I won Harry Styles at the Tricky Tray

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I have a confession to make. I love One Direction. Mostly for their music, which I know is not considered good by anyone with any musical taste, but I don’t care. Their songs, “Steal My Girl,” “Kiss You,” and “One Thing” put me in a good mood when nothing else will, and on those mornings when my kids will not put their shoes on or stop beating the crap out of each other, One Direction saves me.

Beyond their music, One Direction ain’t bad to look at, especially the one named Harry Styles. Harry is 20 but somehow this doesn’t register with my 43-year-old brain. He is without question the most beautiful human walking the earth right now, and has this unmistakable Mike Jagger/Jim Morrison thing going on that makes everything else in my life meaningless.

I’ve been here before, obsessing over a member of a British boy band. I was a more appropriate 15. The band was Duran Duran, and even though I was truly in love with the bassist, John Taylor, my friend claimed him first so I had to choose the next best which was really hard, but I had to pick, and so I chose keyboardist Nick Rhodes. Never mind that he was super feminine and wore more makeup than my Mom, he was perfect. And he was mine.

To deal with the emotional turmoil of loving someone I didn’t know and couldn’t have, I retreated into fantasy and wrote elaborate stories of us being romantically involved until my mother confiscated most of them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing what’s now called “fan fiction” or “fanfic” and today it flourishes on the Internet. The most popular fanfic website, fanfiction.net, has more than two million registered users who write about their favorite characters from books, television, film, or music in all sorts of combinations and situations. Most fan fiction is absolutely dreadful, but some of it is so dirty entertaining that it is actually discovered and developed by Hollywood. In fact, the wildly popular book 50 Shades of Grey that drove many a suburban Mom into a tizzy back in 2012 began as a piece of fanfic someone imagined between Twilight characters Edward Cullen and Bella Swan.

So, I had this idea to write some fan fiction of my own but from the perspective of a 43-year-old married mother of three who must conduct herself properly, especially in front of her 11 year old daughter. I call it, “I won Harry Styles at the Tricky Tray.”

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“Sorry I’m late girls, I burned dinner again.”

“Oh my god, you better hurry up. They are collecting the baskets now.”

“What? What time did it start? I thought it started at 7!”

“No, 6. It’s OK, just dump all your tickets in the mystery basket and get yourself a drink.”

For the love of Pete, I can’t believe this is happening. I studied the basket list for three days straight with a highlighter and had a bulletproof strategy for winning something really good this time. Ugh. Oh well. There’s always next year, unless the fundraising committee arbitrarily decides never to have Tricky Tray again and instead has Bingo but that would be so stupid I’m sure it’ll never happen.

I frantically tore each individual ticket at the perforation and dumped all of them into the mystery basket bag while apologizing to the committee member who patiently stood over me. We all had a nice dinner and then the drawing began. I applauded for but secretly loathed that one Mom who kept leaping to her feet triumphantly waving a matching ticket for what seemed like every basket. OMG, I am never that Mom! When is it going to be my turn? *sigh* I need more wine that stuff the committee is trying to pass off as wine.

“Congratulations again to Jenny Sue! How many baskets is that, Jenny? 12? You must have the magic touch.” Laughter. Wine.

“OK everyone, the moment you have been waiting for is finally here! It’s time for the mystery basket! For maximum drama, we are going to announce the winner first and then we’ll tell you what’s in the basket. Are you ready? Here’s the number: 19683753.”

“196..837..53? Wait a second…196…837…53? Oh My God! It’s me! Yay! What did I win?”

A hush fell over the crowd. “Gina Randall, you are never going to believe this, but you and a guest have won a VIP dinner in New York City tomorrow night with Harry Styles of One Direction!”

There were a few groans from around the room, but I could have fainted I was so excited. Everyone crowded around me, people were taking pictures, it was like a dream come true. Who’s got the magic touch now, Jenny Sue? Bow to me, all of you, and I will tell you my Tricky Tray secrets.

