Category Archives: Food

My Thanksgiving Google List

How big of a turkey do I need?

Idiot proof recipes for Thanksgiving turkey

What is a brine?

Is a brine necessary?

Things I can brine a turkey in besides a bucket

Is Alton Brown single?

Pictures of Alton Brown

Alton Brown’s wife

Did Guy Fieri die?

People you’d be surprised are still alive

When are grocery stores the least crowded?

How late is Trader Joe’s open?

Why are there so many people in the world?

How expensive is it to have Thanksgiving catered?

Should I buy a backup turkey?

Videos of how to remove turkey guts

Do gutless turkeys exist?

Thanksgiving cocktails

Thanksgiving cocktails you can make with simple ingredients

Thanksgiving cocktails with three or less ingredients

Wine with the highest alcohol content

That funny Thanksgiving song, not the Adam Sandler one

That funny Thanksgiving song about jail

Thanksgiving playlist ideas

Thanksgiving sweaters for dogs

Thanksgiving sweaters for women

Thanksgiving sweater sets for families

How to make sweet potatoes not suck

Why do people put marshmallows on sweet potatoes?

Recipes for normal potatoes

What is the point of parsley?

Why aren’t there more Thanksgiving movies?

Forgot to thaw turkey

Are turkeys microwave safe?

Can you blow dry a turkey?

Recipe for cheesy vegetable dish, possibly included cauliflower?

How to trick children into eating Thanksgiving dinner

Good responses to ‘I don’t want to eat this’

How to make vegetables taste like not vegetables

Thanksgiving sides you can deep fry

Recipe for deep fried stuffing balls

Recipe for deep fried stuffing balls not on a food blog site featuring long stories

How can you tell when a turkey is done?

First aid for minor burns

My discount meat thermometer melted?

Difference between oven safe thermometers and not oven safe

Can I still eat a turkey if a thermometer melted on it?

Pizza places open on Thanksgiving

 

When you just need a quick recipe…

Well, hello there! Welcome to my food blog! I see you’re looking up a quick recipe to make for dinner tonight. You’ve definitely come to the right place. This truly is one of my favorites to make and it’s so easy and simple you’ll be shocked when it also tastes like it came from a fancy five-star restaurant! And, trust me, your whole family will love it! Yes! Truly! Did I already use truly earlier? Doesn’t matter, because it’s true. Even though your kids haven’t eaten anything other than plain pasta and french fries for the last eight months, they are sure to ask for seconds (or maybe even thirds!) of this simple, easy recipe that is truly SO tasty and uses all fresh ingredients including a couple you’ve literally never even heard of.

As you can see from the much too large photo and bio over there on the side of this website, I am a busy mom JUST LIKE YOU. A busy mom with perfect hair casually holding a glass of white wine and wearing a sweater you can definitely not afford. So, trust me, I get it. Dinner time is always hectic in our house too. So, I know how valuable your time is. So, let’s get right to it, shall we?

I first started cooking when I was seven-years-old. And one of my favorite things to make in my grandmother’s kitchen was this very recipe. Truly! Oh wait, sorry, here comes the first of the pop ads. Followed immediately by the second one. Just hit the tiny little box with the x in it but be careful not to accidentally click on the ad itself…

Hey! Welcome back! Truly, I know how annoying those ads can be but a girl has to make an income somehow, you know? Otherwise I couldn’t afford a nanny to watch little Naiviann, Mckarty and Lakynn so I have the time to write a 12,000 word introduction for every single recipe on this site. 

Now, as I was saying, this recipe is a real crowd-pleaser and uses ingredients that are probably already in your pantry. Just some chicken and organic heirloom tomatoes and spigarello and a ripe kabocha and fresh thyme grown in the manure of a free range alpaca named Larry. Of course, you can always substitute the fresh goat crema for evaporated milk. I mean, I’m not a monster. I once was upper middle class before I became wealthy so I get the struggle. 

Oh, hang on, here comes the pop up video that you can’t find the X-out button to. It’s only 3 minutes and 52 seconds long so just watch it as your rage slowly starts to build. 

Alright, onto the recipe because the kids are getting hungry while you’ve wasted 45 minutes frantically scrolling in an increasingly desperate attempt to find the recipe on this recipe blog site. But, trust me, the wait will be worth it. No joke, over 12 people have sent me messages telling me this was the BEST recipe they had ever tried. Which is why I’m so excited for you to try it! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter for more amazing recipes just like this one that you haven’t even seen yet. Here are also some links you never asked for of my other family-friendly recipes like an herb-encrusted salmon with a white wine sauce and my garlic-infused roasted parmesan asparagus casserole. 

