Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Memory

My heart and all my thoughts are with Becky  and her family today as she prepares for her mastectomy this afternoon.

I do have a small story to share.


Several weeks ago, I received an unexpected letter.  The first line read:

"According to our records, you are overdue for your breast imaging procedure."

The letter was sent in error.  A mistake.  It serve as a reminder, though.

When I was 23, I discovered an irregular lump in my breast, about half the size of a pearl onion.  I'm going to spare you the long drawn out version, but it was a difficult and scary time.  I had my own health insurance, and HMO, for the first time in my life. Not only was I dealing with the lump, but I was also learning how to navigate the health insurance industry.  It was a difficult time, though I had a wonderful midwife (outside of the system) that helped me immensely.  I was scared, but I felt reasonable confident that I was absolutely fine.  I was 23 and invincible!

I had a mammogram.  It was inconclusive. I remember reading the pathology report over and over.  I was stunned.  I expected a report of "Benign" or something similar.  Not "Inconclusive." I decided that the tech must have done a crappy job, took a poor picture or something.  Either way, I had to reschedule.

I went in for my second mammogram.  It was awful.  Incredible painful, and very, very scary.  When the tech slapped my boob into the machine and clamped down the vice, I just burst into tears.  "Oh, dear.   It's okay, honey.  I hate it when it's a young one," she said to me.  She gave me a tissue.

When it was over, instead of being sent home, I was sent to wait.  The radiologist was going to read my report, right then and there.  This is when I became worried.  Really worried.  This was the moment for me that Becky describes so eloquently, where I first realized that something might be wrong with me.  Why wouldn't they just send me home like the first time?  They NEVER read the report and tell you the results right away.

A technician came back for me a bit later and told me I need to go have an ultrasound.  After that was done, they sent me home.

A couple of days later, I got a call from my doctor.  He was sending me to a breast surgeon.  I was completely shocked.

I went to see the breast surgeon the following week.

"What is it?"

I will never, never forget what he said to me.

"Well, I'm not sure what it is.  But I am sure it needs to come out."

I had surgery the following week.  I remember having to write on my non-surgery breast, "Not this one," and put and "X" on the one they'd be cutting and that made me a bit nervous because shouldn't they know?  Which breast they were hacking into?  Don't they write that stuff down?  I was put in twilight and I recall at the end of the surgery, as I was coming out, the surgeon saying, "I'm 99% sure this is not cancer."

And, it wasn't.  It was a tough several days waiting for the pathology report, but I was fine.

I'm still fine.  I have a scar and the memory and two healthy breasts.

I'm closing comments.  Please send all your love and support Becky's way today.

Monday, March 29, 2010


It was a busy weekend.  Busy to say the least.  On Saturday, we'd gotten dressed, had breakfast, gone to the pediatrician, gone to Target, administered medications, and been on a Easter Egg hunt all before noon.  It was just one of those weekends where plans and errands abounded and I had no time to get any housework done.

I woke up this morning, late.  Both children slept all night long in their own beds and didn't rise until 7AM (Merry Christmas, Mommy!)  I've had this awful cold for going on two weeks, so Nelson got Miles dressed and popped both boys in bed with me where we remained until 7:45AM.

In truth, it was a little lovely. If I didn't feel so awful, I would have enjoyed it.  And, you know, if I hadn't realized all the crap I had to do that didn't get done on the weekend.  I put away some laundry only to realize that while I had brought one of the baskets up with me at bedtime last night, Nelson had opted to leave the second basket of clean, folded laundry waiting for me at the foot of the stairs.  To be fair, I didn't specifically ask him to bring the laundry upstairs.  But doesn't clean laundry just BEG to be brought upstairs?  Right?

Let me also add while upstairs, Miles got his fingers closed in a door and a drawer in with is incessant desire to 1) drive me crazy and 2) get into absolutely EVERYTHING.

We got downstairs around 8AM and I realized I needed to vacuum.  There was audible crunching when I walked. Gross.  But you know, my (selfish) children INSISTED upon being fed and watered first.  I go to cut some bread for toast to realize we have none, which means I have to make bread today.  I gave Oscar a Cliff bar and put Miles in the high chair with some Cheerios and drinkable yogurt.  

I did manage to get my vacuuming done, and run down and throw in some diapers, and pour myself (but not drink) a cup of lukewarm coffee.  As soon as I put the coffee carafe down, Oscar ran into the kitchen, "Mommy!  I pooped on the floor!  I have poop on my leg and in my socks!  Waaa!"  Sure enough, a pile of watery poop was on the floor.  Oh, and enter my terrible dogs who I'd let out to use the bathroom.  They picked this moment to start barking like assholes.

I grab Oscar and rush him upstairs and put him in the bathtub to strip him.  There's poop everywhere.  It's a hosing off situation.  But then I remember I had an egg cooking on the stove.  So I leave my poop covered toddler in the (empty) tub so I can go turn off the stove.  Downstairs, Miles is whining in his highchair and my dogs are barking their faces off to come in.  But I can't let them in because there's a pile of poop on the floor.  Okay, it was raining out, but they were sitting on my dry, enclosed back porch.  THEY WERE FINE.

