Sunday Morning Meal Planning – Chilly-ish Edition

Yesterday I woke up well before the crack of dawn.  3:30 am was the start to my day, unfortunately, but it meant I got up and running early.  I had three loads of laundry folded before anyone else was awake . . . although it was last week’s clean laundry, which had sat in a Clean Laundry Mountain all week because I had to work all last weekend and all I could manage was washing and drying it all.  Then I picked out the week’s menu, made a grocery list, and made it out to the grocery and back before 9am.  As soon as I got home the Professor took the Middle Child to get his hair cut, then took the car to an oil change.  Meanwhile, the Oldest Child stayed behind and helped me do some chores, and was actually helpful for once.  He put groceries away – carefully dividing everything in the pantry into piles of Stuff Jack Likes and Stuff Jack Does Not Like So Don’t Put It In My Lunch, Mom.  He stacked the beer and juice boxes in the beverage fridge.  He swept the bathroom, which was full of sand from some little boys’ shoes.  He shifted the Laundry Mountain from the floor to my bed so I could fold it without bending over.  He made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for us to take on our errands out that day, and also packed lunches for everyone.  I mean, really, I could get used to this.

At about 10, I put Jack and Craig into the car and we headed off to pick up the Professor and Liam from the oil change place.  We headed off down the road, and after an hour and a half cruise through rural Alabama, followed by a five minute bumpy drive down an unpaved red clay road, we pulled up to a small family farm with a hand-painted sign advertising a “haunted corn maze.”  A few minutes later we were straggling, parched and sweating, through a dry and dusty cornfield maze full of pretty cheesy decorations – scarecrows holding plastic butcher knives, fake plastic skulls, a Halloween trick or treat pumpkin suspended from a stake in the ground – decorations that even in their cheesiness still freaked out my oldest child.  Slapping at the clouds of midges around our heads, we shuffled through the red clay dust on the narrow path as the sun beat down cruelly on our bare heads.  The tall stalks of dead corn blew in a merciful breeze, rustling and crunching in our ears.  Corn mazes in Lower Alabama are definitely more fun in theory than in practice in the hazy late summer temps of a Gulf Coast October.  Nevertheless, we go every year.  Because, you know.  October.

After feeding the chickens and perusing the rows of jams and jellies, we headed home, the van’s trunk piled high with five pumpkins (the fifth pumpkin cracked right in half, a casualty of Liam’s enthusiasm and small wingspan – it was a small local farm so I felt like we had to pay and take it).  Then we came home and washed our faces, and then Jack and Craig and I headed straight back out to an outdoor Frozen-themed birthday party, where Jack ate a cupcake, a piece of birthday cake, ice cream, a cookie, a rice krispie treat, and a lollipop.  Only one of these treats was mom-sanctioned.  He also received a cup full of candy as a favor.  Hooooo Lordy.  I mean I’m all about going to excess once in a while, but I tell you what . . . for the rest of the day his energy level was, shall we say, over the top.  Just thinking about that makes me feel a little sick.

After that party, we three came home and washed our faces again and then headed out in costume to a street party at a friend’s house.  By this point I am kind of over it all and just want to put my feet up, but the street party sounded awesome and I needed to have at least one opportunity where we could all be in Star Wars costume as a family.  (I won’t be here at Halloween, so Darth Vader and the Stormtrooper and wee little Yoda will be missing their Leia that night).  The street party was very cool, and I would have enjoyed it very much if I was childless. They blocked the whole residential street on both ends and get kegs and a band to set up in the road – each house contributed what they could, and they could each invite as many people as they wanted.  As it was, we had fun enough – but it was the kind of fun that occurs in 10% of your brain space, while the other 90% is doing a constant monitoring of the status of the children and trying to keep them from destroying the home in which we were guests.  The host has one very well behaved 2 year old kid who was up and awake, but none of the other people at the party brought hellions children.  Children had been expressly invited to this party – so though my kids were allowed and welcomed, I very much hated being the only ones who had brought any along.  The Childless Folks were totally cool about it, of course, and gamely continued to engage us in hollered conversation peppered with interruptions as I ran to fetch Craig from Certain Death (he’s at that age where seeking out Certain Death is his raison d’etre), to redirect poor choices of the older boys (stacking every single piece of furniture in the nursery in order to have something tall to jump off of was not a great plan), to referee fights with the two year old whose house this was and whose stuff my children kept touching and messing with and who was just way too TWO YEARS OLD to deal.  But it’s hard to navigate getting-to-know-you small talk when you get interrupted so often.  Kids can be isolating.  Thank God for blogs.  I’ve been interrupted approximately seven million times since beginning this blog post, but you readers will never know the difference!

