My Theme for 2017: Less is More

I’ve noticed a pattern in past new year’s resolutions: write more, exercise more, shower more. You see?

This year, as I stepped back to take a look at my proverbial plate, I thought to myself, why am I adding more? What could I take away from my life that would make it better?

  1. Facebook less. That’s not a typo, that’s “Facebook” as a verb. And that doesn’t mean I will be Instagramming more.
  2. Watch less TV. I’m currently in a bingewatching foggy hangover state from staying up way too late watching — don’t judge — season 2 of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.
  3. Shop online less. It’s not so much that I buy a lot online, rather I go from site to site adding items to carts. “Lindsey, did you forget something?” is a popular email in my inbox. It’s therapeutic, but so is cutting.

Looking at my resolutions, you will see a theme within a theme. We spend 70% of our lives in front of digital media. Yipes. Admittedly some of these “less” resolutions may imply more of something else, but hopefully that will be a healthy natural reaction in the right direction, and not a force against the fibers of my being and all I hold dear. (Note, I did not say “drink less”. I’m not a masochist.)

No Poop For You!

 

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Because I don’t work for a top ad firm or a top pharmaceutical company, I’m sharing my brilliant idea for a commercial with you. The scene: The “Soup Nazi” restaurant from the famous Seinfeld episode of the same name. Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (in character as George and Elaine) are anxiously waiting their turns to order. George grabs his stomach. Something’s not right. He tells Elaine in so many words that he has a situation down there and needs to find a toilet immediately, but doesn’t want to anger the Soup Nazi or lose his place in line. Just then, they move up to order.

The Soup Nazi and George stare each other down. George is sweating bullets and clutching his stomach. The Soup Nazi reaches below the counter and grabs… Pepto Bismol [or other antidiarrheal medicine]. He thrusts it out over the counter at George and yells, “No poop for you!”

George grabs it graciously and takes it. The next scene shows George and Elaine comfortably enjoying their soup. The company’s logo comes up on the screen and you hear the Soup Nazi again, yelling “No poop for you!”

Would that stick with you or what? I admit the ending needs some work, but you get the idea. It plays to our nostalgic senses, it’s catchy, and becomes what I think would be a very shareable YouTube video. The hard part would be convincing Jason and Julia to sign on. And, you know, the fact that I’m pitching this to no one in particular from the comforts of my couch on a Thursday afternoon. So that’s what’s going on in my brain. What’s up with you?

Instant Pot Paralysis and Getting Out of My Side Dish Rut

I’m part of a large group of impulsive people who bought the Instant Pot a few weeks back when it was on super sale. I’d heard about all of its wonders, from yogurt making to 6-minute chicken, but I’d also seen the price tag. So when it was half-off, I didn’t hesitate. Now, it’s been sitting on my counter for three weeks, intimidating me with all of its buttons, bells, and whistles. It’s a pressure cooker, not a landmine, but I still can’t bring myself to use it for fear of blowing up my kitchen. So I continue to search for the perfect introductory Instant Pot recipe that speaks to me without saying my last rites.

A lot of the recipes I’ve found come from Skinnytaste. While I’m working up the courage to try her chicken taco chili in the pressure cooker, I did take a stab at the zucchini tots, which merely require a grater and good old-fashioned oven cooking. I can only steam veggies so many times, and all of my favorite frozen sides at Trader Joe’s come in servings of “about 3” which might as well read “not enough for your family, Lindsey.”

Gina describes this side as kid-friendly, which of course it is, but you don’t need kids to appreciate a good tot. When my super picky 2-year-old didn’t want hers, I was exasperated on the outside for show, “Fine, I guess I’ll have to eat them so they don’t go to waste,” and all Homer Simpson on the inside:

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Abbie doesn’t like pizza — yet — so I’m confident she’ll come around on these zucchini tots with time. For now, they are a hit with the rest of my household. I will say I should’ve added more breadcrumbs to my batch, but they were still delish. I’m no Beatrice Peltre, but this is how my tots turned out. No filter, no photography skills, no nothing:

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Hopefully my next food post will be about my adventures with the Instant Pot…and I won’t be typing it from the burn unit at the hospital.