Now you want to make sure that when you are sauteing the vegetables in this recipe that you use sunflower oil and not vegetable oil. I know this tip should be included with the actual recipe but when it comes to cooking, at least in my experience, it’s always better to list the tips and tricks to the recipe way before you get to the actual recipe so that you have to scroll back up when you are in the middle of actually making it. 

Oh look, another ad! For something you didn’t even Google. You just thought about it briefly last week. Creepy, huh? Oh, and bummer. Now your screen is frozen. Don’t worry. I’ll wait. I clearly have all the time in the world even though I am, as I mentioned, a very busy mom. JUST LIKE YOU. Truly!

Hey! It finally unfroze. Welcome back again! Alright, now that your battery is below five percent, here is the recipe. And you better get started. The total time is 3 hours and 45 minutes. 

 

A Nightmare in Elm Trees

It was a cloudless blue day in late summer. The kind of blue that made the heart ache with possibility. The kind of day made for adventures. 

And it was in that spirit of happy potentiality that the little family began packing up their car for a weekend away in the woods. Backpacks full of toys, a small suitcase filled with hoodies and bug spray, a cooler loaded with beer and marshmallows. The father grunting as he loaded the trunk, the children squealing and chasing each other, the mother watching fondly but also desperately trying to remember what she forgot because it was definitely something. 

How could they possibly know under that perfect sky that they were walking into a horror story? (Other than the fact it’s the premise for an entire genre of horror stories?).

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The drive passed quickly and uneventfully. The cabin was small and cozy. They only had one neighbor in this isolated part of the New Hampshire woods. A lone man wearing flannel staying at the other cabin across a copse of trees. The mother joked that he looked like Ted Bundy. The father laughed. Because it’s all fun and games until someone gets murdered. 

For now, it was peaceful. Quiet. Which is probably why the mother was able to hear it. Barely perceptible, but definitely there. She had just sat down and opened her book when a low moan rose up out of the woods. She looked around but when she didn’t see anything, decided to ignore it, managing to read three whole sentences before hearing it again. Only it was a little louder this time. 

“…oooooooommmmmm….”

“Hello?” she practically whispered. “Is…is someone there?”

The woods answered back with the light rustling of leaves in the wind. After a few more moments, she turned her attention back to her book. Finding time to read was a luxury and she refused to waste it. But just when she had finally relaxed, releasing the tension in her shoulders that had been there since the birth of her oldest, there was that sound again. Louder. Much louder. An unearthly wail. 

“MOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!” 

No. No, it can’t be, she thought. But it was. Suddenly, like a pop-up book from hell, her two children appeared on either side of her, loudly complaining that they were already bored. 

They had only arrived 20 minutes ago. 

The mother screamed. 

Meanwhile, the father was in the cabin unpacking. Although beautiful late afternoon sunlight filtered in through the windows, the man couldn’t shake the black, foreboding feeling that something wasn’t right. He checked and double-checked all the bags. Everything seemed in order. When suddenly…

“Honey!” he screamed in terror. “We forgot the graham crackers!” 

There are some who say the inhuman wails of the children upon learning this news could be heard as far away as Vermont. 

After that, it was as though the children were possessed. “S’MORES!” they screeched while clawing, grabbing, tearing at their parents with small but freakishly strong hands. “S’MORES!”

Somehow the father managed to escape, fleeing in dread to the car. Twenty minutes later, he was running blindly through the streets of the only nearby town.

“Help! Someone help! I need graham crackers!” His words echoed off the empty buildings. “PLEASE! I left my wife alone with the kids! I don’t know how long she can hold out!”

By the time he returned, a box of horrifyingly overpriced crackers in hand, he found the children dancing around the fire, having gone completely feral in his absence, dirt smudged on their faces like so much war paint. The mother lay in the fetal position to one side, quietly whispering over and over again “he’ll be back soon, he’ll be back soon, he’ll be back soon…” 

Quickly, the father got to work, roasting marshmallows but trying in his panic not to burn them. May the good Lord have mercy on his soul if he burned them. With shaking hands, he assembled the dark snacks that had turned his children into unrecognizable fiends. But just as quickly as he made them, the children tore into them like a pack of wolves, quickly disemboweling the father’s careful work, discarding the crackers and marshmallows over their shoulders and only eating the chocolate. 

“MORE.” they bellowed. 

The parents quietly wept. 

