The Great Cooking Experiment 

Okay so if you’ve read my blog for more than say, a week, you know that I’m a pretty lousy cook, I have picky eaters in my house, and we eat out A LOT. By a lot, I mean four or five plus meals a week. Like they know our names at the pizzeria and Mexican restaurant we frequent. At the beginning of this year, seeing that the entire family gained excess weight over the last year, and my husband had reported we spent a grand total of $13,000 on restaurants in 2015, I decided we would try an experiment, an entire month of eating at home for dinner. Thirty-one long days. Armed with a new crock pot and an abundance of Pintrest recipes, I announced this plan to my family and friends. And they all laughed. And laughed. And laughed. No one thought I could do it.

Now by “I” I mean me. Because essentially, this was my challenge. This was 99% on my shoulders to plan, prep, and cook. To design 31 meals we could all stomach without repeating meals over and over. Sure, my hubby cooked a few of those meals (maybe 8?) but that was about it. He was also very opposed to the idea because he’s well, lazy, and likes the convenience of a wait staff and kitchen staff. Still, I wanted to do it because I felt like this challenge was about change, about making better choices for my family. We’ve all packed on some excess weight from eating out and I know that’s not a healthy precedence for the kids. I felt like not only would we be better off physically and financially at the end of this, we would be better off overall. I thought maybe I might even learn to LIKE cooking.

The month is almost over. We’ve gotten through 30 days. The crock pot has meal number 31 in it as we speak. And the results are pretty much in, the experiment as good as over. And yes, maybe we did accomplish it. And it honestly wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to actually cook. I’m not as horrific at it as I recall and hubby is pretty amazing (when he actually cooks). Some of our meals were better than good. (I could eat the crab corn chowder or the quesadilla every day). But guess what? I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I developed a new found love of cooking. I’m not going to tell you that I suddenly became a gourmet chef. I’m not gonna tell you our family bonded over creating healthy meals together. I’m not even going to tell you we lost a single solitary pound. I’m not even gonna lie and say I cooked 31 meals. There were quite a few nights I waved my hand toward the kitchen and said “fend for yourself”, which results in soup or cereal for my kids. What I will tell you is that the challenge was definitely NOT what I thought it would be.

This challenge end up being more than about the cooking for me. It ended up causing me to see the disparity of chores in our household. While everyone ATE the meals, not everyone helped create them. Or even clean up. Not only did my workload in the kitchen increase tenfold, I’ve never heard so many freaking complaints about meals in all my life. Oh sure, the first few days we all worked together to make the meals and I believe it was Day 15 before we even had a meal we didn’t like. But we were pulling out all the stops in the beginning. I have about 10 meals in my wheelhouse. Hubby has maybe 7 or 8. You do the math…that’s about 2 weeks of crappy, unpalatable food. That’s 2 weeks of complaints and 2 weeks of HOURS cleaning up the kitchen because the kids have made themselves pasta or soup or some alternate meal.

Hubby gave me the peliminary numbers for our savings for the month. Even though we obviously spent more at the grocery store, we spent nothing at restaurants. I thought we would save over $1,000 a month, considering we spent $13,000 a year. Nope. The grand total amounted to $606 for the month. Yes, sure, that adds up to $7,272 a year. That’s a vacation or even a year’s worth of car payments and insurance. But that’s also NOT ONE SINGLE MEAL OUT. That’s no takeout, no birthday dinners, and no “hell, I just can’t fathom cooking tonight”.  That’s a whole year of hearing “what the hell is this made of?”, “you’re having ANOTHER bowl of cereal?” and “I didn’t know chicken was gray”. To some, that’s bearable and within reach. To me, that’s like saying you can save that much money if you don’t turn you heat on in the winter or the air on in the summer. Sure that’s a huge savings but holy crap you’re gonna be mighty uncomfortable, unnecessarily. Some things are just not worth it. To me, my sanity is worth $7,272 a year.

Unfortunately, the man who fought me tooth and nail when I proposed this challenge, was seriously buoyed by that number. Cheap to the core, the idea of saving to him is akin to money growing in our backyard on its on special bush. He doesn’t care that I have old lady hands now from the dishwashing. He doesn’t care how much food I threw out because people in this damn house don’t eat leftovers. He doesn’t care that the cashiers in Shop Rite greet me by name. He just sees dollar signs. He told me wants to go the WHOLE YEAR without eating out. That’s when I laughed and laughed and laughed.