The next day was filled with excitement as I interacted with dozens of One Direction staffers and shopped for something new to wear–something that didn’t scream, “Mom who studies the basket list in advance of a Tricky Tray” without going anywhere near “Cougar,” “Puma,” or God forbid, “Jaguar.” A car came to take me and my daughter to a small, unassuming restaurant in SoHo. We waited a good 45 minutes and then, he arrived. All 5 feet 11 glorious inches of him. Like Carly Rae Jepsen, I could hardly look at him and the words I couldn’t seem to find were falling out of my mouth anyway one after another until they were piled on the floor like laundry that needed to be folded. In contrast, my daughter, who at 11 was supposed to be nothing if not awkward, was extremely poised and in control.

I don’t really remember much from our dinner. I’m sure there was food. I remember him asking my daughter a lot of thoughtful questions, and her answers were absolutely adorable. I was so proud of her. There were a few paparazzi and one of them promised to send me a shot via email. When it came time to leave, we hugged goodbye, and he slipped me his cell phone number complemented me on raising such a wonderful kid. I wanted so badly to just follow him out of the restaurant and spend the rest of my life trying to look right at him baby, but I had to settle for a single night out in SoHo. Or did I?????

 

The Six Types of Kids in the Lunchroom

Holy crap you guys! Today, a piece I wrote called “The Six Types of Kids in the Lunchroom” is on Scary Mommy!!!! I’m so excited, and totally freaking out. For those of you who don’t know, Scary Mommy is a hugely popular and very funny website for less than perfect Moms (and Dads) that averages 30 million page views a month. To compare, my little blog–which at 11 weeks old has only recently learned how to smile and is starting to babble–averages about 850 page views a month. I am thrilled for this exposure, and so happy to be part of a community that celebrates those Moms who aren’t afraid to admit they don’t have all the answers, mostly because they can’t even hear the questions over all the noise in the house.

Thank you to everyone for reading and sharing (especially for sharing). I dedicate this one to all the parents who give up their free time to volunteer at school, and particularly to the wonderful ladies of the CAS PTO. Here is the link:

http://www.scarymommy.com/6-types-kids-lunchroom/

 

10 ways to cope with winter

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Now that we’ve turned the clocks back, there is no denying that winter is coming. Since turning 40, I dread the cold. Last winter was so bad our town looked like the backdrop of that Morgan Freeman penguin documentary and my husband mentioned the movie The Shining a couple more times than I was comfortable. I’m afraid this year is going to be worse since the summer wasn’t really all that hot.

With anything I am dreading, I find having a plan helps me through. Here is how I intend to cope with winter this year:

1. Treat myself. I absolutely cannot face winter without a pair of Uggs. In fact, no one should have to face winter without a pair of Uggs. If I ever run for public office, that will be my platform. My Uggs from last year are just fine, so sadly I don’t have any reason to buy a new pair. Instead, I think I will finally buy myself a good pair of long underwear. Does anyone have any long underwear recommendations? Basically I need to make myself so hot and sweaty my body will think it’s still summer.

2. Amp up my reading. Books are an escape I can make this winter without my family having to go through the hassle of filing a police report. Here is what you will find on my nightstand this season: I Am Malala (I know, I’m embarrassed I haven’t read it yet), Food: A Love Story by comedian Jim Gaffigan, and Hyperbole and a Half by blogger Allie Brosh. Again, I welcome your recommendations.

3. Plan a vacation. This is perhaps the single most effective way for me to beat the winter, even if we don’t physically take the trip until summer when it warms up and I have no reason to go anywhere anymore. The problem with this of course is the cost. We have five people in our family, and almost every hotel I have researched online has a maximum of four per room, which means we either have to give one of our children up for adoption or pay double for the vacation. It is so frustrating, mostly because I can’t decide which kid should go.

4. Keep tabs on Florida real estate. During the winter I cannot conjure any reasons why we still live in New Jersey. I’ve been told that my husband doesn’t technically need to live in New Jersey to do his job. So why do we stay here? The pizza? The people? Yes to both of those, but are they really worth six months of frigid hell? No, I don’t think so. There might not be good pizza in Florida, but I know there are good people there. Clearly people are more important than pizza, right? I know, they’re not. Dammit.

