Memory Lane: Best Date Ever

Dan and I started dating in October of 1999.

In November, he asked if I wanted to go see the Leonids meteor shower. Having never seen a meteor shower before, I decided that would be cool.

I suppose I have a layperson’s fascination with the night sky. I can point out a few constellations; I can tell shiny planets from twinkling stars; I love to watch the waxing and waning of the moon. I even have a favorite moon phase, the waxing crescent. I have it tattooed on my arm.

At the time that we were going to see the Leonids meteor shower, Jupiter and Saturn were closest to the Earth than they had been in decades. You could pick them out in the night sky because they were so bright, but if you had a telescope, you’d get a really good look at them.

Dan and I made plans to travel out to Wagman Observatory to see what we could see. Dan packed a picnic blanket and a bottle of wine. He already knew the way to my heart.

The first thing we did was to walk over to the large telescope. Someone from the observatory was there to make sure it was pointed the right way in the sky to view Jupiter and Saturn. I wanted to see them.

I looked at Saturn first. I don’t know when you were in Earth-Science classes, but I was a ’70s baby, so we’re talking mid-late 1980s. You know when you learned about the planets, the pictures they had in your text books? Not the high-definition, digital images that are out there now. We’re talking Kodachrome, here. Flat. Muted colors.

Well, that’s how Saturn looked — it was cool, don’t get me wrong — very two-dimensional, like someone had cut it out and hung it up in space. I had a funny reaction — like, “hey, it really does have rings around it! And you can see them!” It was weird, I guess, to look at something I had learned about, but not really internalized.

Or I’m just weird. Take your pick.

Then we walked back to the blanket and settled in. A full moon was going to make viewing the meteor shower a little difficult, but not impossible. We drank wine and held hands, and stared at the sky waiting to see stars start falling.

And then, a meteor went right over our heads. And I don’t mean a shooting star far away up in the sky. A ball of flame went streaking right over us. It was amazing, intense, stunning.

I don’t remember who said, “Make a wish,” me or Dan. I honestly don’t recall. But I know that we were kissing each other next.

Wishes do come true.

What was your best date? What would you wish on a shooting star now?

Project: Food Budget, Weeks 25 and 26

Food Budget Piggybank

Halfway through! Wow!

We must have done a good job stocking up at the grocery store, because aside from milk, we haven’t had to go often. Although I am sending Dan tonight, so we’ll see.

We went through the Costco budget, so that’s going to need to be examined, and I think we’re still spending too much money on eating out. Although, we did come in under budget.

Grocery: Spent $230.75, leaving $160.44 until April 1
Costco: Spent $455, over by $255
Eating out: Spent $77.96, leaving $27.25

The April budget will be the same. If we underspend on groceries and overspend at Costco again, I will have to adjust that. Oh, and I have to recalculate my CSA for the upcoming season. Winter season total for the CSA was $528, or about $44.00 a week. Which I’m totally cool with. As summer starts, I will also be figuring in our weekly spending at farmers markets.

Menu for week:
Thursday: Take out, because the kids and I will be getting home late (there goes that $27.25)
Friday: Veggie burgers and potatoes, salad
Saturday: Granola bars; Minestrone soup and grilled cheese sandwiches; I will also be making marinara sauce this weekend
Sunday: Apple muffins; French toast, veggie sausage, fruit, and I’ll be cooking Coconut tofu and rice
Monday: Bella’s house
Tuesday: Coconut tofu I made Sunday
Wednesday: Pasta, Quorn nuggets, salad

Updated to add: I need your favorite mushroom recipes! I have mostly cremini, but a couple of portabellas, too. Please link me up in the comments!

Let’s see how everyone else did!

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Acquired Tastes
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* Fresh…A New Chapter
* Chandeleah
* Two Eggs Over Easy
* That’s Just Me
* Eat Whole Be Vital
* Four Happy Violets
* Naturally {Un}refined
* Pgh Dad
* yogabeautylife
* What da Health?
* Twice the Twinsanity
* Brandon and on…
* French Press


I’m really struggling with the next thing to say. (Still.)

I don’t know why.

I feel blocked. I feel blah.

I’m toying with some Memory Lane ideas: jury duty (sucked), best date ever (meteor shower with Dan).

I am probably going to post about Lent at the end of Lent, but I gotta tell you, it’s been a very uneven 40 days so far.

I’m putting together my Project: Food Budget post for tomorrow, and I can’t even write up a shopping list. For the record, I’m blocked up at work, too, which is not good. I work at writing copy, and while I usually find it pretty easy to do, I’m not this week (and didn’t last week).