We’d never make it the whole year. We’re so close to freedom I can taste it. My kids are marking it on the calendar—we only have to eat Mommy’s crappy meals for X amount of days more. My husband is the one who’s actually thinking about where he wants to go out to dinner on the first of February. It would be impossible to expect us to pull it off. I’m not delusional. But maybe, if we all work together (insert snickering here) we can pull this off enough to limit our eating out to one or two nights a week. Heck, that’s gotta save SOME money, right? Wish me luck.

P.S. If for some ungodly reason you’re intrigued by one of the pictures above, comment or leave a message and I’ll forward you the recipe.


I STILL Hate Snow Days

Yesterday we had a blizzard here in good old New Jersey, and while many of my (insane) friends were ecstatic about the two feet of snow we were getting dumped on us, I was in misery as usual. Not to mention the fact we weren’t even getting a day off of school for it because it was a weekend…let me tell you…I’m thrilled about losing my precious Saturday to snow. NOT. For all those of you who LOVE snow days, you must not have children. If you do have children, then you must have a spouse at home to help you not kill those children when you’re snowed in. STOP WISHING FOR SNOW DAYS!!! There are a bunch of us moms out there who for whatever reason do not have a second adult at home when we’re trapped in the house. Some moms are divorced. Some are widowed. Some of us have spouses that need to work, like cops, firefighters, sanitation workers, doctors, etc. There is no “snow day” for them and therefore, no snow day for us. In eighteen years of marriage, my hubby has only been home with me ONCE during a snow storm. I’m flying solo and I’m the entertainment director, the chef, the laundry fairy, the snow clearer, hostage negotiator, and the referee. Mind you, my kids are 10 and 14…it’s even worse when they’re younger. Still, it’s a pretty harrowing day either way.

If you still can’t understand how miserable that is, here’s a breakdown of my day:

7:28 am: The children who normally sleep until 10:30, 11:00 on a Saturday are up. They stare out the window in wide-eyed amazement at the snow coming down sideways. Fortunately, they are old enough to realize they don’t want to go outside when the snow is coming down sideways.

7:34am: One child decides to play video games. The second child starts screaming and trying to rip the video game controller out of her hands while yelling “I bought this controller! You can’t use this controller!” The other child retaliates by kicking first child in the head. First child screams about his history of head injuries and threatens to break the fingers of second child if she doesn’t let go of video game controller.

7:36am: I am in possession of video game controller while I negotiate the terms of video game usage for the day. It includes chores before game. I am laughed at. I threaten to fling controller out the window. It is white. The children apologize.

7:40am: The dog wants to go out. He does not want to go out the back door where, because of the drifts, there is minimal snow. He wants to go out the side door where he usually goes out and the drifts are almost two feet already. I try to patiently explain to the dog how we are going to change it up today because he’ll be cold if he has to climb over the piles of snow. He looks me in the eyes like he understands and then paws at the side door while whimpering.

7:41am: I pour Bailey’s in my coffee.

8:45am: Dog has made side door a shrine. He has whined for an hour straight.

8:47am: I let dog out the side door. Two feet of snow falls into the house. Dog does not like the snow and runs back into the house shaking snow everywhere. Smaller dog runs out and gets covered with snow. I run out in my slippers to retrieve smaller dog who is now traumatized. Larger dog is now back outside and poops near the door which I step in with my slippered feet.

8:49am: More Bailey’s.

9:00am: Make children a nice breakfast.

9:30am: After nice breakfast, the children have cereal and hot cocoa. Several bowls. Several mugs. They leave bowls and mugs everywhere. I explain the maid is stuck in snow and won’t be coming this weekend. First child states that we should fire the maid.

10:00am: We are out of milk. The horror. But thank God we’re not out of Bailey’s.

10:02: First child makes pasta.

10:22am: First child makes soup. We are now out of soup.

10:44am: First child says he is still hungry.

10:47am: Second child wants to make candy. I say no.