5. Adopt a new distraction. Last year, I discovered My Fitness Pal and had so much fun tracking all of my calories and physical activity I almost forgot about the 14 feet of snow falling silently outside my window. This novelty has run its course, though, and I am in need of another distraction. Here are a few gimmicks I am considering adopting this year: a Blueprint Juice Cleanse, the 21-Day Fix, Jamberry nail wraps, a Fitbit, and maybe essential oils.

6. Fight the urge to stay inside by going out. Last year, my husband and I had tickets to see Jim Gaffigan in person but we got slammed by yet another n’oreaster. We couldn’t believe it, but the theater didn’t cancel the show, so we were forced to go even though we were exhausted from shoveling and building snow forts for our kids all day. We wound up having an amazing time; we had dinner beforehand and were so happy to find the restaurant was practically empty. So, this year, for us anyway, snowstorm = night out on the town.

7. Cook. A highly effective way to beat the winter is through food. I don’t care that you aren’t supposed to use food as a coping mechanism; this is a winter emergency. Here are three recipes I am going to make when the Polar Vortex invades New Jersey again: Ski Soup, Gnocchi Bolognese, and my mother’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese.

8. The Paramus Pilgrimage. When the winter blues hit particularly hard, I always try some old-fashioned retail therapy and it usually does the trick. This year, I will grab a friend and make the 30 minute pilgrimage to Paramus, NJ where my two favorite places on earth are located: Ikea and The Container Store. When I die, I will not be surprised to find my soul, free of its worn-out body, in Paramus opening and closing the drawers of an Ikea display kitchen. It is heaven.

9. Get Help. Last winter the one time my always-working-from-home husband was traveling I couldn’t even enjoy it because a storm dumped 24 inches of snow followed by six hours of freezing rain. The resulting material was like frozen cement and our 11 year old snow blower blatantly said no and actually gave me the finger. I did what I could, but it wasn’t much and for the next eight weeks the walk from the car to the front door and back again required an enormous amount of concentration. It’s a miracle none of us fractured a skull. This year, we are getting a quote from our landscapers for snow removal. Please think good thoughts.

10. Embrace it. When all of the above strategies inevitably fail, I am just going to screw it and go skiing again. We went skiing as a family three times last winter, and I have to admit it was really great to look winter in the eye and say, “Eff you,” until the third time when our last and youngest child froze solid on the chair lift and had to be gently pushed down a really long meandering trail every few feet while I kept him focused on the big bag of M&Ms waiting for him at the bottom. I really hope it goes better this year.

 

Don’t Tell Me to Pick My Battles

Whenever I whine to someone about how my kids don’t listen, he or she will invariably tell me I have to pick my battles. I nod in agreement, but I never do it. I never take out my master list of daily battles and whittle it down to only a few. The reason for this is because it’s very overwhelming; there are just too many battles to pick from, and they all seem really important. How many am I supposed to choose anyway? And what is the criteria everyone else is using to determine which battles stay and which ones go?

For example, I feel very strongly that I need to limit the time my daughter spends scrolling through mindless Instagram feeds on her iPod or my son plays fake basketball on the Wii, but I feel equally as strong that tortilla chips are not to be eaten whilst on the toilet. One might be considered a big deal, the other small, but I can’t be expected to choose between the two. It’s just too hard.

Bedtime is something my kids fight every single night, but I can’t let that one go. If they don’t get enough rest, they won’t be able to adequately process what they are learning in school, or they could compromise their immune systems and get a nasty enterovirus. No thanks. This is a battle that is definitely worth fighting. But what about the twerking lessons my oldest child has been secretly giving to my other children in the basement over the last few weeks? Am I supposed to just laugh that off? I can’t. It’s not going to be as funny when I find out that my six year old has been teaching all the other six year olds in the neighborhood how to pelvic thrust like a pro.