So the boys danced in the street, and I ate a vat of cheese/corn/jalapeno dip, and the Professor and I took turns “babysitting” the room full of boys, giving the other parent a chance to chat and drink beer out of a blue solo cup.  One time when Craig spit up on the porch, the two year old host immediately marched in the house and got some paper towels, which made us all laugh and high five his mom for having him trained up right.  We left at about 9 – waaayyyyy past the boys’ bedtime – and after they were all put to bed I slipped into the hottest bath, drank a heavenly glass of wine, and literally woke up in there about ten minutes later.  I have never fallen asleep in a bath before!

Now it’s Sunday and we skipped church, because after yesterday’s Fun Times, we still have all the bazillion chores to do that a 2-earner household has to squeeze into the weekend, before work comes and steals all our daily hours away.  We’re marching the laundry on through, doing dishes, and I’m about to make the week’s meals ahead of time (as much as I can), the Professor is dropping off our recycling and cleaning up the weeks’ leftover mail, etc. etc.  The boys are cleaning their room.  Craig is squawking unhappily from his exersaucer, where I deposited him after we caught him eating dog food.  At least today it’s cooler and we have the window open, cleansing chilly-ish air blowing through our stuffy house.  I’m off to start cooking the below – see what you think.

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Apocalyptic Dreams

It is 4:30 in the morning, and I have been up for an hour.  I was having a nightmare – in the car with work colleagues driving to a client’s site when the facility blew up in the distance.  Flames and sparks, a black cloud that began to spread across the sky and quickly blotted out the sun.  We had been coming to investigate an OSHA complaint and knew that the cloud was filled with poison, and so we made an illegal turn on the highway and sped away while others in the cars carried on, or parked to gawp at the scene and call 911, oblivious that they were about to die.  Sparking, chemical flames began to move out in an ever growing circle across the landscape, a line of fire marching inevitably toward our speeding car as we tried desperately to stay in front of it.  We turned on our lights as the cloud hovering miles above overtook us, and then the soot fell to ground level and we were in the cloud, in pitch blackness, speeding at 100 miles an hour with zero visibility to try to find a place untouched by the poison, and running out of gas.

So.  That was a peachy dream.  Its one saving grace was that I did not have children in the dream, so I wasn’t worried about somehow finding and collecting them.  When the baby woke me, however (THANK YOU BABY FOR BEING HUNGRY AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME), the Dream Remnants kept running through my head, and I inserted my child-anxiety into it.  What would I do?  What if this happened, and they were at their three different schools?  Who would I get first?  Should I make time to grab diapers, since they would be hard to find in post-apocalyptic America, or would that be a foolish waste of time.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO FIGURE OUT AT 3:30 IN THE MORNING, YOU SEE.

The only cure for my rat-in-the-maze anxiety was to wake myself all the way up so I could not slip back into the dream, and then come downstairs and check cnn, npr, and bbc to make sure that the world has not ended.  Then I watched a cute video of a baby snuggling his dad’s face after dad shaved off a beard, which was the sort of Soothing Nonsense that the internet is good for.  Now I am watching some old favorites on netflix, which will help slow my rapid thoughts and lull me back to sleep juuuuuust about when the boys wake up.

But first, a little check-in post.  Bad dreams aside, all is well.  The boys are well.  The husband is well.  I myself am hanging in there.  I consistently bump up against the limits of a 24 hour day, and desperately wish I could bill 12 hours, sleep 8 hours, and still have about 10 hours leftover to play with kids/relax/do domestic chores/write blog posts.  Daily I am too busy to go to the bathroom, to eat well, to exercise – it’s a constant pell mell dash from one deadline to another.  I hope things slow down soon – I need more downtime than this.  It’s like tech week level stress, from back when I used to do plays, every single day of the week, every single week of the year, for years on end.  But, you know.  Not much I can do about it at this juncture.  The only way out is through.

I want to write more happy thoughts, but the Dream still has me in its grip a bit.  Plus I’m starting to wind down back into a sleepy state, and must grab those few Zs while I still can.  Maybe I will post again soon – maybe thirteen days or more will fly by.

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11 years ago this month, I met my husband.  (On that day, my friend’s first and only nephew was born – happy birthday Kevin!)  We were at his parents’ home in South Carolina.  I was there with the two women who would be my only non-sister bridesmaids – two of my theater besties, two women I long very much to visit and catch up with.  My future in-laws had just built a new deck, married off their only daughter to, basically, Andy Bernard.  I’ve loved getting to know the ‘Nard Dog in dozens of visits to that same house since then. . . and his lovely ray-of-sunshine wife . . . and, of course, the Professor himself, who has blessed me with many things over this almost-dozen years.  Including his gorgeous family.