10:48am: Second child wants to dye her hair with Kool-aid. I am in the bathroom with symptoms of Listeriosis from the package salad I ate before I found out it was recalled. She ignores me when I say no.

11:05am: Clean up Kool-aid mess as second child drips grape Kool-aid all over the house. Dog laps up hungrily.

11:07am: I send them outside reluctantly to do the first round of shoveling. Run back to bathroom.

11:16am: I look out the window to find they have cleared a one foot section of the sidewalk. They are both tromping through the snow in the front yard.

11:17am: There is screaming and a thump on the front door. I run to the door and trip over the dog. Second child is standing there, gloves hanging off. She needs help putting gloves back on.

11:18am: First child is dripping snow all over the front foyer. He is wearing his sneakers. I ask why he isn’t wearing his boots. His face looks like a light bulb went off when I mention boots. Before I can protest, he is stomping through the house looking for boots.

11:21am: Second child is screaming again. She has to pee. Snow gear comes off. She pees, goes back outside. Take Imodium. Add Bailey’s to mug…there is no more coffee in there.

11:23am: Screaming. Glove is off again.

11:25am: First child is trying to salt walk without shoveling. Bang on the window and yell at him for wasting salt.

11:27am: Children are rolling around in the un-shoveled driveway. Still only one foot area is shoveled.

11:30am: Screaming. Children are trying to shove each other’s faces into the snow.

11:31am: More Bailey’s. I order them to either get to work or get inside. They opt for inside.

11:33am: They track salt inside. Dogs try to eat salt.

11:36am: With a towel I mop up the snow that is now all over the living room. I bring wet clothes downstairs to dry off.

11:37am: Children want hot chocolate. I inform them we are out of everything we need for hot chocolate. I tell them to have tea instead.

11:38am: Children are making coffee.

11:45am: Put dinner in crock pot. Children announce they are not eating THAT.

11:55am: Dog crying to go out side door. Ignore dog.

12:01pm: Children are asking for lunch.

12:04pm: Clean up dog pee.

12:26pm: Cleaning up the remains of lunch and doing my third batch of dishes for the day. Stare longingly at the book I wanted to read.

12:35pm: Second child wants to make cookies. Don’t have ingredients for cookies. Search Pintrest for what I can make with the ingredients we do have.

12:37am: Drag out Kitchen aid and all ingredients. Call second child to make Triple Chocolate Banana Bread. Second child declines.

1:19pm: Bread is done. Call children. They wrinkle up their noses and forage for snacks in the cabinet.

1:27pm: TV flickers briefly. Hold my breath and say a silent prayer we don’t lose power. Prayer is miraculously answered.

1:33pm: Children complain we are out of snacks. I give them the finger.

2:00pm: Ask children to try to shovel before it gets to be too much. Hubby needs to get into driveway when he comes home in six hours. I offer large sums of cash. Children decline and pretend to nap.

2:17pm: Trudge outside in snow pants, hoodie, hat, and several layers. Mutter to myself while pulling on boots that seem way too small.

2:18pm: As I am walking out the door, children suddenly want to come outside and shovel.

2:30pm: Children frolic happily in the snow while I shovel.

3:00pm: Still shoveling. Still frolicking.

3:02pm: I demand first child help me. He reluctantly begins shoveling driveway while flinging excess snow onto second child who screams loudly.

3:04pm: Second child has snow in hair and face and is trying to punch first child.

3:06pm: I order second child into the house. She stomps off. Dog runs out just as snow plow goes down street. I panic thinking dog will get hit. Dog is such a weenie he runs back inside. I breathe a sigh of relief.

3:33pm: Second child is banging on the window waving to us. She has a mug.. More coffee. Great.

4:05pm: Second child is back outside. More crying. Wet clothes. Frozen hands. And that’s just me.

4:30pm: Two hours of shoveling and we’ve cleared a total of twelve feet. Snow plow comes down the street and plows the driveway back in. I go in the house and admit defeat. Pour wine. It’s almost 5:00 anyway.

4:35pm: Dry clothes again.

4:55am: Coax dogs into going outside. They crap in front of door and step in it in their haste to come back in. Clean up dog poop tracks on the floor.

5:00pm: Cannot uncurl my hands. It feels like I have arthritis. Run my hands under warm water till it runs out.