Homework has to be completed every night and it has to be completed correctly. If something is wrong and a little extra help is needed, it will reveal itself through homework and eventually be rectified. I have to stay strong when it comes to homework, but am I really being a good mom by letting my last and youngest kid walk out the door wearing a shirt stained with yogurt because I have already hit my battle quota for the week? The answer is no.

The way I see it, my kids have to do it all. They have to brush their teeth, but they also can’t leave the light on after they leave the bathroom. They have to walk the dog they begged me for even though it is raining AND they have to go to soccer practice even though they would rather have a playdate. Also, they cannot physically assault each other over who ate the last piece of gum AND they can’t have a snack when I am in the middle of making dinner.

My point is this: picking battles is virtually impossible. If I cross a few of the seemingly unimportant ones off my master list, I send the message that my kids don’t have to behave all the time, just sometimes. It’s inconsistent and confusing. It might sound like a whole lot of nagging, harping, and yelling, but combined with an equal amount of love and positive attention, that’s simply the sound of mothering. Instead of telling moms to pick their battles, maybe we should encourage them to simply forge ahead, stay strong, and have some faith that the battles are in fact worth it. Every last one of them.

Say No to the Sleepover

One Saturday night, after having spent all day at a local street fair with a friend, my daughter sent me a text asking for a sleepover. I groaned and showed it to my husband. I LOVE a good sleepover (no I don’t), but I could not bear to see my daughter drooling comatose on the couch the next day yet again, and neither could my husband. He immediately assumed his role as coach.

“Just say no, just do it. Don’t even think about it.”

I looked at him like he was the most brilliant man on earth, because he was.

“You are so right! I need to be swift and decisive, with no waffling.”

“No waffling.”

It was a Pivotal Moment. Goosebumps appeared on my arms. I texted back a firm, “No, you have soccer tomorrow,” thinking the whole time, “This is what it must feel like to be one of those parents who actually know what they are doing. Maybe I’m not as bad at this as I thought! Go me!”

I put my phone away and moved on with my night, which included dinner with the boys, a birthday party, and Halloween costume shopping at Target. At dinner, my purse appeared to be alive with all of the vibrations and the beeps and the rings coming from within. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I took out my phone and looked at all of her texts. Taken together, they could have been used by a psychologist authoring a book on how to recognize emotional manipulation and what to do about it.

One of my favorite movies is Summer of Sam by Spike Lee, and one of my favorite scenes is towards the end when Mira Sorvino learns her husband John Leguizamo has been regularly cheating on her with his clients from the hair salon. While she is packing her bags, he throws every psychological tool he knows at her to try and get her to stay.

Sympathy: “I am sorry, but baby, I’m not me, OK? I’m f**king going through a lot of shit right now, all right?”

Guilt: “You’re everything in my life and I ain’t got shit. I ain’t got friends. Nothin’. I suck at everything I do. You’re the only f**king thing I have.”

Intimidation: “If you f**king leave here now, don’t expect to come back. You can’t leave me and come back.”

Fortunately, none of these techniques work and Mira throws all of his vinyl disco records out the window of their Bed-Stuy apartment and gives him a surprisingly tender kiss goodbye.

In exactly the same way, my daughter was doing her best to get me to say yes to the sleepover:

Sympathy: “Please Mom? Please? I feel like if we do have a sleepover, we will have an awesome and fun time. I want to become reallllllllllly good friends.”

Guilt: “You want me to be with my friends, don’t you? I love you, come on!”

Intimidation: “Mommy, please, if I don’t sleep over she will leave me! Do if for the sake of the friendship!”

Most Moms and Dads I know are immune to these psychological weapons, but I am not. And my daughter knows it. She knows I am a serial waffler, how I second guess even the simplest of decisions. We recently renovated our bathroom and she watched as I nearly had a stroke selecting a paint color for the walls. She has learned that I can be talked out of anything because I am never sure of anything.