A few hours later, determined to salvage this family trip, the parents announced in perky but trembling voices, “let’s go for a walk in the woods!” To their surprise, the children agreed, chocolate still ominously smeared across their faces. And for a few glorious minutes, it appeared all might be ok. The children happily scampered ahead, collecting acorns and pine cones. They even let out a few genuine laughs of delight. 

But then the couple made the fatal mistake of enjoying themselves, triggering in the offspring all their most evil and depraved impulses. Because while the children typically loved nature, could spend hours staring at a dead leaf while in the city, they could not stand that very same nature when their parents paid $100 for a cabin completely surrounded by it. 

“This is dumb. Can we go home?”

“My feet hurt. Will you carry me?”

“I SAW A BUG!”

“Can we get an Uber?”

“I hate trees.”

“Did you bring any s’mores? I WANT A S’MORE!”

The parents didn’t die that day. But there are some who say they can still see the ghosts of their expectations haunting the woods to this very day.

On the plus side, the family never did get murdered by their neighbor Ted Bundy. Likely because the children scared him away. Even serial killers have their limits. 

A Review of my Son’s Imaginary Restaurant

It’s a tired old trope and yet still remains a true one. When it comes to so many ventures, it’s all about location, location, location. 

Which is the one thing my 5-year-old son’s recently opened restaurant has going for it. Situated conveniently right in the heart of my living room, this one-couch eatery specializes in unique dishes that are as creative as they are inedible. 

Aptly, or perhaps ironically, named Restaurant, the place has what can only be described as a homey vibe with a shabby chic aesthetic, heavy on the shabby. On entry, you are greeted by a riot of colors and smells, none of which are food related. The cleanliness also left something to be desired for this particular reviewer but the other patron, an elderly canine named Buffy, didn’t seem to mind. 

The owner and head chef (and host and server) Riker revealed to me that he had only recently taken an interest in the culinary arts. Prior to opening Restaurant, he had his sights set on becoming a ninja astronaut. Alas, the lack of experience and passion showed. The service alone was, to say the least, wanting. 

“What do you want to drink?” he demanded soon after I sat down. 

“How about a Diet Coke?”

“We don’t have Diet Coke.”

“You don’t have Diet Coke at this imaginary restaurant?”

“Nope.”

“OK, what do you have?”

“Um…coffee or tea.”

“I’ll take coffee.”

“Actually, we don’t have coffee. Do you want tea?”

Deciding to try my luck instead with their wine list, I summoned the sommelier, who happened to be the owner’s younger sister. At only 3-years-old, she was on the younger side of wine experts and it quickly became evident she had only gotten the job because of family connections. 

“Could you recommend a red, miss?”

“Red what?”

“Red wine.”

“Can I have some?”

“No.”

“Can I have pink wine then?”

The conversation quickly went off the rails from there. Resigning myself to the fact that I would just be thirsty throughout this entire meal, I was surprised, and somewhat wary, when the chef eventually presented me with a pink teacup that sang “Twinkle, Twinkle” incessantly. 

“Here’s your coffee.”

“I thought you said you didn’t have coffee. Also, this is empty.”

“OK, it’s root beer.”

Restaurant’s signature dish is pizza. (Although entree options are subject to change with little to no warning). With no menu in sight, I decided that would likely be my best bet. Even bad pizza is still pizza. Or, at least, it had been up until now. 

“I’d like to order a pizza, please,” I informed the chef. 

“Oh yes, pizza. Pizza has sauce and cheese. And crust. And…um…do you want mushrooms on it?”

“No.”

“Well, you have to have mushrooms on it.”

“Pretty sure that’s not how this works.”

“It is.”

“Oh.”

The kitchen, a converted bedroom in the back of the house, came alive with the sounds of clanging toy pots and pans and what definitely better not be my expensive William Sonoma kitchen utensils stolen from a certain drawer. Luckily, I didn’t have time to ruminate on this long since my dish arrived quickly (under two minutes, in fact, by my count). On the down side, it resembled nothing even vaguely pizza-like. The crust looked like a slab of cardboard (mostly because it was cardboard). The sauce looked suspiciously like Play-Doh covered in dog hair but at least it was red. I was informed by the chef that the “cheese” on my pizza was definitely cheese and not a blank piece of paper. And yes, there were mushrooms as well. Plastic mushrooms. Plucked straight from the toy aisle years ago in the Kmart region of the Northeast. 

“Here’s your pizza!” Chef Riker announced while delicately placing the dish down on my crissed-crossed lap.