5:20pm: Try to take a nap. Children wake me to ask when dinner is. I tell they to go away. They start fighting over video game controller again. Throw video game controller on floor and stomp on it.

6:00pm: Give children crock pot dinner. They whine and complain and make faces. I make them take a bite. They agree it’s delicious. I try not to punch them in the face.

6:30pm: Fourth batch of dishes.

6:35pm: Discover second child left a chap stick in her coat pocket and it’s now all over my coat.

7:00pm: Drag first child back outside. Six inches cover everything we’ve shoveled.

7:16pm: Second child comes out and stands on mound of snow next to driveway and knocks it back into the driveway. First child clotheslines her to the ground and shoves snow in her face for her stupidity.

7:20pm: Snow is flying everywhere and nobody is helping me shovel.

7:25pm: Children are eating snow and trying to slide down the front of my car.

7:30pm: I make everyone go back inside, screaming obscenities at the top of my lungs. If there was anyone outside, I would be probably be arrested by a sanctimommy who has never yelled at her children.

7:40pm: It is peaceful alone outside. The snow is falling and there isn’t a sound on our block. For one split second, I am enjoying this snow day.

7:45pm: Hubby pulls into driveway and breaks spell. He asks me if I had a nice day off. I resist hitting him over the head with the shovel and burying him in the snow. They probably wouldn’t find him till spring.







New Moms Know Nothing

The internet sancti-mommy patrol is currently losing its $hit about how a mom is raising their kid. I know, I know…daily occurrence…when will we get used to it? It’s not about breastfeeding or immunizations this time though. This time, it’s totally petty. It’s because of  a post (Facebook maybe?) that a mom wrote about how she’s got this mommy thing under control and people need to stop whining about how difficult parenting is. The problem was, this mom was a new mom…as in, her child was two weeks old.

Now stop laughing for a second and think about this. Yes, that mom has absolutely no clue about all the aspects of raising a child that she still hasn’t encountered. She knows nothing of the sleepless nights of teething, the shuttling two (or more kids) to practices, the pain of not being able to help your child when they’re just not getting math in school, or the anxiety of your teenager driving for the first time. She’s a sancti-mommy of the worse degree. But…she’s also me. Well, maybe not when my newborn was two weeks old…at that point, I was too bleary-eye and sleep deprived to think anything other than “this sucks hairy monkey balls”. But when my son was sleeping through the night at six weeks old, and I went back to work when he was twelve weeks old and I had everything under control, I thought I rocked this parenting thing. What I didn’t realize was that HE rocked the baby thing…he was an exceptionally well behaved baby and toddler. I had the audacity to think that he was the norm. He was not the norm, he was what they call a “trick child” (damn him). He made me think I could handle anything because he was so easy. He slept all night, every night for ten hours, he didn’t whine for things in stores, he ate his vegetables, and he always put his toys away when I told him to. I bragged to every mom who was walking around like a zombie, how simple it was and how I didn’t understand why people couldn’t go to work, cook meals, exercise, engage in hobbies, and have a perfectly normal relationship with their spouse (keeping this PG, folks, but chandeliers may have been involved). Then God heard me bragging and He laughed and laughed and gave me child number two.

Karma’s a bitch (and so is my daughter most of the time). I love her to death and wouldn’t trade her for the world (well, most of the time). She keeps me on my toes and has taught me, I am definitely NOT Supermom and I most certainly do not have it under control. She is strong-willed and has her own agenda which usually does not include acting like the sweet little princesses we used to read about in her Disney books. It usually involves throwing said Disney books at our heads after screeching at the top of her lungs and tearing all the pages out of the book because we wouldn’t let her make candy (yes, make candy) at nine o’clock on a Wednesday night. It involves painting her toys with nail polish when she is in the bathroom with the door closed. It involves her deciding the she “not going to school and there’s nothing you can do to make me”. It involves a lot sleepless nights when she won’t go to bed, and a lot of wine (for me, not her).