This time, though, I am proud to say that I held my ground. I felt the doubt creeping into my brain during our text exchange, but I kept hearing my husband’s voice, “Just say no, just do it. No waffling.” She returned home that night and the first thing she said to me was, “I’m sorry.” I was amazed. It was like she knew she was taking advantage of my historic waffling, a personality flaw, and was admitting it was wrong! Hooray! I won! I gave her a surprisingly tender kiss goodnight, and was glad I didn’t have to throw anything out the window.

Small Houses

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We live in a small house, and honestly, it’s enough for us. Our town is expensive and if we were to move to something bigger it would probably need a lot of work and I would probably have to get a job, and I’m not up for either of those, so we are going to stay put. At least for right now.

To live in a small house with two adults, three kids, and a dog isn’t hard, you just have to be careful. You can’t leave anything to chance; every move has to be deliberate. For example, suppose you find something on the floor and you aren’t sure what it is but you think it might be important. In a normal size house, you might throw it in a drawer in the kitchen and nothing or no one would suffer. In a kitchen the size of a walk-in closet, though, the drawers cannot be expected to store random non-kitchen items. It’s just not fair. They should be assigned forks, knives, ziplocs, and a can opener. That’s it. When you live in a small house and you find something strange on the floor, you have to go through the painful process of identifying it, finding the owner and putting it back where it belongs as quickly as possible. It sucks but you have to do it.

Another point about the kitchen: If you are considering entering it for something but someone is already in there doing something like cooking or washing the dishes, ask yourself if it’s really necessary that you enter. A kitchen the size of a walk-in closet was originally designed for just one person, and once another person enters it, it becomes much smaller, especially when that person is a husband. If you have asked yourself the question about needing to enter and the answer is still yes, please stay to the right. Criss-crossing and triangle patterns will only result in frustration that looks like a ballroom dance but definitely doesn’t feel like one.

In a small house, mantras are very useful. “A place for everything and everything in its place” can be your guide, especially in those rooms that are dedicated to storage, like the garage, which was originally designed to store a car but that would be ridiculous. In ours, smelly soccer cleats and slimy shinguards go in the stolen Wegman’s shopping basket on top of the folding table. Hockey sticks go in the bin located to the right of the bin that holds all the balls; if you put a hockey stick in the ball bin I will find you. Gardening tools and potting mix go under the other folding table next to the 16 containers of gasoline we have left over from Superstorm Sandy. Beach chairs get hung up on the wall next to the boogie boards and snow tubes.

“Less is More” is another mantra that resonates with people who live in small houses, especially when they find themselves at Bed Bath and Beyond or HomeGoods surrounded by lamps, motivational plaques and scented candles at deeply discounted prices. In a situation like this, it’s helpful to repeat the “Less is More” mantra silently to yourself, along with the addition of a positive affirmation such as, “I don’t need any of this shit.”

Bathrooms in a small house should be used for taking baths, and not much else. Toiletries are allowed, but no more than two or three at a time and they must be small enough to fit in the pockets of the shoe organizer hanging behind the door. Please note that all such purchases must be approved in advance. Toilet paper cannot be hung from a holder on the wall or stacked on the neck of an iron giraffe that sits on the floor because then your movements will be significantly restricted. In fact, I have found that toilet paper looks best in a small wire basket on top of the toilet tank, you just have to spin around 360 degrees to use it.

Finally, you need to pay close attention to your closets. Closets can make or break a small house. If used as they were intended (for clothes, in-season only), the whole house will hum. But if you are shoving board games, stuffed animals, unwanted gifts and camera equipment in there, it will be mayhem and you might as well put a “for sale” sign on your front lawn right now because you are not going to make it.

The Cubes

IMG_3143At some point this summer, my son became interested in the Rubik’s cube and begged us to buy him one. Happy that it wasn’t a video game, my husband went to our local toy store and bought him one, and while he was there, he bought two more because our children have trained us never to buy just one of something when there are three of them.

Our first child, the oldest, must have heard how impossible the Rubik’s cube was to solve because she decided that she was never, ever going to mix hers up and leave it forever as she received it, treating it more like an abstract piece of art to display in her bedroom. This was a good plan; there was no other place in the house that was safer because she had trained her brothers a long time ago to never EVER enter her bedroom for any reason whatsoever.