I got back up, hose Oscar off, change him, and we go back downstairs.  I give Miles his egg, cleaned up the poop, let in the dogs, fed them, cleaned up their muddy paw prints, made myself and egg, and finally drank some coffee.

After cleaning up from breakfast (this also involved running interference on Miles, who was alternately playing in the garbage and looting the pantry), I started some bread.  I decided to to a Honey Oatmeal Whole Wheat bread, so I was boiling water.  Just as the kettle whistled, I hear a crash from the dining room.  Oscar had gotten in the craft box (which I'd also gotten out because it's raining here) and was basically tossing stuff on the floor - foam stickers, little pom poms, pipe cleaners.  And Miles was stuffing said things in his mouth.

I removed all small choke-able pieces from Miles' mouth, sent the boys into the living room to hang out with Danny (who was playing nicely this whole time my children were ransacking the place), and cleaned the mess.  

All of this went down prior to 10AM.  

Send reinforcements.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's 3AM; He Must Be Lonely

Scene: The Oscarelli (under duress) Family Bed. Present are Jenni, Nelson, and Oscar.

Time: 3AM, Tuesday 


Jenni: Nelson.

Nelson: SNOOCHUUU...NOR...NOR...huh?

Jenni: Nelson.  Go get the baby and rock him, okay?

Nelson: Humph!

Nelson gets out of bed and rocks Miles for approximately 15 minuets.  Brings Miles to bed.

Time: 3:45AM, Tuesday

Nelson: Snooochuu....

Miles: A cha mama na na.  Sigh.

Jenni trying not to move.

Miles: Unnhh.  Uh.  Wa!

Miles stage dives over Oscar to reach Jenni, kicking Oscar in the face.

Oscar: No!  I don't like that! I don't like that! Miles, NO!

Miles: Hee hee!

Jenni frantically disentangles Miles's feet from Oscar's face.  Nelson continues snoring.

Jenni: Nelson!  Can you help me?

Nelson: Wha?  What?

Jenni: Get Oscar from underneath Miles.

Nelson grabs Oscar.  Miles settles in.  On Jenni's neck.  Like a 22lb flesh scarf.

Time: 3:50AM - 5:00AM, Tuesday

Miles has been tossing and turning and flopping around on JENNI'S NECK for  over an hour, alternately sighing heavily and staring inches from her face. Oscar has throwing the lower half of his body over Jenni's abdomen and has been kicking liberally.  Nelson has been sleeping peacefully.

Jenni: Nelson.  NELSON.

Nelson: Snoooch...What?

Jenni: I need you to take Miles.

Nelson: Humph.  FINE.  Give him to me.

Jenni: You have to come and take him.

Nelson: Pass him over here.

Jenni: No, you don't understand.  He's on my neck.  I can't even move.

Nelson: Humph.  Fine.

Nelson takes Miles, who wakes indignantly. Rocks him for a half an hour. Returns to bed.

Time: 5:30AM, Tuesday

Miles almost immediately lunges over Oscar to Jenni.


Jenni once again disentangles Miles's feet from Oscar's face.  Miles wraps himself around Jenni's head, like a 22lb flesh hat and settles in.

Time: 5:40AM, Tuesday

Jenni's Alarm Sounds

End Scene

Repeat scene. Every night. For the rest of my life.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

RTT: Funerals Can be Fun(ny); Spring has Sprung

My brain is (almost) ticking so lets do this thing.
*At our aunt's funeral last week, I sat with my lovely sister-in-law, Suzi (I believe this is her Oscarelli debut!) as both of our husbands were pallbearers and sat in a special section reserved for them.  The service was very moving; my brother-in-law wrote a joyful and inspiring eulogy; there were readings and songs and many, many tears.  The service was Episcopalian and the mourners were all offered communion - real wine and wafers, not grape juice and saltines.  So, as the minister is offering communion she says (and I'm not even kidding), "If you are chewing gum, please spit it out.  I only want Jesus in your mouth."   Suzi whispers to me, "Um, that sounds a little dirty." And that is the first time I almost laughed inappropriately at a funeral.

*The second time I almost laughed in appropriately at the funeral was after communion.  The, um, assistant (?) took the two chalices of wine and downed what was left.  I think that's standard, because you can't very well throw away the blood of Christ, right?  Then, the minister poured her self some wine and drank it.  Then, she poured her self a SECOND nip, shrugged her shoulders as if to say, "Meh, why not?"  and knocked it back.  It was awesome.  I mean, it was after eleven, so really, why not?

*Miles has figured out how to blow his own nose. Fifteen months.  Genius.  Okay, well he hasn't figured out that he does not need to blow it 15 times in a row, or that you should not put used tissue back in the tissue box, but you know he's only fifteen months, what do you expect?