“Oh…wow.”

“Take a bite!”

Wanting to retain a fragment of my professionalism, I did as I was told.

“Mmm…this is…interesting.”

But the chef had already disappeared, pitter-pattering off to do more important chef stuff one can only assume. Or perhaps to scold the improper behavior of his sommelier, who was at this point crawling around on the floor meowing and yelling “Momma! Look! I’m a kitty cat!” 

Unsure what to do next, I sat there uncomfortably while my fellow patron at Restaurant started barking and making quite the ruckus. Likely because his pizza didn’t turn out as he expected either. 

To my relief, Riker soon returned with a towering stack of Legos.

“I forgot your dessert.” he apologized. “Here you go. It’s ice cream!”

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the ice cream was as unpalatable as everything else had been. 

“So, what do you think of my restaurant?” Riker asked, standing there with hope in his eyes and a stolen whisk in his hand.

“Best meal I ever had, chef.”

38 Things I’ve Learned in 38 Years

Well, it’s my birthday. Again. And it’s a big one. The Big 3-8. I am now as old as Homer Simpson (at least in season 8). No, I’m not crying. You’re crying. SOMEONE BRING ME A BEER AND A DONUT. 

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If I’m being honest, though, I don’t really mind aging. I’ve learned so many things this past year. Wise things. Sensible things. And so, so many useless things.

All things I would now like to generously share with you…

The easiest way to deal with grass stains on your children’s clothing is to not care that your children’s clothing have grass stains.

If someone says “hey, smell this!” do not, under any circumstances, smell it.

I know there are people out there who don’t drink wine. I don’t understand them but I do think we should still try to love them.

Speaking of love, if you truly love someone, show it. By texting instead of calling.

Preschool teachers do not get paid nearly enough.

Growing older makes you realize what the truly important things are in life. I’d pay way more money for an uninterrupted nap than I would for diamonds or gold.

Never punch down. In comedy or life.

Take photos and videos of your kids when they are at their worst. Then look at these every time your ovaries start whispering “hey, there’s still time to have one more baby.”

I’m young enough to still hate the taste of martinis.

I’m old enough to now like the taste of gross stinky cheese.

In that brief moment when all your laundry is done AND put away, all things are possible. Revel in this moment before it ends.

We should all jump on the saving-the-planet bandwagon. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? We succeed and our grandchildren don’t have to live in a dystopian hellscape?

It’s ok to look your age. Looking young is not an accomplishment. It’s a result of genes or lots of money or an extremely boring life. Or all three.

Hating pop culture is not an acceptable substitute for an actual personality. Shut up and let people like stuff.

No means no, stop means stop, let Mommy finish her coffee means LET MOMMY FINISH HER COFFEE. 

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Most people have no idea what they’re doing. Don’t let their confidence fool you.

The good thing about exercising is that if you do it for so long, you become addicted to it. The bad thing about exercising is that if you do it for so long, you become addicted to it.

It’s ok to laugh uncomfortably at funerals. Unless it’s your funeral.

It’s a small world. It’s an infinite universe.

You’re never too old to wear a tutu.

You’re also never too old to climb trees. (You will, however, be sore for days afterwards).

I’d rather be strong than skinny.

I’d rather be happy than rich.

I’d rather be immortal than dead.

It’s not important to love the same things your partner does. But it is important to hate the same things.

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The last thing all pets should see before they die is your tear-streaked face. We owe it to them to be there until the very end.

One of the best things you can do for your sanity as a parent is to teach your kids how to swing on the swings all by themselves.

Fruit doesn’t belong on pizza or burgers.

No one likes the person who points out that tomatoes are a fruit.

Spiderman should always be played by an actual teenager.

You will regret not being in the photos.

You can never have too much sunscreen on hand.

Admitting you’re wrong isn’t a weakness.

Take pride in your unread emails. It beats panicking. (1,300 and counting!)

Smile at little kids, have a conversation with a lonely elderly neighbor, invite the mom sitting alone at the playground to have a nip from your flask. We could all use more positive human interaction.

Teach your children to be the kind of people who love the smell of old books.

You don’t have to be good at something to pursue it. If you love it, do it. Take it from an extremely mediocre photographer.

Speaking of things people aren’t good at, I am not good at math. Here’s to hoping this is the 38th thing. Because I am out of useless wisdom to impart. Did I mention cheese yet? Cheese is good.