9 years ago this month, I started a blog.  I started out at MSN Spaces, and eventually migrated here to my own spot, for which I pay pennies per day to not have a “” url.  One of these days I’d like to have a professional designer make a nice fancy header-type deal.  Nine years – although I am and always will be an amateur, I’d say nearly a decade of posting makes me legit.  Maybe on my ten year anniversary I’ll splurge for a new fancy header.

8 years ago this month, I got married in a lovely coastal South Carolina town.  We had a mini honeymoon in Charleston.  We traveled there by car in the driving rain, spent a quiet evening in a gorgeous hotel, lingered over dinner at Fulton Five for hours.  In a few weeks we will be in Charleston once more, celebrating the wedding of two good friends.  Happy anniversary, darlin’.  Hope they have a Viognier ready for us at Fulton Five!  (Hope it’s still open!)

7 years ago this month, I announced my first pregnancy to the world at large.  I wrote a letter to my future daughter, Kathleen.  Haha – I got news for you, 29 year old RG . . . you won’t be using that name, now or ever!  Jack’s impending arrival was capital T terrifying – unplanned for, unpaid for, yet somehow six years later we’re all still standing.  What a blessing that little boy has been and continues to be.

5 years ago this month, I discovered my second child was on the way.  My easiest pregnancy by far yielded my most difficult baby, but when his motor skills grew to match his intelligence, he became my greatest treasure.

4 years ago this month, on my anniversary, my sister was engaged.   Since then, I’ve added three new brothers to the family – they love my sisters, and I love them all, and pray for the day (I know it will never come) that we all live on the same street.

2 years ago this month, we had just moved to this town.  The Professor basically didn’t live with us at all for the first two months – so I took the boys to a corn maze alone, and then we all caught terrible colds and lay, listless and coughing, all over our couches.

A year ago this month, we were in Disney World.  Son #3 was making me truly miserable, though sons 1 & 2 were more than delightful enough in their enthusiasm to make up for it.  Loved loved loved that trip, cannot wait to repeat it – which we plan to do when the Professor turns (GASP) forty.

Today, I made the week’s meals of vegetarian chili, potato soup, chicken pot pie, and now I’m roasting a chicken for our dinner.  The Littlest is snoozing in his crib (such a miserable pregnancy, such a perfectly happy, smiley, easy child).  The Middlest is snoozing in his twin bed.  The Biggest is at Cub Scouts with his dad.  Parks and Rec is on tv.  I’m enjoying five minutes of quiet.  Happy October, everyone.


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Saturday Morning Meal Planning

There’s a bit of a chill in the air, which means one thing around this house: soup-making time!  The baby is tooling around on the floor drooling on things, I’m googling Skylanders Swap Force (this is the Pokémon/Ninjago of Jack’s generation, apparently, and thus is a little boy’s Christmas list born), the boys are watching How to Drain Your Dragon for the billionth time.  The windows are thrown open, the sun is shining, College Game Day is on tv, and I’m making the week’s meals and grocery list and trying not to roll my eyes at all of these ridiculous human interest stories that the networks try to fill time with before the first big game.  A typical early October day.  Is this the best month of the year, or what?

We are about to buy a half cord of wood.  We have a firewood rack that we hadn’t set up yet – we’d hoped to get a backyard fence in place first, but as that particular renovation may now be many years off (haaaaaaaaate student loans, haaaaaaaaaaaaaate them, also daycare, just set my money on fire), the husband is going to go ahead and build the rack out back so we can make our wood purchase, and the eventual fence builders will just have to work around it.  Last year we would just buy wood a few sticks at a time from the front of the grocery store, which is an incredibly expensive way to do it.  Dumb.  Can’t wait to have a whole big old wood pile out there.  I will never go near it myself - snakes hide in there you know – but it will be very awesome to have lots of wood at our fingertips, and I can send the husband out there to brave the vipers and collect pieces for us to burn, while I watch from my safe perch up on the back porch.

This is a very fall meal schedule, but what can I say?  October beckons.  I cleaned out my master closet, unearthed my fuzzy moose slippers.  Pulled out the boys’ sweaters, pawed through the new season of clothes for Craig, looking for things that will fit him.  Thinking about Halloween costumes for the boys, who want to be dragons, of course.  We are coming upon our eight year anniversary, which we will celebrate in Charleston at the wedding of friends (not the exact day, but close).  October, even with its shorter days, always makes me feel extra alive.  Happy week, friends.