Our last child, the youngest, watched his older brother for clues on what he should do with his Rubik’s cube. Together, they each twisted and turned their cubes until they had them really mixed up, and then put dots with Sharpie markers in one of the center cubes to tell the difference between the two of them.

After about an hour, our youngest child no longer had any interest in his cube, and ran down the street to play outside with our neighbors. But our second child got serious, consulting YouTube for visual instructions on how to solve it. That didn’t work; the videos were either too complicated, too vague, or too fast. One video recommended we lubricate the cube with some WD-40 to make it spin faster so that the solution would be more obvious. That didn’t work either.

Still, he kept at it. He took the cube with him everywhere: the pool, basketball camp, restaurants, etc., but he still couldn’t solve it. At the end of his rope, he asked us for help but was amazed to find that we were as dumbfounded as he was; usually we were able to solve complex problems and provide answers to difficult questions, but this time was different. I imagine he started to feel vulnerable; “If my parents don’t know how to do this seemingly easy thing, what else do they not know?”

It was around this time that he started to consider “borrowing” his sister’s Rubik’s cube on display in her bedroom that is never to be entered under any circumstances. His thinking was, “If I mix it up only a little, I will be able to solve it pretty easily and apply what I have learned to my cube and will then be able to solve any Rubik’s cube on earth no matter how mixed up it is.”

And so, my second child stole his sister’s Rubik’s cube, mixed it up only a little, but was unable to get it back. Scared out of his mind, he wept to my husband, who decided the best course of action for his son was to approach his sister honestly and with sincere regret. She of course was very angry until my husband diffused the situation by mentioning that he could simply peel off some stickers, artificially returning the cube to its original state. That made me and my OCD crazy but it impressed the children and made my husband look like a genius.

A few days later, my son asked us to buy him another, more sophisticated cube, a Newisland cube he found on Amazon. The Newisland cube spun faster than the Rubik’s Cube without having to add any additional lubricant and it didn’t have any stickers to peel. It was for serious cubers. It arrived by courier, and he was ecstatic, spinning it and manipulating it in the same way over and over again but never getting it truly mixed up, until his brother inadvertently bumped his arm and caused him to make a wrong turn. He tried to correct it but it was too late – the cube was forever mixed up and this time there were no stickers to peel.

My son broke down into sobs once again. I could not take the stress anymore and wished for a simpler life, before the cubes. I gave him the speech of a lifetime:

“The Rubik’s cube is a lie in the same way the claw from the arcade at the beach is a lie. Even though it appears from YouTube that anyone can solve it, only a very small percentage of the population can solve it. If it turns out that you can’t ever solve it, I don’t want you to think you aren’t smart because you are! Also, the inventor of the Rubik’s cube never meant for it to sit perfectly on a shelf in a bedroom. It is supposed to capture your imagination and dare you to dream, to reach for the impossible. It’s not supposed to be perfect, and that is what makes it great.”

I was pretty proud of myself for being so philosophical on my feet and thought maybe I was going to emerge the ultimate hero, until my husband announced from the kitchen that he had pried open the mixed up Newisland cube with a screwdriver and was able to gently pop it back together again perfectly. With a quiet awe, we all gathered around him as he showed us how he did it. It is because of him that we live peacefully among the cubes today.

An Open Letter to the Beef Industry

I just got back from the grocery store and I can’t stay quiet any longer. Something has been bothering me beef-wise for a long time, and I bet I’m not the only one. I am talking about your labeling. It is written in a language I don’t understand. I’m not sure, but I think you might be using industry insider language on the outside.

Other industries have realized this is no way to attract and retain customers. For example, you don’t see Charmin trying to sell more toilet paper by continually telling people what part of the tree was cut and pressed before it reached them. That’s because Charmin knows the only thing their customers care about is feeling nice and clean down there. Why haven’t you figured this out yet?