The weird things that excite you as a mom

I stood there in front of the refrigerator, the cool air wafting past my body like a million tiny kisses from the grocery store angel. I stood there and just stared. For how long, I have no idea. My brain was too busy taking inventory to notice something as trivial as time. Somewhere, way in the back of said brain, I realized I was doing the exact same thing I yell at my kids for doing. But I didn’t care. Rules are made (by me) to be broken (by me).

Besides, I was downright giddy by this point. There are weird things that excite you once you become a mom. That brief 45 seconds where all the laundry is done. Educational toys that promise to make your kid a STEM superstar. Drinking wine based on your favorite TV shows while watching those TV shows.

All great things, truly. But for me, there is nothing that can top the weird excitement I feel in the days leading up to a vacation when I am confronted with the task of getting all the perishable food in my kitchen consumed before we leave. And as I stood there in front of the fridge, I couldn’t help but notice how full it was. Only four days left to go and there were ingredients and leftovers enough for at least a good week. I should have been embarrassed by how exhilarated I was about this. How electrified I was by the challenge.

But I wasn’t.

This was my culinary Olympics.

There are rules, of course. You can’t just throw the food away, for one. You’re a mom, after all. It must be consumed. Or, as in my case since I have small children, prepared and placed in front of my family where it is ignored and stubbornly not consumed. And THEN, after an acceptable amount of ignoring time, it can be thrown out. The goal is always to let as little food as possible go to waste.  

As you can imagine, this leads to some rather creative meals in the days leading up to vacation.

“Mom, what is this?”

“Chicken nugget spaghetti”

“And this?”

“Scrambled eggs mixed with overripe avocado.”

“And for dessert?”

“Mashed potato pie.”

“It looks like it’s just leftover mashed potatoes.”

“It is.”

Another rule is that you will not be going to the store. For anything. You can’t subtract by adding. Which means that some things will have to be rationed.

“Momma, can I have some milk?”

“Everyone gets a thimbleful of milk every three hours.”

“But Momma…”

“I measured it perfectly! There will be no deviating from the plan. There’s water if you’re thirsty.”

“Well, can I at least have a snack?”

“Of course. Here, eat this about-to-be-expired sour cream.”

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Some people, and by some people I mean my husband, think I take this all a bit far. But he’s wrong. Which is why we end up having conversations like this:

“Ryan, did you just heat something up from the freezer?”

“Yeah. I was really craving a…”

*knocking microwave burrito out of his hand* “Do you think this is a game? Was I not clear before? Do you need to see the PowerPoint slides again?”

“Oh God, please no.”

“NO CANNED OR FROZEN FOOD FROM HERE ON OUT.”

“Honey, don’t you think you’re taking this all a bit too serio…”

“THAT FRIDGE WILL BE EMPTY.”

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And lastly, if anything is left, guess what everyone is eating in the car on the way to our destination? I don’t care that it’s a bag of wilted salad and slightly wrinkled grapes and questionably smelling hummus from the far, far back right corner. Eat it. Momma is on a mission and I will not let ANYONE’S fickle eating habits ruin it.

You can eat whatever you want on vacation. You can waste whatever food you want on vacation. There are no rules on vacation. Let complete chaos REIGN on vacation.

But before vacation, I am running this joint like a gastronomic gulag. And you will eat those stale marshmallows and leftover lasagna for breakfast. And you’ll like it.

And all because, and I say this in my most haughty evil dictator voice, it amuses me.

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A chocolate cone with M&M’s, please

I took my kids to get ice cream today.

That’s it. There’s no punchline. There’s no funny anecdote. No moral. No bittersweet ending. No big lesson.

Just…I got ice cream with my kids today.

My son, who is 5, chose chocolate. In a cone. With M&M’s on top. He was emphatic about that. Lots and lots of M&M’s, please. I suspect it was the please that made the women behind the counter add extra, turning it into an M&M cone with a hint of ice cream.

My daughter, who is 2, then chose chocolate. In a cone. With, and here’s the twist, M&M’s on top. Lots and lots, pwease. The counter woman practically dumped the entire M&M bin over her cone.

My son ate his like someone twice his age. Methodical. Minimal stain damage. A mature grasp of the melting-to-dripping timing. He even sat on his napkin so it didn’t blow away, an advanced outdoor eating move, if I do say so myself.

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My daughter ate hers like a feral baby wolf. Just ate it with her entire face. Napkin? Who has time for that? By the time she was done, she was more chocolate than girl, inside and out. Luckily, most of it wiped off when she ran to me and gave me a big, sticky, spontaneous hug.

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And that’s it. Then we went home.