*We got the boys a monster train track for Easter and are going to set it up so it's ready for them when the get up in the morning.  And I'm going shopping for Easter eggs and prizes this weekend so we can do our first  official Easter Egg Hunt here at the house.  I'm really looking forward to it.

*My 32nd birthday is in 13 days.

*We packed up a ton of winter stuff yesterday evening.  Most of the kids' long-sleeved shirts, all of their sweaters, the heavier pairs of long pants.  Today I'm going to pull the winter coats off the coat rack.  I'm also hoping to upload and order some new pictures (it's been since before Christmas) and put a few frames on the walls this week. And, major decluttering is about to happing up in here, people.  I'm going through toys, books, papers, art projects.  The NCC is going to love me.  I'm going to make a to do list even.  I love spring.

*Miles has cut an incisor and a molar.  We're up to six teeth!

*My girlfriend Tracy is getting married in May and her bridal shower is this weekend.  It's a lingerie shower.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to die of embarrassment.

*My new washing machine is super awesome.  So, shortly after Sears scheduled delivery of a new machine, I got a call from the repair people telling me they were having trouble ordering a new agitator for my machine because they could not find the part in stock and that the repair was going to take and additional week.  Can you believe that?  Well, I told them they could cancel and am now enjoying a perfectly running washing machine.  Knock on wood.

*If you read this blog, odds are good you also read Suburban Matron so you likely already know that my friend Becky has been diagnosed with low to intermediate grade breast cancer and is scheduled for a mastectomy and breast reconstruction next week.  Her sense of humor and her strength and her wisdom and common sense through all of this are nothing short of inspiring.  If you want to pop on over there and give her some cyber love and support, I know she'd appreciate it.

As always, thanks to our host The Un Mom.  Stop by her place and check out the other Random players.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Coming Down, Odds and Ends

Wow am I exhausted from last week, both physically and emotionally.  A big thanks to all of your for your sympathy and words of support.  They mean a lot to all of us.

The boys did wonderfully at day care (which I billed as school), particularly the second day.  It was not nearly as tough as I though it would be to leave them, but I think it helped that I was leaving them with someone I've known for several years and whom I trusted.

We came home Thursday night and Nelson had off on Friday which made for a long weekend and that was nice.  We spent a ton of time outside this weekend enjoying some unseasonably warm but very welcome weather. I even had o pull out last summer's T-shirts and go and buy a few new ones for Miles. I almost got carried away and bought shorts as well, but Nelson reminded me that they'll be in long pants until at least early May.  The boys ran and played and got plenty dirty, reminding me why 20 short-sleeved shirts is barely enough to keep them clothed for a full week.

Miles had is 18 month PE on Friday and it went really well.  He was still in the 25% for weight, but only in the 75% for height (down from the 95th) confirming what Nelson and I had been thinking - he's a little guy.  I mean, I know the 75% isn't exactly "little" but we'd been thinking he was smaller than we remember'd Oscar being at this age, and we were right.  He seems more baby like in general - his cheeks are still chubby, his tummy is still round, his gait is still unsteady - and I'm okay with that.  I'm not ready to be out of babies just yet.  He's still nursing, but he did drop his late afternoon feeding.  He's down to just twice a day, including bedtime.  I'm okay with that too.

Oscar is struggling with pooping on the potty.  After two awesome months of using the potty, he started refusing to poop about two weeks ago and it's like pulling teeth to get him to go.  He won't poop in diapers either, and bribes have proven useless.  Just no pooping period.  Except it eventually leaks out and makes for quite the mess.  I'm talking turds on my couch, people.  We've decided to just let it go and stop trying to get him to go and let him take the lead.  That worked when we started potty training so we're hoping it will work again.  He's still peeing on the potty nearly every time, except when he gets too busy and forgets to go.

We've all been felled by a pretty nasty cold.  Nelson ended up with a sinus infection and it's settled in my chest.  They boys are almost over it; just runny noses now.  But there were croupy coughs and goopy, crusty eyes most of last week.

Okay, I'm all out for now, but I hope to be back tomorrow with a RTT post.  

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This Day

I have a ton of stuff to do today. A ton. We're leaving around 10:00AM to head down the road for the viewing, and we'll stay at Nelson's parent's house tomorrow night and go to the funeral Friday.

I'm trying to get a lot done this morning so I don't come home to a nightmare on Thursday night. This morning, I need to finish folding a mountain of laundry; pack for Nelson, the boys, myself; run to the pharmacy and pick up some razors; shower and get dressed; declutter for the cleaning people, who come tomorrow; pack up a day care bag with diapers and spare clothes for the boys; and get everyone dress and fed.

My friend Shannon has a daycare near the funeral home and she's agreed to take my boys for a couple of days. I'm really thankful that they will be going with someone I know and trust, but the thing is I don't leave my boys. I'm worried. I'm worried about MW's separation anxiety; I'm worried Oscar's going to forget to use the potty; I'm worried I'll have a panic attack while we are driving away.