In addition to completely leveling the playing for me by adding the Diva Devil, God also thought he’d continue to teach me a lesson by making my sweet little baby boy a little less sweet, a little less babyish, and a heck of a lot more boy. He does disgusting things like tucking his dirty socks into the couch cushions, peeing on the toilet seats, and using up all the body wash in the shower for God knows what. He eats all our food and doesn’t eat his vegetables like a good boy anymore. We schlep him to practices and games and he has sleepover with his loud and equally gross friends. He forgets homework assignments and fights us about wearing a coat. He’s not so simple anymore either. Infants and babies are a cakewalk compared to the pre-teen/teenager thing.

I’m handling this parenting thing on a day by day basis and I’m pretty sure I’m screwing it up. Gone is the confidence I had ten years ago when my Charlie Brown headed three year old crawled up on my lap and snuggled, telling me I was “the best mommy in the world” (I even have mugs and plaques to prove it). Now I’m far from the best mommy. I’m the one walking around like a zombie now and I get it. And so will this “new mom” that brags about her clean toy room and spotless kitchen where she whips up gourmet meals that her infant isn’t even going to eat. She may not get it right away, but when she does? Whoa…Future Her is in for a doozy. And that’s when you can laugh, folks.

What I’ve Learned in Forty Years

So my 40th birthday is around the corner (and by around the corner, I mean, TOMORROW) and I realized it’s not what I expected it to be. I’m not necessarily worried about BEING 40 or getting old. I think I’ve aged fairly well and I’ve kept it together (and by kept it together I mean gravity has been fairly kind and I’m not picking my boobs up off the floor…yet). what’s bothering me the most is I don’t feel like I’ve figured it out yet.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, congratulations. You’ve managed to seamlessly shift into adulthood without adverse effects. I bet you have a 401K, a summer home and a landscaper. The rest of us, myself included, are waiting to wake up one day and feel like we’ve got it together; we’re waiting to feel like we imagined being an adult would feel like.
When I was twenty and stood on the edge of adulthood, my parents were in their early forties. I was so nervous about screwing up my adulthood. Forty and up seemed so OLD to me at the time, so adult. It was like they were real life adults, not just fumbling around in the darkness trying to figure it out. Now that I’m their age, I’m wondering if they weren’t just faking it.
Maybe I still don’t feel like an adult or even like I’ve got it figured out. But I guess you can’t get to this advanced age without learning a thing or two. I wish I could pat my twenty year old self on the back and tell her to calm down…give her some advice. Here’s what I’d say if I could.
1. Don’t think every single decision you make has to be thought out to death. Don’t be afraid of messing up. And when you do, don’t be afraid to fix it.
2. You are NOT fat. You have no idea what fat is yet. Enjoy your food now. When you’re in you’re thirties, just looking at cheesecake will have you running for stretch pants. Oh and also, could you tone the exercise level down just a notch? Because of you exercising like a nut in your twenties, your metabolism is really freaking confused when you don’t have all that spare time in your thirties and likes to deposit fat everywhere when you can only work out a few times a week.
3. Speaking of pants…don’t do the mom jean thing when you’re twenty-six please. It makes your butt flatter and you look frumpy. Dress sexy now, not when you’re likely to be looked at with pity because you you’re trying too hard to look young. (For the record, you haven’t reached that age at forty yet either).
4. If you’re not happy, change something to make yourself happy. Likewise, happiness is not a goal you’re striving to achieve. Stop telling yourself “I’ll be happy when I get a job, I’ll be happy when I have kids, I’ll be happy when we buy a house….” Enjoy the journey and don’t get so caught up in the destination. Be happy now.
5. Stop rooting for the Jets. They’re just going to disappoint you for the next twenty years. Pick a new team NOW.
6. Get on a plane. Go places. See the world. I know it’s out of your comfort zone, but don’t be afraid. Do it when you don’t have kids. And do it when you DO have kids. They need to have new experiences too.
7. Spend more time being with your kids rather than worrying about if you’re doing it right. You’re gonna mess this up no matter what….there is no such thing as a perfect parent. So why not enjoy the time you have instead of obsessing about it?
8. Get your eyebrows waxed. No seriously…do it NOW.
9. Take more photos, but don’t obsess about organizing them. Throw them in a box and look at them every once in awhile.
10. For the love of GOD woman! Start using anti-wrinkle cream! Yes, yes, I know you don’t have any, but you’re TWENTY! Get that tube out and slather that $hit on your face every night! You’ll thank me when you’re forty.