We didn’t even talk about anything interesting. I remember Riker was telling a rather long story about a robot who could turn different colors, which led to Mae telling me an even more disjointed story about how she was a robot cat who loved purple.    

So why am I even bothering to write this down, to share this with you? To be honest, this one’s more for me. I want to remember this moment. How small their hands looked holding those giant waffle cones. How big their eyes got when they took that first bite. The way the sunlight glinted off their red hair. How good the spring breeze felt.

When you first become a parent, you never think you’ll forget anything. They lay that baby on your chest and that moment is emblazoned on your mind and heart like a tattoo. And so you think it will always be like that. That you’ll remember every beautiful minute with them from then on with complete and utter clarity; the way they yawned, the way they smelled, the way they grasped your finger in their iron grip.

But you do forget. No matter how hard you stare at them, no matter how many photos you take, the moments still slip away on the relentless tides of time.

I don’t even remember what my daughter’s first word was anymore.

I’m always writing about my life, my family, my feelings, my failings. But in-between all the writing, all the reflecting, all the making-sense-of and making-fun-of, in-between all the updates and photos and pithy comments, is ordinary, boring, old life. Like today. A day that was full but ultimately added up to nothing because life doesn’t always make a good narrative. There was no epiphany, no greater meaning gleaned from anything.

There was only ice cream.

But I don’t want to forget it.

So, today, I took my kids to get ice cream. And it was a glorious, chaotic, loud, exasperating and beautiful mess.

The end.

Maybe technology is cyclical

There are a lot of theories out there about the best way to raise children. These mostly come from people without kids, but a shocking amount of parents manage to form strong opinions about this subject too. Which they must do in-between chugging Merlot and crying in the shower, I imagine.

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I’ll admit I used to be one of those parents. With lofty ideals about proper nutrition and preschool STEM activities and basic human hygiene.

Pffft.

But that was before. Before the machine. Before…THE GAME.

Now none of it matters. Nothing matters. Nothing except…THE GAME.

Well, I mean, and my children and my husband and our collective health and world peace and our extended families and our beloved dog and protecting the environment and Jeff Goldblum because he’s a national treasure and all our friends.

But NOTHING ELSE.

It started innocently enough, like most of these scenarios that end up spiraling into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I bought my husband one of those Nintendo Classic consoles for Christmas. You know, the ones with all the games from our childhood? PacMan. Donkey Kong. Super Mario Bros., ONE, TWO AND THREE.

And it quickly became clear once we turned it on that my family is unlikely to do anything for the next 15 years other than play Nintendo.

Like moths to a super pixelated light, my husband and I pressed our noses to the screen, that oh-so-unforgettable music filling our ears. The music of the angels, if angels sported mullets and Jordache jeans and oversized, unflattering eyeglasses.

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It was all so familiar, and yet somehow new, considering it had been close to three decades since either one of us had felt those comforting buttons beneath our fingers. Almost immediately we fell into that old trance, eyes glazed and fingers moving like lightning, murdering everything in our path with glee.

Our children, curious as to why we were refusing to feed them or take them for walks or generally acknowledging their existence in any form, eventually wandered over and were also immediately dragged under the spell of the Nintendo. All too soon, requests of “can I play next?” started pouring forth from their lips, eventually escalating into shouts of “IT’S MY TURN NOW!” Which, as their parents, we very maturely responded back “NO, IT’S STILL MY TURN!”

We haven’t cleaned in weeks. Empty pizza boxes are stacked like fortresses around our living room, with discarded juice boxes and wine bottles acting as moats around them. All of our hair has started to resemble the characters on those TV shows about Vikings.

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Sometimes, in those brief moments where I blink and remember there is a life outside of rescuing the princess, I wonder if I should be worried about what kind of damage this is doing to us. Especially the kids. Everyone is always yelling about the importance of limiting screen time and how video games are bad for developing brains and that Cheetos apparently don’t contain all the nutrients a body needs.  

But then, happily, it’s my turn again and those silly thoughts shoot right out of my head with the speed of a jumped-upon turtle shell in Super Mario Bros.

Besides, I choose to think of this whole thing as more like how families of yore used to sit around the fireplace, reading classic literature out loud to each other and bonding or whatever. Only instead of a fire we have a magic box that makes little Italian men run and jump and squish evil mushrooms sporting heavy eyebrows. And is there truly any more of a bonding experience than witnessing your 2-year-old finally learning how to run AND jump at the same time as opposed to just walking into a wall for eight minutes straight? I mean…

There is only one thing truly missing from my life right now. So if someone could just leave Doritos and Jolt Cola on my front porch, I’d really appreciate it.  