Normally I'd be talking myself down from this ledge, but not today. Today I'm going to let myself think about it all morning so I don't have to think about why we are leaving the boys. I'm not good at this. I'm not good at being strong for people. I don't quite know how I'm going to look at Nelson's dad, and his cousin, and his uncle and not simply go to pieces. Their loss is so great it makes my own feel tiny and insignificant.

So, this morning I will keep myself busy. I will do laundry and fix breakfast and pack clothes and worry about my boys. My grief and my anxiety will take a back burner to the everyday living that goes on around here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

RTT: Poop, Pee, and Sunshine

The rain is gone, the sun is shining, and spring weather seems to have finally shown up here in the mid-Atlantic. What better way to celebrate than by randomizing a blog post?


*We've all been felled by a cold this week. It's on of the ones where your ears get blocked. It sucks. So there's that.

*After ranting about my washing machine last week, my friend Casey was like, "Duh, if it's within 90 days call Sears and they'll take that bad boy back." Well, after a third service visit yesterday and a new problem diagnosed (now it's the agitator), I did call Sears. My new machine will arrive today between 3 and 5. So, it is easier and faster to get Sears to send me a new machine than it is to get Whirlpool to fix a broken machine. Go figure.

*Last night when I was laying down with Oscar waiting for him to fall asleep (yes, every night) I also fell asleep. I woke up at 1:30AM still in my jeans and sneakers, in the bed. Apparently I was exhausted. I blame the cold.

*The sun is finally shining today and I can't get Oscar to go pee and get dressed so we can go outside and play He's just like, "No, not right now!" So I baked banana bread and fixed breakfast. The kid must have a steel bladder.

*Speaking of Oscar's bodily functions (because what else to mommy bloggers blog about?) he's now refusing to poop. He actually turned to me the other day and said, "I'm just trying to keep my poop from coming out of my butt, Mommy." When I asked him why he said, "I just don't like to poop." I've been bribing him with Thomas the Tank Engine trains purchased at rock bottom prices on ebay, but it's not working anymore. Ideas? Anyone?

Alright, I'm off to enjoy this sunshine, even if I have to take my toddler outside in his PJs. Check out Keely for some more random biz.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I am sad today. We lost someone we love very much this weekend. I'm having difficulty imagining what this world will look like without her presence; comprehending the fact that my children will not remember her; that she'll never again seek me out at family gatherings for a hug and ask me about my boys.

I was making pancakes for the boys this morning at Oscar's request. Miles got into the pantry and dumped a box of rotini on the floor and began methodically placing each noodle back into the box. This is a pretty normal occurrence, and I'll gladly sacrifice a $2 box of pasta any day if it means I can cook without Miles between my feet.

I went to grab something from the pantry and I crunched a piece of pasta beneath my feet and I was overwhelmed with the feeling of loss, but not my own loss; the loss of others in our family. I wondered, how do you say goodbye to someone you've loved and greeted each day with for more than 5 decades? To the person who birthed you and fed you and raised you and taught you right and wrong? To the person who grew up beside you and bickered with you and tattled on you and loved you still?

Just now, I was frantically searching for photos of her with my boys. I have a beautiful one of her and Oscar at Oscar's first Christmas. She loved my boys. I am so grateful for the way she loved my boys.

I can't find a photo of her with Miles. I remember vividly when they met. She came to my in-laws house by herself, very unusual for her, for the specific reason of meeting Miles William. We named Miles for her own son who died quite tragically a few weeks before Oscar was born.

She had to wait to hold him; he was nursing. He nursed for close to an hour and she waited. Once I passed him over to her she held him for hours. Maybe two hours. She was already sick then, and I remember worrying he was to heavy and offering to take him, but she refused. She held him and rocked him and snuggled him and sniffed his head.

Do I have a picture of this moment? I want to have one. I hope I do. But it's different with the second child. You forget to bring the camera. You don't feel the need to document every moment of his life. If there is no photo, my memory will have to suffice. That really doesn't feel good enough right now, but I supposed it will have to be.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Low and Slow: Crock Pot Meals

The year before Oscar was born, I asked my mother-in-law for a slow cooker for Christmas and she (as always) delivered.

Let me tell you, I bow down to my slow cooker. It's a little workhorse. I use it on the reg, and for the purposes of this week's meal plan, I'm going to use it pretty much every day.

So, here's what we're eating:

Sloppy Joes, broccoli on the side
Pork Marrakesh over couscous (a new recipe for me; neither of my kids eat pork, so nuggets or cheese toast for them)
Beef and bean tacos, salad on the side
Chicken curry (low fat -we'll see how this turns out and if my kids will touch it)
Spicy Italian veggie soup with turkey meatballs (Hint: it's not that spicy) (Also: TURKEY MEATBALLS!)
Frozen lasagna (it's getting freezer burn in there)
Left over/take out night

I had dinner with my friend Jane last week and she made this awesome beet and goat cheese salad. I'm salivating just thinking of it. But, we talked food and cook books and I ordered three new ones she recommended. I can't wait to try out some new recipes for spring. I love me some seasonal cooking, and I'm really looking forward to eating fresh veggies again. I think we're going to get a CSA share this year, so we'll have lots of fresh, local produce. Yum.