For background, I have loved beef for as long as I can remember. I grew up eating hamburgers, my husband and I bonded over our mutual love for steak on our first date, and a hot open-faced pot roast sandwich for dinner on a crisp fall evening makes me so happy I could cry. I am a big fan of yours, and I am annoyed every bit as you are by vegetarians who go bananas over roasted brussel sprouts or pickled beets in a jar. I am on your side 110 percent, and I am here to help.

Today, I had an idea to make Asian Beef Stir Fry for dinner. This wasn’t too difficult for me to achieve, thanks to the words “Stir Fry” on your label, so kudos for that. But, in your world, what does “round” mean? Can you tell me?

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Beef Round Stir Fry

What is round about a cow? Do you cut the meat into a round shape, and then declare it perfect for stir fry? If that is true, then what kind of dish would use a triangular shape of beef? Is there a reason why the label can’t simply say, “Beef Strips for Stir Fry”?

Here is another one:

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Flank Steak

I know I have some recipes that call for flank steak, and I know they are delicious, but I have no idea what a flank is, and I’m pretty sure I don’t need to know. I just need to know that this particular cut is lean, juicy, and quick to cook. Other Moms may have committed this flank steak fact to memory, but I haven’t, and I don’t have any room in my purse for a Beef to English/English to Beef dictionary.

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Beef Boneless Skirt Steak

Was this cow wearing a skirt when it was slaughtered? Honestly, whatever the cow does in his private life is none of my business. The only thing I care about is how he should be prepared. Oven? Crock-pot? Grilled over an open flame? Just cut to the chase. Stop being so coy.

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Semi Boneless Rib Eye

These do not look like ribs, and I don’t see any eyes. I am familiar with the phrase “Rib Eye,” but it doesn’t connect me to your product in any meaningful way. It doesn’t convey anything about how good the beef will taste or how much I will enjoy it, and honestly, that should be your goal. The experience of the end-user should be your priority. This is like, Marketing 101. Instead, I think the label above should read, “A rich steak that is full of fat and flavor.”

Finally, this is my favorite:

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Boneless Chuck Roast

This cow must have been a total egomaniac to insist his name be printed on the label. Who cares what your name is (was), Chuck? Now I am going to eat you! Pass the potatoes!

Mommy Paranoia

Ebola has found its way to the United States, as I knew it would, and so now my Mommy Paranoia is on full alert.

Mommy Paranoia is the feeling that no matter how good things are right now, they have a chance of going downhill at any time. And so you worry. It’s really no surprise that I suffer from Mommy Paranoia, given that I’ve always been a worry wart. In the eighth grade, I was voted “Most Likely to Breathe into a Paper Bag Before Taking a Test in High School.” But honestly, it’s not just me. Mommy Paranoia is very prevalent among most Moms I know.

Back when Ebola was only in Africa, Moms were having panic attacks over the usual nightmare scenarios: kid getting kidnapped, kid spending too much time playing Minecraft and growing up to be a parasitic slacker, and my personal favorite: kid getting lice.

For the uninitiated, lice are bugs so small you can’t really see them that attach themselves to the hair shafts of your sweet, innocent child and won’t let go until the school nurse physically pulls them out and calls you to come pick up your child who is no longer welcome in school until the bugs (and the even smaller eggs they have left behind) are gone. Oh, and make sure your other two kids don’t have them hiding out in their hair either. Have a nice weekend!

There is a line from the American Revolution, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Lice is without a doubt one of those times. Luckily, there is a nurse who is doing the Lord’s work nearby in Short Hills, NJ who will pull every last one of those f**kers out of your child’s hair for the bargain price of $1,000 per head and give you an extremely comprehensive and very rational set of instructions for making sure that they don’t come back. Her demeanor is casual, her voice calm, and as a result she will snap you back to the reality that lice is not leukemia.

But most Moms will not–cannot–be satisfied. Their paranoia is now forever on overdrive, and they will take to the Internet to learn all kinds of things they should never know about lice mostly because they are largely false. And even though they know these things to be false, they will believe them, just to be on the safe side. Mother Lice herself has assured these Moms that the bugs cannot live off the human head for more than 24 hours, but they will still make their children wear hooded sweatshirts at the movie theater even when it is 95 degrees, drill it into their kids that they should never EVER borrow someone else’s baseball helmet, and spray their kids with rosemary oil every time they leave the house because they know that LICE IS PROBABLY ALL AROUND THEM.