 

How to survive a road trip with your family (Part One)

Spoiler alert: You don’t.

Sure, you’re still alive. Technically. But you come back changed. Different. Hardened. You are not the same person who optimistically climbed into that tiny Hyundai Accent with your husband and two kids and elderly dog, all bright-eyed with dreams of adventure and bonding and Instagram-worthy shots of the highway.

You are now a survivor. You have been to hell and back. And let me tell you, Dante had it easy. He never had to help a toddler with diarrhea in a dirty rest stop bathroom. I can still hear the screams. “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING…NO. STOP. WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? DID YOU JUST STICK YOUR HAND IN THE TOILET? NOOOOOOOO…”

And the torture isn’t just limited to the road. In fact, it begins long before the traditional road trip opening ceremony of stomping from room to room looking for the lost car keys. (Because why would the car keys be where you left them? That would be silly. Then you would actually leave on time.).

No, see, for every road trip there is a person who is designated as the Carrier of the Mental Load for the group. This is the unfortunate soul who is responsible for remembering everything that everyone could possibly need for every single possible eventuality. Clothes for every weather scenario. Favorite toys and blankets. Second favorite toys and blankets in case the first ones get lost. Swimsuits for the hotel pool. Sippy cups. Extra wipes. Extra diapers. Tissues. The night-night book. Dramamine because last time the back seat looked like a scene from “The Exorcist.” Two coats, per person, because it is likely to be 70 degrees one day and a blizzard the next. AND DON’T FORGET THE CHARGERS. ALL THE CHARGERS. DID YOU PACK YOUR CHARGER? WELL, CHECK AGAIN. WE ARE NOT BUYING ONE FROM A GAS STATION. YOU HEAR ME?

Even the dog gets his own bag. Dog food. Dog treats. Rawhide bones. A bottle of water and an empty bowl. His favorite toy, Lobstah Killah. His second favorite toy, Mr. Disemboweled Stuffed Squirrel. His arthritis medication that you can never get him to take but bring with you so that you can more confidently lie to the vet at his next visit.

Do NOT mistake this as a position of honor. It is not. It is the quickest way to destroy your brain without the help of illegal drugs.

But take heart. If this position falls to you, just know that someone else (hint: your significant other) will be designated as the Master of Luggage Tetris. This is the person who has to take the various shapes and lumps that all your Very Vital Vacation items have been stuffed into and fit them into a tiny car trunk. This is also not a position of honor, which is why cursing is allowed.

(Please note that the same person can’t do both jobs without permanent brain damage. Don’t be a hero and take it all on yourself.).

Once you are finally in the car, the typical rules that regulate our lives no longer apply. For example, you can never have enough snacks. Let me repeat that. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH SNACKS. Buy ALL the snacks. It doesn’t matter if they don’t all get eaten. They won’t. You will waste so much money on these snacks that never get eaten. Hundreds of dollars. Thousands, possibly. But it doesn’t matter. You would pay double, TRIPLE, that amount for any object that can stop multiple children who all decide to have meltdowns at the exact same moment. They will eat three Doritos out of that family-sized bag and then dump the rest on the floor and you will still spend the rest of your life thanking the God of Doritos for his divine intervention. You will get to a point where you are hurling SnoBalls like grenades into the backseat just for one moment of peace. You’ll let them snort straight sugar through a straw on the back of their Dr. Seuss book. And at every stop you will buy more snacks. Because snacks are the dam holding back the raging river of your kids’ “BIG FEELINGS” that you do not want unleashed in that tiny tin can you call a vehicle.

Naturally, as a result of this, your car will eventually become one of the scarier episodes of “Hoarders.” Half empty coffee cups as far as the eye can see. Happy Meal cartons that are breeding like rabbits under the seats. Chips and half eaten snack cakes littering the floor ankle-deep. Let it go. Do not worry about it. If it gets too bad, just ditch the car in a river a few miles from your destination and call an Uber to take you the rest of the way.

Of course, snacks does not mean liquids. Do not, under any circumstance, give liquids to anyone in that car. If you do, no one will be on the same pee schedule.

Actually, scratch that. Even if you purposely dehydrate everyone, giving out one capful of bottled water every four hours like you are stranded on a desert island, you will still have to stop every 14 minutes. Yup, that’s right. They can’t even make it 15 minutes. The good news is that this gives you plenty of opportunity to buy an overpriced charger on your way out (that, it will turn out, doesn’t work with your phone).