So, what's for dinner folks? What are your favorite springtime dishes?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Temper, Temper

Miles had his first temper tantrum this week. As in red-faced-screaming-crying-inconsolable-throwing-himself-on-the-floor-kicking-legs-pounding-fists-for-no-real-reason temper tantrum. Major.

I have to say, it surprised me. I mean, I know he's nearly 15 months old and that it is perfectly normal for a 15-month-old to tantrum. In fact, Oscar started having tantrums much earlier, at maybe 10 or 11 months. Maybe I thought Miles had skipped by this stage entirely? I don't know.

Maybe it's that Miles William has always been so even tempered. He has always been my little prince, my ray of sunshine. He's been such a mellow baby, so easy going, quick to smile with an easy and frequent laugh. His snuggles warm the soul. The kid has the kind of giggle that makes women ovulate and his smile? Good lord the dimples on this kid. They should be illegal.

I know I should be happy that Miles has put off toddlerhood for this long, but part of me (a hugely, gigantic, enormous part) wants him to stay a baby for just a bit longer (like forever.)

And now we have tantrums. Plural. As in he's been having them daily this week, sometimes more than one a day. With Oscar, I'd just ignore him and he'd get over it in about two minutes. Not Miles William. Nope. He'll just go one and on with the crying and the flailing. "What's wrong with Miles?" Oscar asks me.

"Oh, he's just growing up," I say.

And his is. My baby is growing up. Gah.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

RTT: Broke-down Diarrhea Palace

It's Tuuuuuuueeeeeeeeesssssssssssdaaaaaaaaaay!


*My washing machine is broken.

"But, Jenni, isn't that the brand new washing machine you just purchased two months ago?"

Why yes, yes it it. And it's not just broken; it's REALLY broken. We're talking multiple system failures here. It crapped out on Thursday; I've had one 2.5 hour visit from a repairman who was unable to repair it because they CARRY NO PARTS STANDARD ON THEIR TRUCKS (uh, then how do they FIX things???); spoke to customer service multiple times, the high point being where I burst into tears and described my 15-month-old's explosive diarrhea (got me overnight shipping, though); and culminated in a call from the corporate office, extending my warranty for an additional three months with their sincerest apologies. You know, so it can continue to break and be fixed for free for that much longer.

I just want a new machine. I think the one I have is defective or was damaged in shipping or something, because the two parts that failed have nothing to do with each other. My parts should arrive today and then I can schedule service (2-4 days), so hopefully it will be fixed by Thursday or Friday. Let me tell you why I don't think this is going to happen. The repair man? He left my house Saturday telling me my machine worked fine, but the basket needed to be replaced. I could still use the machine in the meantime though. I was surprised to hear this as I'd been completely unable to use my machine for the past three days.

Well, I had to flag him down in his truck and bring him back in to show him that the machine was NOT working. Not at all. They he diagnosed a second problem (broken cold water valve) that he'd been unable to figure out in the prior 2.5 hours. The machine was not filling up with water. How did he miss that? HOW? Particularly when I told him this was the problem.

*In other related news, Miles has had diarrhea for two weeks. Apparently, it's a particularly insidious gastrointestinal bug and he may have it for another week. And it's the really good kind that is squishing out of his diaper and onto his clothes two or three times a day. Oh, and since I HAVE NO WASHER, I had to switch back to disposable diapers and those diapers, combined with the big D have left him with a really horrible diaper rash. So he's been in a great mood.

*I have to give a shout out (do people still say that?) to my friend Pam and her husband Rick who let me wash my very dirty diapers at their house on Sunday, saving me a trip to the laundromat with my two toddlers. I pretty sure they also saved my soul from eternal damna damnation, and my children's lives with their act of generosity.

*You know, I have to admit, it's kind of freeing. All this not having to do laundry, I mean. I have all this time on my hands now. I realize this is going to bite me in the ass in a couple of days when I run out of underwear and my kids' pants start smelling funny, but I'm trying to look at the positives.

Go on over to Keely's for a little less diarrhea with your Random.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Low-Cook Meal Plan

Three cheers for meal planning, huh? I seriously though that was going to be one of those posts like three people commented on but it turns out folks are into dinner.

I know that a lot of you work full time and don't have nearly as much time to cook as me. The truth is, I start dinner early. Really early. If I need to chop veggies or fix a marinade, or do any prep work really, I do this during Miles' morning nap (10AM). That's when I assemble crock pot meals as well. If you work a 9-5, you can't really make that happen. Unless you boss is cool with you chopping at your desk.