Another thing I have found Moms to be really paranoid of (pre-United States Ebola) is looking like a Mom. A long time ago, the people who made jeans decided to help us out by providing a little more coverage in the belly area to help hold the skin that has been stretched by one, two or more pregnancies. They were doing us a favor, and we knew it too because we started buying them by the truckload. As soon as we figured this out, though, that only Moms were wearing these super high-waisted jeans, we began to resist them and started squeezing our damaged bodies back into jeans (and all other pants too) that are much better suited for 16 year olds.

Also, we refuse to wear shoes that suggest we are running after our toddlers or up and down the stairs doing laundry. At a recent Back to School night, for example, I could not believe the amount of strappy high-heeled sandals I saw clip-clopping up and down all of the stairs. Newsflash: you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t a mother!

We also torture ourselves with the amount of calories we consume, downloading apps called “Eat Slower” and taking up ballet again in an effort not to be fat, supposedly the most common side effect of motherhood. Even those Moms who have somehow stayed thin feel compelled to stop eating red meat and start eating an unpronounceable grain humans haven’t eaten since ancient times–just to be on the safe side.

Unfortunately, the safe side doesn’t exist, or I would have built a four bedroom center hall colonial with a central vacuum and laundry chute there a long time ago. Danger lurks around every corner when you are a Mom, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. It sucks but at least we are all in the same boat. Now we just have to hope it doesn’t sink.

On Death and Dying (and Pouring Drinks)

IMG_2985From the moment they are born, kids start screaming for something to drink and as far as I can tell they don’t ever stop. On average, I pour my kids about 26,000 drinks a day. I am not exaggerating. There are so many drinks I have to pour I can barely do anything else with my life, and as you can imagine I’ve become very resentful.

I’ve realized that what goes on with me psychologically after I hear the question, “Mom, Can I Have a Drink?” is similar to what Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified as the five stages of grief 45 years ago in her groundbreaking book, “On Death and Dying”:

“Mom, can I have a drink?”

Denial: There is no way he is asking me that question. It’s not even lunchtime yet and he’s already had chocolate milk, lemonade, and a juice box. I am just going to sit here and pretend to be deaf. If I’m lucky, he’ll go away.

“Mom, can I have a drink?”

Anger: I don’t believe this. I just sat down for f**k’s sake. “No! You cannot have a drink. You can’t. You don’t need a drink right now. You aren’t even thirsty! There’s NO WAY! You JUST HAD a giant glass of lemonade, and you stole a juice box from the outside fridge right before that. You simply don’t like to see me sitting down. GOD FORBID I ever sit down. Do you ever ask yourself why you don’t like to see me sitting down? Because I’d really like to know your reasoning. Did you know that when a Mom sits down, she still loves her children very much? Did you know that? WHERE IS YOUR FATHER????”

“Mom, can I have a drink?”

Bargaining: “Ok, look, if I give you a drink NOW you can’t have any drinks LATER, do you understand? I will give you a drink now if you PROMISE not to hound me for any more drinks today. OK? One more drink today, and that’s it. Got it? And if you are good and you don’t drink anything else for the rest of the day, I will give you an extra special drink tomorrow! OK? Do we have a deal?”

“Mom, can I have a drink?”

Depression: Oh my God, what happened to me? I used to eat at restaurants owned by Bobby Flay. I used to travel to exotic lands and meet exotic people. I can’t do this anymore. I need a nanny. But then I would need a job. Who on earth would hire me? I haven’t worked in 11 years. My brain functions at a third grade level on a good day, and I have lost all tolerance for bullshit. Maybe I can be the lunch lady at school. But then I would be getting drinks for the entire student body! I can’t win! 

“Mom, can I have a drink?”

Acceptance:  “Ok, here. Here is your drink. Now don’t spill it.”