I’m wondering if it has to do with the seasonality of my grief for Gabriel. Or the season in general.

In the meantime, though, I did text my husband. Because I wanted to tell him that I wanted to talk to him.

It wasn’t a “we need to talk” text. I’d just like to have the space to sit down and have a friendly conversation. Doesn’t have to be about anything vital — kid schedules, house cleaning, money. It’d be nice if it weren’t about any of that. I’d like it to not take place at 9:30 p.m. as I’m getting ready to end my day with a little bit of reading.

Maybe that’s why I’m not posting. Because rather than saying things, I just want to talk a little bit. That means listening, too.

What do you want to talk about?

Random Thoughts: The What the Heck is Going On Around Here Edition

I’m feeling very discouraged, so I haven’t been posting.

I am feeling discouraged about the slow rate of change in my life right now. Here it is the end of March, and I am not where I want to be. I hadn’t intended to make big huge changes in my life this year — except for one. And I can’t really talk about that here because: dooce.


Here are some not good things:

1. Flora had pinkeye. Twice. Today is her last day of drops. Putting drops in a 7yo’s eyes is not fun. Chocolate has been the most motivating bribe thus far.

2. I can’t figure out if I’m getting sick or not. Since Saturday, I’ve been feeling pretty crappy: sore throat, achy ears. I have pretty bad allergies that just seem to be getting worse each year. With the early warm weather this spring, they have started sooner than usual, too. Allergy meds and eyedrops, plus pain relievers, are keeping me going. I hope I don’t have an ear infection or strep or something like that. If I’m going to be sick, I need to be definitively sick (fever, can’t move). Because otherwise, I just ignore my body.

Healthy, I know.

3. The mess of my house. I need to get on top of it. Stat. (Again.)

4. I bought a pack of cigarettes. I have since gotten rid of them, but I’m feeling pretty bad that I bought them. And smoked three. One on each of the past three nights.

On the plus side:

1. Saturday night, I had such a fun girls’ night out. A group of us went to see The Hunger Games, and then out to dinner at Bocktown. I cannot say enough good things. I could RAVE about the movie — in sum, aside from being extremely entertaining, it was the best adaptation of a book I’ve ever seen — and that’s something I’m resisting the urge to do. I don’t know why I’m resisting it? I mean, The Hunger Games is pretty much *every where* right now, so I guess I don’t see the point to NOT saying my piece. Except maybe everyone is sick of everyone else’s opinion anyway. I don’t know — this may be part of my ennui and discouragement.

I could also RAVE about sitting around a table in Bocktown with a bunch of friends, eating good food, drinking good beer, and laughing our butts off. But, really, what else can I say? It was a good — nay, a *great* night.

2. Kate is funny. This isn’t news, but, let me present two Sunday night conversations:

Kate: Is Easter coming soon?
Me: Easter is in two weeks.
Kate: Yay! Easter will be here, and we can eat pee-pees!
Me: I think you mean Peeps.
(cue giggling fit)

(As we are watching the hockey game.)
Kate: Which team are we?
Me: We are the black team. The Penguins.
Kate: Go, Penguins! What’s the white team called?
Me: The New Jersey Devils.
Kate: That’s a full mouth. Can I just call them Devils?
Me: Yes, yes you can.

3. Michael said, “book” last night. He also nods his head now, which is hilarious. It’s kind of a cross between “yes” and headbanging.

I guess I’m kind of in “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything” mode. It seems wrong to be so down in the dumps — it’s not as if anything is really wrong (knock on wood).

I need a swift kick in the pants. Or maybe some pictures of puppies.

How are you feeling these days? Up or down?

Battle Fatigue

It’s been a week of frustration and logistical … nightmares is probably too strong a word — although I did find myself on McNightmare Road yesterday at 4:30 p.m., so maybe not. Logistical inconveniences, let’s say that.

I haven’t posted much because I am not feeling very positive. But I need to vent a little bit.

You can click away any time.

After vowing and struggling to retake the reins at home, success is minimal. I blame the weather. And also the fact that two of my three children cannot easily be picked up and carried protesting into the house.

I repeatedly assert my authority at home. Mileage varies. Last night, I sent both girls (at separate times) to bed without their night time treat or night time show. Flora dug in her heels and refused to finish her homework — refused, outright. Kate had a meltdown about something else, and started yelling at me. I was already fed up, so I pulled rank, completely and absolutely.