Even so, I do a lot of cooking that is pretty low-cook, particularly when Nelson travels. Since Nelson is going to CA for most of next week, I thought I'd show you guys the kinds of meals I plan when I'm flying solo.

On weeks like this one coming up, I try to do super duper kid friendly meals so I only have to make one meal per night. That means no red meat and lost of sausage and carb based meals. I also stick to low-effort, easy meals; nothing fancy that requires a lot of prep work or marinating or anything like that; and I try to use as few pots and pans as possible.

Here's the plan for next week:

Bean and cheese quesadillas
Whole baked chicken with roasted baby carrots and zucchini
Chicken and dumplings (with the roast chicken leftovers)
Brats with peppers and onions and sweet potato fries (a great meal, stolen from my friend Jane)
Pasta (whole grain, of course) with (frozen) turkey meatballs
Left over/take out night
Dinner at Pam's (the easiest and most delicious dinner of all, for sure.)

My kids should eat every one of these meals, and they are all really easy to cook. Like, even if you can't/don't cook, you could cook these. Next week's plan also incorporates on of my favorite cooking maneuvers - using leftovers to create a whole new meal. A bonus meal, if you will. This always makes me feel super clever and efficient (I'm really just feeling the "super" today, no?)

A quick word on my use of frozen turkey meatballs - I use these suckers a lot. We probably have them once a week, or every other week at least. I use them straight up with pasta; I pop them in a spicy Italian-style veggie soup; I'll bake them in with some penne; I'll put them on roll with some fat free mozzarella and marinara sauce for meatball sandwiches. My kids love the hell out of them, and they are relatively healthy and I get ones that are All Natural and don't have any weird crap in them that I can't identify. I make a mean meatball myself, but my kids prefer store bought. There's no accounting for the tastes of toddlers, I suppose.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What's For Dinner: A Belated HASAY Post

A few weeks ago, my friend Pam asked me if I planned my meals every week. And I was like, "Yes! Of course!" I spend about ten minutes on Fridays making up a meal plan for the week, and until Pam asked me about it, it never occurred to me that there are people who don't meal plan. How do they know what to shop for? What to cook? Really, how do you do it? Do non planners just purchase random cuts of meat and veggies and hope for the best? It really, truly baffles me. I mean, if I didn't have a list and a plan I'd walk out of the store with nothing but snacks and cereal.

Part of it is because I've been meal planning for so long. I started doing it shortly after college, when Nelson and I were living in near poverty and every dollar counted. Our grocery budget was very limited so I had to get as much nutrition in each meal as I could for the least amount of money.

Then, I started Weight Watchers for the first time and I realized that I had to stock my home with healthy foods or I would never have a chance. I also realized that I need to start cooking for real because if I don't keep meals interesting the call of the pizza delivery guy gets really, really hard to resist.

I'm going to admit here that meal planning is a little uncharacteristic for me because I'm neither organized or good at planning. I mean I'm better at organizing and planning than Nelson, but I'm still not very good (Nelson? Terrible.)

(Oh my god this post is boring, no? Whatever, I'm going with it.)

Meal planning has become a cornerstone of weight loss for me, because eating out is one of my biggest vices and it is much easier to eat healthily at home. I generally plan for five or six meals a week; I figure one night we will get take out or have a "quick meal" and/or one night we'll have leftovers.

For example, here is this week's meal plan:

Cuban beef with brown rice (Monday night; delish)
Chicken Parmesan (low-fat) and sauteed zucchini (Last night -my first time making it, and it was great)
Spiced pork loin with a corn and black bean relish
Grilled flank steak and polenta, with a corn and red pepper salsa
Turkey sausage and pepper pasta
Frozen roasted veggie lasagna and a salad(a "quick meal")
Leftover night

Important notes on my meal planning:
1. I never freeze any meat, except chicken breast, which I buy frozen in bulk and turkey meatballs, which I buy frozen. I buy and use fresh meat every week. This saves room in my freezer and having the fresh meat ensures that I'll cook it (because I'd hate for it to go bad) and it saves me from forgetting to defrost things.

2.I try something new every week, to keep things interesting.

3. I cook from recipes almost exclusively because while I'm a pretty good cook and excellent at following directions, I'm not terribly creative in the kitchen.

4. I always have one or two quick meals on hand (something frozen and easy to prepare) if the kids give me a particularly rough day, or I'm just too busy to really cook.

5. I always have nuggets, sweet potato fries, and peas on hand because my kids will almost always eat those things if they refuse whatever I'm cooking. I know not all parents are okay with cooking separate meals for their kids, but I've just cut my losses here. They get their own meal two or three days a week. Grilled cheese, mac & cheese, and cheese toast are also always winners. Anything cheese and/or bread related works for them, really.

