretty big problem for Future Ryan to deal with. But right now, Current Ryan is going back to bed.”

Two hours later…

Ryan wakes up to a loud noise. He walks into the kitchen.

RYAN: “Uh…whatcha doin’?”

APRILL: “Blow-drying the turkey, obviously. Added bonus, I occasionally blow it directly in Riker’s face and it makes him giggle. And his hair is now super shiny.”

RYAN: “Aw…that’s my delicate little flower.”

Cue laugh track.

APRILL: “By the way, how long does a turkey take to cook?”

RYAN: “I don’t know. I have to Google it every year. Why don’t you know? You’ve made the turkey before.”

APRILL: “And how did that work out?”

RYAN: “Yeah, but after the food poisoning symptoms passed, remember how happy you were you lost five pounds?”

APRILL: “I finally fit in my skinny sweatpants.”

Cue pity laugh track.

Four hours later…

Aprill, Ryan, Riker and the dog are all on the back porch as smoke billows out of the windows of their house. Sirens can be heard in the background.

APRILL: “Who knew potatoes could explode like that?”

RYAN: “Two people who have a small infant they are in charge of keeping alive probably should.”

APRILL: “This day is a disaster. Do we have any wine?”

RYAN: “No. But we have some cooking sherry that’s probably tainted considering I think I bought it back in the 90s. That ought to do the trick.”

APRILL: “I’ll get the sherry, you call China Garden.”

RYAN: “I think that makes four years in a row. Pretty sure it’s now officially a Thanksgiving tradition.”

APRILL: “It’s just not the holidays without crab rangoon and the smell of burning arm hair.”

Ryan kisses Aprill.

Cue “Ooooooo” kissy-face track.

RYAN: “Insert some cheesy line here.”

Cue applause track.

Fade to credits.