Flora is not supposed to play outside or watch TV before her homework is done. But short of picking her up and carrying her into the house as soon as we arrive home, I’m not sure how to enforce that with my 7-year-old. She has lost playing-outside privileges and television privileges until NEXT MONDAY at this point.

It doesn’t help that she is on her second round of antibiotic eyedrops for pinkeye. YAY! The incomparable @mattieflap watched Flora at her house yesterday (with her adorable redheaded 3-year-old). Flora was well-behaved, although even there she was homework-resistant. She must have used all her “good behavior” at @mattieflap’s house because at home she was surly, grumpy, and non-compliant.

The last straw came as I was sending her to her bedroom with her undone homework and she told me to shut up.

As @quickredfoxy said on Twitter today, “Sometimes all we can do is love them.”

I am holding on to my own desire to dissolve into a sobbing mess by the very ends of my fingertips. I have a girl-date Saturday night (Hunger Games!) — one that I was asked to change or cancel, and I opted not to, which is another source of friction in my life — that I plan to attend and enjoy. I had made these plans and then got word of a family event, and the conflict is direct and head on. Thanks to my husband and parents, my children can still attend. And really, I think that’s the most important thing.

I don’t know that all parties agree with that assessment.

Oh, and my dang back hurts all the time right now. I sit down almost all day during the week (two 15-minute walk breaks don’t really count as exercise), and then I’m on my feet nearly all evening and weekend. My back, from my lower back through my sciatic nerve, and my poor aching swollen feet, need some TLC soon. I have a chiropractic appointment tomorrow, and I finally bought sneakers. So let’s hope that even if the lunatics continue trying to run the asylum, at least my back will stop aching.

Is it going to rain any time soon? My kids need some indoor time. *I* need some indoor time — the clothes and paper sorting that is getting neglected because of this crazily fantastic weather is daunting.

And you’ll have to come back next week for Project: Food Budget. Sorry about that. I just don’t have it in me.

What’s keeping you going this week?

Meatless Monday: Food Allergies?

(A break from my usual Monday post, but I don’t have any new recipes today, and this is on my mind.)

Twice at daycare, Michael has broken out in little “red splotches” around his mouth. Both times he was eating (store-bought) hummus — which he loves, by the way. Michael likes nearly everything I have given him to this point. A major exception was lentil soup. He rejected that outright.

Anyhoo: so, red splotches. After the first time it happened, M had his 15-month well child visit. I mentioned it to his pediatrician. He said to keep an eye on M for other reactions.

And then it happened again, last Friday.

Here are the ingredients in the hummus: Cooked chickpeas, tahini (ground sesame), soybean and/or canola oil, garlic, salt, citric acid, seasoning and spices, natural flavors, potassium sorbate added to maintain freshness.

I suspect either the tahini or the citric acid.

Aside from talking to our pediatrician again (which I will do), I’m not sure what’s next. I have been very lucky that my children don’t have food allergies (knock on wood). They haven’t reacted (before this Hummus Incident) to anything. M’s even had tastes of peanut butter, nutella, and other stuff with nuts. No reaction.

On the other hand, I don’t know how much he’s really been exposed to citric juices or citric acid (in food). Is there such a thing as a citrus allergy or reaction? Or if it is a reaction to the sesame, is that something that could escalate into a nut allergy?


When I was pregnant with Michael, I had an aversion to nuts. It started out with an aversion to peanuts and peanut butter, but later in my pregnancy I didn’t even like cashews, almonds, and so on. It was a bummer because nuts had been (and now are again) a major part of my diet, one of my go-to snacks (pistachios! You can’t eat just one!), and also a family favorite.

Anyone have experience out there with allergies or food intolerances? Do they start out small and get worse? Or (as I’ve seen it with eggs) are there allergies kids can outgrow? Help?

The Non-Believer

Flora doesn’t believe in the Easter Bunny.

Or leprechauns. Or fairies (except for the Tooth Fairy).

“They aren’t real,” she asserts.

This breaks my heart. First, that she simply doesn’t believe anymore. I know that developmentally, 7 years old is probably a time that doubt starts to creep in anyway. But as an avid new reader of The Magic Treehouse series, I thought she would continue to have faith in the reality of make-believe.

Second, I’m a little worried that someone(s) at school has disabused her of this “nonsense”. She didn’t come to me *asking* if the Easter Bunny was real — she declared outright: “I know the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist.” (We were in Target.)

I have done a couple little tap dances around the subject. Acting surprised, asking, “Are you sure about that?”

But what I am most distressed about is her complete disregard for her sister’s belief.