  • Sunday: Roast chicken with mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and parsnips.
  • Monday: Perfect potato soup (sans bacon, we are generally trying to avoid hoofed mammals in our diet these days), apples, crusty bread
  • Tuesday: Chicken and fall vegetable pot pie, a perennial fall favorite
  • Wednesday: Squash and mozzarella quiche, asparagus
  • Thursday: black bean burgers, baked fries, salad
  • Friday: vegetarian chili, biscuits.  This picture looks horrible, but the recipe sounds good.
  • Saturday: leftovers, pizza, takeout, something
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Breaking the Writer’s Block

“You look tired” said the YMCA employee to me, as she passed me on her way up and down the locker room aisles with a broom and dustpan.  I am running a comb through my hair, pinning it back up into a bun, getting ready to go back to work.  “I am pretty tired,” I say, affixing the clasp on my necklace.  “I just ran three miles, and my knees hurt.”  “Bookie,” she called me, and got away with it as only an old sweet soft black lady could, “you hang in there and have a blessed day.”

Truth is, the run wasn’t what made me tired.  I’ve been worn down by life somewhat lately.  We all have peaks and valleys, and I was in a bit of a valley for a while.  That, plus constant work, has kept me from updating much in the past few weeks.  I get up early in the morning before the boys wake up and have to bill hours.  I open the laptop after they go to bed and have to bill hours.  I eat lunch while billing, pump milk for the baby while billing, talk into my Dictaphone while driving so I can bill even those minutes of my commute.  Also, the baby and I have both been sick, so for several weeks in a row there I was not able to sleep more than hour at a time, without being woken by a grumpy, snotty, feverish little baby – or by my own coughing.

Litigation ebbs and flows, and whenever it flows the whole of my life is consumed in trying to keep up with it.  Add in sick kids and sick self and it’s just a nightmare. The world narrows, my hope and optimism begin to dim, and I realize that even with all of this work, and our care with spending, we are still poor and going bankrupt and the kids are miserable and everybody’s gonna die and aaaaaauuuuuggggghhhhh.

Once the spiral gets to “everybody’s gonna die,” I realize that I have allowed the circumstances of my life to overtake basic self care.  I decide that deadlines can go hang – I must make exercise happen.   I get off the phone with a partner, promising him a draft of a Motion to Compel within the hour, and then grab my gym bag and go to the YMCA to change for a run.  I have to accept that the Motion will be late, that he has not set a timer that will literally ding in an hour, and if I’m late he’ll maybe fuss a little bit but I will not be fired and life will go on.  I have to force myself not to stress out about missing this tiny internal deadline, because if I do not crowbar a tiny little wedge of time for this exercise, I will never interrupt my Woe Is Me Spiral of Depression.

The run does me good – it’s a relatively mild day, and I go out into the world instead of jogging on the treadmill.  I do a slow but satisfying 3 miles – lately I have not managed to do more than that, partly because of time constraints and also because of an asthma flare up that wallops me in the chest if I push too hard.  I’m operating on a pretty serious sleep deficit as well, so I’m not breaking any records with my mile time.  But it feels good, almost like the blood pumping through my body is literally clearing out cobwebs.  I visualize each beat of my heart pushing stress and pessimism right out the top of my head and into the air.  When I return to work, red-faced and with frizzy hair, I feel tired but in a healthier way.

Life still holds its charms.  The Professor does funny accents while putting the kids to bed, and Jack runs to me, breathless and giggling, and shouts “DAD IS SPEAKING FRENCH!!!  It’s hiLARious, you gotta see it!”  Craig learns to pull himself up on furniture, he doesn’t know what to do after he gets up there but seems drawn to do it again and again and again, compelled to develop those gross motor skills.  Liam learns to read, almost overnight – his easy grasp of phonics astonishes everyone.  The first day of fall brings with it some cooler temperatures, and I feel the urge to make stew.  I bake cookies to send to two college students for whom I feel some responsibility to send care packages (our summer nanny, and the sweet girl – now grown woman - who read a passage at our wedding, and whose parents served in loco parentis for me while I was in college when this girl was just a toddler).

I would write more, but Mr. Pull Up On The Couch keeps popping up next to me and insinuating his chubby little fingers onto my keyboard, and his two older brothers are hungry.  I have laundry to do, grocery shopping, the week’s meals to prepare and freeze, and we may even squeeze in one last visit to the pool.  Au revoir, my dears.

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