6. You've probably noticed there are a lot of pasta-type meals here. Well, I'm Italian and growing up we had pasta several nights a week, so it's the norm for me. Also, my kids will nearly always eat pasta. I always do whole grain, mulit-grain, or 100% whole wheat pasta because we eat it so often. Whole grain pasta has come a long way. It's not the nasty cardboard stuff it used to be, so if you're not eating it with regularity you really should give it a shot. I buy Barilla Whole Grain Pasta in bulk. Don't forget to salt your pasta water generously (like a scant palm-full of kosher salt per pound of pasta.) It makes all the difference.

Okay, so that's all I'm going to say about that for now. So, go forth and plan your meals and eat whole grain pasta. Oh, and tell me: Do you meal plan or not? How does it work for you?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

RTT: I Still Know How to Rock

You know, I've really come to love Tuesdays. For one thing, it's not Monday. For another thing, there's this:

*Nelson and I went to see the North Mississippi Allstars this weekend, and it was a great show. We even went out to dinner before hand, like real adults. While we were waiting in line to go in, we saw and ad for this group. Kind of interesting, right? I like women rock bands, I like Led Zeppelin, I could see how this might work. And, check out their shirts:
Lez Zeppelin - T-Shirt
Come on! Now that's just cool.

*I always like to do a bit of people watching when we go to shows, and there was this guy in front of us wearing a button down shirt, tucked in, light washed jeans, and boat shoes. That doesn't seem like proper rock show attire to me. Not that I'm one to talk; I was wearing flared jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and a pair of Converse - the same thing I wear every single day of my life (in the summer, it's capris, short-sleeved T-Shirts, and bare feet or flip flops.) I'm hardly a fashion plate, but I think a rock show calls for more casual attire. Like the guy next to us who was in head to toe denim. I don't necessarily approve of his look either, but it seems a bit more appropriate. Then I realized that Mr. Button Down was around 70 so that explained things a bit more. But, don't think for a second that his age prevented him from rocking out. Dude went WILD, as one should at a rock show (who are these people who stand still at rock shows? or sit down? What is wrong with you?) At one point he got so low I though he'd broken a hip, but he recovered nicely.

*On our way to the show Nelson and I were chatting about current events (we live in DC, give me a break.)

Nelson: Did you hear about that assassination Dubai?

Jenni: Yeah, that was crazy.

Nelson: I know, when they looked at the security tapes there were like dozen unknown people in there that they were unable to trace. They are blaming Israel, but Israel say they don't know anything.

Jenni: Whatever, this has Mossad written all over it.

Nelson: I know.

Jenni: I mean, I watch NCIS; I've seen Munich. I know Mossad when I see it.

Nelson: Hey, and how about that whale at Sea World? Do you know that's like the third person it's killed?

Jenni: Really? Three? And it's still performing?

Nelson: Yep.

Jenni: You know who's responsible for that?

Nelson: Mossad?

Jenni: Mossad.

(We are so funny, right?)

*Miles William got his first stomach virus last week. He puked on me no less than four times. It's a right of passage. A really smelly one. But you know what? After all that vomiting he slept better than he has in his whole entire life. That's just unfair.

*Nelson, along with about 2,000 other folks, has been furloughed. This furlough is the direct result of a major DB senator refusing to renew funding for the Federal Highway Trust, among other things. I'm pretty annoyed at this senator, a republican (surprise!), but I'm also really irritated at the dems. I mean, they have a majority in congress. How in the hell does a democratically controlled congress not pass a transportation bill? Building and supporting infrastructure is one of our Things! One guy stops it on a technicality? They just make it so easy for the Rs to derail them at every effing turn because of all their stupid infighting. Get it together already. Anyways, hopefully Nelson will be back to work this week. Fingers crossed.

Okay, that's all for today! Keely's on sabatical, so stop by the Bitchin' Wives Club for your weekly does of Random.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Right and Wrong

I bought these new crayons for my boys, 24 ct. Mini Twistables Crayons. I bought them right before the big blizzards up here because I knew I was going to need something new to keep them occupied if we were snowed in for any length of time (ha!).

I was pretty excited when I found theme because we have a major crayon problem in these parts, namely that my dogs eat them like they're Snausages. They've got a pack a week habit and while crayons are exactly pricey, it does add up when you have to buy a new box every week. Since these crayons are sheathed in plastic, they are basically safe from becoming doggie delights.

The boys love them. About a week and a half ago, right after the kids around here finally went back to school, Oscar and Danny were coloring with them while I fixed lunch. As they were eating, I picked up the crayons and put them away. I just so happened to count them, because I was wondering how many we'd lost. Still 18 out of the original 24; not bad for two weeks.

That afternoon, Nora came over after school and she decided to color with the crayons, and that is of course fine. Nora is the 8-year-old I watch for a couple of hours in the afternoons after school, I think I've mentioned her before.

Anyways, she colored for a while and then she came into the living room to play with the boys. I went into dining room to pick up the crayons (if you are wondering about the excessive picking up, it's because of the cat - she'll knock the crayons off the table and all over the floor; I trip on them; they get lost underneath furniture, etc.). Well, I couldn't help but notice there were significantly less crayons than there were three hours ago when I first put them away.