“The leprechaun messed up the calendar today,” Kate told us yesterday when we picked her up from school. “He left little footprints all over the table, too.”

Flora jumped right in: “Leprechauns aren’t real.” And they proceeded to start to fight about it.

I got them redirected, “Flora, that’s just what *you* think. Look! Daffodils! Those are daddy’s favorite flower.”

But this is something I think I need to address with Flora one way or another.

Part of me wants to continue my current strategy of tap dancing and redirection.

Part of me wants to take Flora aside and explain that while fairies and leprechauns aren’t literally real doesn’t mean that she should spoil the magic for her younger siblings.

Most of me wishes that she still believed the magic herself.

Do your children believe in fairies? What would you do if they suddenly didn’t (or did)?

Project: Food Budget, Week 24

Food Budget Piggybank

This weekend, I want to cook ALL THE THINGS. But I am going to focus on the following and construct my menu from there.

I have a CSA pickup tonight, but that’s probably just going to be greenhouse mesculen greens and apples.

I also have a major Costco trip to undertake on Sunday. With a budget (for food) of $151.66. I’m probably going to blow it there and then for the rest of the month. Lunchtime snacks are kind of killing me.

Tip o’ the Week:
When I shop at Costco for things to pack in my children’s lunch boxes, I don’t buy the big boxes of individual packaged snacks. I buy a large bag (or two) of the favored snack (which varies from kettle corn, to Cheezits, to chips of some sort). I use baggies and some other types of (non-disposible) containers to pack them. It’s much more cost effective that way.

Another cost-conscious tip: Buy the big bags of shredded cheese. I buy the bulk shredded cheddar and shredded mozzerella. Then I split the package into three freezer-size storage bags, freeze two and use one. For some reason we go through cheese like crazy in this house.

Mmm. Cheese.

This coming weekend, I plan to make:
Vegetarian chili
Lentil Meat(less)balls (new web site for recipes! I must stop!)
Pizza dough and homemade sauce (Saturday night dinner, with salad)
Coconut Tofu Rice
Granola and/or Chewy Granola Bars

Those will all be incorporated into next week’s menu in some combination. I also have a bunch of potatoes I have to use. Maybe I can convince my children to eat baked “French fries”.

Go see how everyone else did!

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Acquired Tastes
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* Fresh…A New Chapter
* Chandeleah
* Two Eggs Over Easy
* That’s Just Me
* Eat Whole Be Vital
* Four Happy Violets
* Naturally {Un}refined
* Pgh Dad
* yogabeautylife
* What da Health?
* Twice the Twinsanity

Random Thoughts: The “Really, America??” Edition

1. Rick Santorum? Really? I mean, maybe it’ll make Obama’s landslide even more awesome in November.

I am equal parts mystified and terrified. The only coherent thought I’m having is, “Handmaid’s Tale, anyone?”

If you are a woman (and/or you are in any relationship with a woman — mother, sister, aunt, spouse, daughter), and you would like to vote for Santorum, please read that book. Thanks.

2. “Mommy Porn” should never ever have been a phrase entered into the English lexicon. It’s equal parts offensive, condescending, and silly. If you don’t know yet, that’s how the book 50 Shades of Grey is being described. The book is, apparently, an outgrowth of fan fiction from the Twilight saga (and this is how I feel about Twilight), and apparently very erotic, and apparently setting married women’s bedrooms on fire. (Not literally.)

Let me tell you what mommy porn would actually be. It would not be a book about sex (let alone BDSM sex, not that there’s anything wrong with that). (Dad, DO NOT google BDSM.) It would be a book about a husband who vacuumed and dusted *without being asked*. Or pictures of men washing dishes; having them be hot men with washboard abs and no shirts on is optional. I would get hotter watching my husband put his dirty socks in the hamper than reading a book about vaguely consensual BDSM sex between two pretty 20-somethings (one of whom starts the book as a virgin).


3. Adding “grief” as a diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (aka the DSM). This is less an outraged “REALLY?” and more an inquisitive “really? huh.” On one hand, grieving — even prolonged grieving — is pretty much to be expected after a significant loss (spouse/partner, parent, child, sibling, close friend). The fact that our culture doesn’t quite know what to do with a person experiencing profound grief doesn’t make the grieving person crazy. Grief, even prolonged grief, should not be patholigized (yeah, not really a word, I know).

However: If putting grief in the DSM helps someone get therapy to go through it, I would cautiously support that. (When I asked Dan about it, he said he usually classifies therapy with people experiencing profound grief as “adjustment therapy”, and he thinks putting grief in the DSM is unnecessary.) I got therapy after Gabriel died, and if nothing else, it gave me a safe place to cry uninterrupted for an hour. (It did more than that, but sometimes, that was part of what I really needed.)