Luckily, all of this will be forgotten when you reach your first destination, the hotel right off the Interstate. Because that’s when the real nightmare begins.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

But I still can’t define irony

You know how when you have kids and you look down for just a second to tie their shoe or pick up their Legos and the next thing you know it’s five years later and everything is different and you have no idea what is going on outside of your living room? Well, I just looked up and somehow, between getting knocked up with my first child and celebrating the second birthday of my youngest child, every single person I have ever met has jumped, to varying degrees, on the personal improvement bandwagon.

Everyone is on the path to wellness.

I mean, I scroll through Facebook and they’re signing up for 5k’s in droves. They’re posting 6 a.m. gym selfies. It’s been four months without a cigarette and two years without a drink and nearly half a decade since that demon gluten has touched their lips. They’ve changed their entire way of thinking about food and diet and sustainability and are consuming whole foods they got at Whole Foods. They’re eating like cavemen and dinosaurs and feeling amazing. AND they lost 17 pounds on whatever a keto is.

The ones who used to complain about people complaining about them smoking are now the ones complaining about the people smoking. They’re meditating and traveling and replenishing their souls. They’re politically active and raising money for charity AND doing it all while raising politically active, charity-minded families.

Because they have all turned into time management GODS. They work eight hours, maybe ten, hell, sometimes twelve, and then go home and record a podcast, or an album, or both, which they do while also sewing quilts, which they sell on Etsy, which they in turn use that money to pay for the food and medicine all the rescue dogs they are fostering need.

If it sounds like I’m making fun, I’m really not. I think this collective transformation I’m witnessing whilst splayed out on my couch is amazing and life-affirming and inspiring. I just felt a little out of the loop because one, I was in survival mode with my small children for so long that it’s hard to imagine everyone else doesn’t also buy cookie dough and wine in bulk. And two, I’m old enough to remember what counted as “wellness” before Goop and Instagram came along.

Sit down and let Auntie Aprill give you a brief “wellness” history lesson, kids. See, when I was a kid in the 80’s, being healthy meant eating giant tubs of pretzels and then burning those calories off by half-assedly participating in one of the 78 VHS workout tapes you owned. In the 90’s, no one even ate food. All our nutrients came from Diet Coke and cigarettes and our only exercise was ripping very elaborate holes in our jeans that we all claimed were from legit wear-and-tear. And none of us could afford therapy so we just watched “Reality Bites” over and over and over again. 

In the early 2000’s, wellness consisted of wearing gaudy pink tracksuits with “Juicy” written on the butt and taking over the recommended dose of those diet pills Anna Nicole Smith was shilling. We also cut down our indoor tanning time by, like, a fourth, because cancer or whatever. By the time Obama was in office, we were mixing our vodka and Red Bull with a dash of vitamin water like the responsible adults we had become and, as long as we were doing less drugs than Lindsay Lohan, we pretty much considered ourselves in good shape.

But now, well, now people are striving to get healthy in actually healthy ways. Long term ways. Scientifically proven ways. In ways that address their physical, mental and emotional needs.

It’s a potent idea. So potent, it’s even rubbed off on me. ME. The person who used to consider binge-watching “My 600-lb Life” as exercise because, hey, I wasn’t ON the show or anything. But, now that I have kids, I want to live forever. Even more importantly, while I am living, I want to feel good and be present and be content. For them. And my husband. And me. (WELLNESS!).

Which is why I signed up to run a half marathon this October. And it’s why I drink more moderately now (although it’s a Boston moderate, which is still enough alcohol to kill your average Californian). And it’s why I cook most of our meals. From INGREDIENTS. And why I’m busy making outlines for the books I want to write. And why this summer I didn’t sign my children up for anything and we just explored and traveled at our leisure. And why I’m saving up my money, not for things, but for experiences. And I’m reaching out to my friends more because loneliness is a silent killer. I’m even donating to the occasional goddamn charity.

22-year-old me would hate 37-year-old me.

But screw her. I feel better. I do. I ran almost seven miles Sunday morning. And then went gallivanting around the city with my family. And then still had the energy to go out to a coffee shop and write for a couple of hours before heading home to put the kids to bed. And then I collapsed on the couch, exhausted. But a good exhausted. Life’s too short for unhealthy coping mechanisms.

All in all, I’m quite proud of myself. Of all of us. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Which is also why I won’t feel guilty when, as soon as I post this, I’m going to mix this can of Diet Coke with some whiskey and watch “Reality Bites.”

You know, for old time’s sake.