Then I noticed that Nora's pencil case was on the table. The pencil case was clear on the ends, and I could very clearly see that new crayons were in the case. She'd taken the crayons. So I called her into the dining room.

"Nora? What happened to the other half of these crayons?"

"Umm, that's all that were in the bag. Those are all I used."

And then she snatched her pencil case and put it in her bag. Sigh.

"Are you sure? Because when the boys were coloring earlier there were twice as many. You can even see in these pictures they drew - not all the colors that they used are here now. And I put them away myself and I counted them."

I was trying to give here a chance to admit she'd taken them.

"No, that's all that were there."

"Hmm. Do you have any crayons like these?"

"No. Well, at my mom's house, but not here."

"Okay, well I know there were more, so why don't you help me look for them?"

So, even though I knew they were in her pencil case in her bag, we "looked" for the crayons. We didn't find them.

I really wanted to give Nora a chance to do the right thing and give back the crayons instead of just busting her straight out. And, maybe I should have just busted her, but that's not what I did.

"Okay, boys, potty time. Nora, I'm taking the boys upstairs to use the potty. We'll be back down in a few minutes."


Potty time was the perfect excuse to give her several minutes to herself. While I was upstairs, wrestling with Oscar she called to me, "Miss Jenni! I found six more crayons!"

"You did?! Where were they?"

"Uhhh, on the back of my chair."

"That's great, Nora. Thank you."

Let me tell you why this is b.s. The back of her chair? Is open. And sloping. It's one of those old 50s plastic covered chairs. No way could crayons have been on the chair and not slipped right off, particularly not crayons sheathed in plastic. Also, I'd checked the chairs when she and I were "looking."

She "found" the crayons, but not all of them. I was more certain than ever that she'd taken them and was still holding on to a few. Crap.

The boys wanted to stay upstairs and play cars, so I asked Nora if she wanted to come up and play cars; she did. Then I ran downstairs to "get their drinks" and I checked her bag.

I feel really, really bad about invading her privacy that way, but I was 99.9% certain she was still holding on to a few crayons. And she was.

I called Nelson and told him what happened. He thought I should let her know she was busted, but to keep the situation between she and I and not tell her Dad. I thought about it for awhile. I thought about just letting it go. It's just crayons, right? I though about busting her, but not ratting her out to her Dad, so she'd know that I'd known and was giving her a pass. But, ultimately I decided to go a different way.

I went back upstairs.

"Nora, I found the rest of your crayons."

Her face fell. I instantly felt guilty.

"You did?"

"Yes, I did. They were in your bag."

"Oh, uh uh.."

"Before you try to make an excuse, you should know that I saw them in your pencil case before you put it back in your bag. I know that you took them."


"I think that taking things that do not belong to you is very serious, even if it is just crayons. I try to have nice things for all of you kids to share, and it is not okay for you to take those things."


"Nora, are you sorry that you took them?"

"Yes. Sorry."

(Okay, I'm pretty sure she's was mostly sorry she got caught, but anyways.)

"Well, thank you for apologizing. But, because I think taking things that do not belong to you is so serious, you are going to have to tell your dad what you did when he comes to pick you up today."


"Okay, Nora?"

"Yeah, okay."

Now, before you think I was being just mean, I was really just trying to give her the opportunity to fess up to her Dad and tell him the truth, so it would not feel like I was just tattling on her.

When her Dad arrived to pick her up, he and I discussed a few things - she wouldn't be coming tomorrow, maybe not Monday, etc. Then he said good-bye and I said, "Nora, don't you have something you need to tell your Dad?"

He looked at me curiously, but quickly realized something had happened.

Nora burst into tears.

Her Dad gently encouraged her to tell him what happened, but after about two minutes he asked her, "Nora, are you going to tell me what happened?" and she said, "No."

So, I told him the story I relayed above, and he was very apologetic, and very thankful that I'd told him.

"I just want to be clear that I realize it was only crayons. I think Nora is a very good girl; she does her homework; she's sweet to the boys. I just think she made a mistake. I'm telling you because, as a parent, if my child had taken something no matter how small, I'd want to know"

"I know, and I appreciate that. I'm really glad you told me, because it doesn't matter what it was that she took. This is where this kind of behavior starts, and this is where I can stop it."

And I think that is right and the absolutely right response from him as a parent, and that's why I told him. Because if it was so easy to take something from someone she knows and who trusts her, what is to stop her from taking a pack of gum from the grocery store or a pair of earrings from Target?

I felt pretty guilty about ratting her out, because her dad is strict and I'm sure she was punished (appropriately so, but still). After processing it all with Danny's mom Susanne (that's for wearing your social working hat for me, Susanne!) I know I did the right thing and I hope Nora is better for it.

(Disclosure: If you buy those awesome crayons via my link? I get about 5 cents. Thanks.)