4. Oh, Arizona. You crappy, crappy excuse for a state. I hope the progressives come out of the woodwork during your next election, and fire all your lawmakers.

What’s making you ask, “Really?” today?

Updated to add: 5. Pennsylvania, you better watch it. You’re going to be labeled Arizona (or Virginia maybe) North.

I am anti-abortion.

However, I am also pro-choice.

As a Catholic this is probably an untenable position. As a woman, I don’t think it is.


They’re calling it the Women’s Right to Know Act.

How’s that for irony?

Here’s a petition, and here’s a link to a list of your Allegheny County representatives. You should be able to navigate around that site if you live outside of Allegheny County.

I’m going to get a really angry phone call from my parents.

PSA: The Power of the Nap

I was never much of a nap taker. Sleep was, in my opinion as a teen and 20-something, overrated. A waste of time.

Then I had children.

When Flora was born, the piece of advice that I got and took to heart was: Sleep when the baby sleeps.

This came in handy, especially when the baby decided 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. was party time. Although there were still nights that I handed her off to her dad to rock, while I crashed for a couple of hours before she definitively needed feeding again.

The only problem with this practice was that I slept instead of eating. My weight plunged after Flora was born. When she was about 6 or 9 months old, I got sick. I went to the doctor to make sure I didn’t have something I could pass onto the baby through my milk.

I remember standing on the scale with the doctor behind me, staring in wonder at my weight. I heard the doc clear his throat before he said, clearly reaching for a diplomatic tone, “You seem to be a little underweight for your height. And the fact that you’re a breast feeding mother.”

It was the medical equivalent of, “Eat a cheeseburger, for goodness sake!”

I was 116 pounds.

When I shared this information with my mother, she asked, “Well, how many calories are you taking in?”

I had no clue. I’ve never counted calories in my life. My mom suggested I try a couple of things to get more calories (trail mix as a snack, putting cheese on my garden burger, eating five times a day, chocolate. I love my mom), put on some weight, and still ensure that I could nap if and when I needed to.

When Kate was born, I discovered a super power: I could will myself to sleep. If Flora was napping (or sleeping at night, or, let’s be honest here, occupied safely in her room with a Little Einstein video), and Kate was also sleeping, I could lay down and be unconscious in about 5 minutes. Kate, God bless her, was a round-the-clock sleeper her first four or five months. She would sleep 3 to 4 hours at a clip, waking up to be changed and fed, and right back to sleep she would go. (Except for those clusterfeedings around 2 months.) When she started being more awake, she decided that day time was a much better time to check out the world, thank heavens.

I have recently rediscovered my super power. (Don’t ask about napping when Michael was born. Flora and Kate were 4 and 6, plus I went back to work full time when he was 3 months old. Naps were nearly unheard of.) The past two Sundays, I have lain myself down in the afternoon when M is napping, and fallen asleep for 30-40 minutes.

It’s been heavenly. I have missed napping. This past Sunday, it was especially vital, because of Daylight Saving Time (and a, er, um, late Saturday night with lots of wine).

My point being: Don’t be disdainful of the nap. Naps are gorgeous, gorgeous things. Especially if you can get to sleep quickly and take a short “power nap” (20 to 30 minutes). There are probably studies out there that prove this point, but take my word for it. Especially if you are going to parent someday, learning to nap is vital. It will keep you sane.

Steps to napping:
1. Lay down in a quiet, darkened room.
2. Empty your mind — this probably takes the most practice. Forget about the chores, the thank you notes you need to write, the dinner you could start. All that will be there when you wake up.
3. If you are a new parent/mom, and aren’t sleeping for long stretches anyway, you have my permission to sleep until the baby wakes up again. This also applies if you are sick. Sleep is a cure; do it for as long as your body will let you.
4. Otherwise, try to limit your nap to 30 minutes. If you nap for an hour or two, you’re totally going to throw yourself off, and you probably won’t be able to fall asleep at bed time.

Naps, like hangovers, change once you have children. A hangover can be nursed over the course of a long, lazy day when you are single or childfree. Not so when you have children. Children do not know from hangovers, trust me. Naps, when you are a sleep-deprived parent, become an almost holy experience. You will yearn for one like you probably used to yearn for food or sex.

And, as they say, practice makes perfect! If you learn how to nap now, it will serve you well when you need it most.

Are you down with the nap? Or is sleep a waste of time?