 

Not a Happy Space Camper

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My son Jed is almost seven. He’s changing so much (growing, learning, all that great stuff). But perhaps one of the most exciting changes affecting our household right now is the evolution of our Family Movie Night selections. When you have a restricted social life (read: limited babysitter funds and an exhausting albeit adorable 2-year-old), Family Movie Night becomes the epicenter of your weekend plans.

After years of enduring “no people movies” (Jed would only watch animated ones for the longest time), every Halloween and Christmas special no matter the time of year, and the Pokemon catalog in its entirety, we are finally able to introduce him to the movies that we watched as kids: Flight of the Navigator, The Neverending Story, Cloak and Dagger, Goonies.

But my personal favorite is like the white whale of ’80s kid flicks: Space Camp. The 1986 “cosmic comedy adventure” has an all-star cast with Kate Capshaw, Tate Donovan, Joaquin Phoenix, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, and Larry B. Scott. It’s never on TV, be it cable or a streaming site. I finally found a video rental store in Asheville (yes, those still exist) that carried it, but the last person who rented it never returned it. And when I found out that a new copy of it costs more than $62 on Amazon, I have to say I couldn’t blame them.

I thought I found the answer to my problems with a foreign copy — foreign to another country, not to us — for less than $10. The reviews were good, it seemed legit. I had won. I had beaten the system. It even came on a day that our Internet went out like it was meant to be. I pushed the disc into the player and waited in anticipation for it to load, and then this popped up:

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I felt like my inner 7-year-old had been vacuumed out into space. SO disappointed. I’m pretty sure Jed was over it and happy to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. Again.

I’m not giving up though. There’s got to be a way to get a copy of this without spending $60+, right? All of its 30th anniversary nostalgic cinematic counterparts are new and used for less than $10. What makes Space Camp so special? Well, I know why it’s special, but you know what I mean…

If you have any leads, please share! Also please share your favorite movies from childhood that you’re introducing to your children. We’d love some more to add to our list!

5 Reasons Why Walmart’s Online Grocery Shopping is My New Everything

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I know, right? It’s so big. And boxy. But when you live in rural North Carolina, a trip to “the Walmart” is as much a part of your week as going to the post office… or the ABC Store. It may not be as white and shiny as Target, with its “affordable” lines of clothing from high-end designers. The lighting may be depressing, some of the clientele might be equally depressing, and you can’t find specialty items like hemp hearts…

Wait, I had a point. Oh yes. Their new online grocery shopping! If you like the idea of Walmart’s prices, but the idea of going into Walmart depresses the crap out of you or stresses you out to no end, this is the perfect solution. It has changed my life. Let me count the ways:

  1. It saves time. It takes some time to pick out my items online, but nowhere near as much time as it does to walk through the aisles at the store. Especially considering I usually have a kid or two in tow, which leads me to my second point.
  2. It saves my sanity. My 2-year-old daughter can Houdini her way out of any shopping cart seatbelt, so it’s no surprise that she won’t stand right beside me quietly while I compare prices on pasta. I can pick out my items from the comfort of my couch rather than picking up every item she pulls off the shelves as we go. This reason alone is enough to shop online.
  3. No impulse shopping. I admit it. I’m the one who walks by the displays right before checkout and has to have that Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo DVD for 4.99 (true story). And what’s that? Lip balm in a cute ball-shape container? Yes, please!
  4. Two words: Savings Catcher. This feature of the Walmart app finds out if an item you bought is being sold elsewhere for less and puts the difference on a gift card for you. So if you buy Silk Almond Milk at Walmart for $2.98, but it’s on sale at Harris Teeter for $2.50, the Savings Catcher will “catch” that and pocket the 0.48 for you. All you have to do is enter the TC# from each receipt into the app, and let it do the rest. It’s literally mindless and it adds up. This is something you can use whether you shop online or in-store, but I just discovered it and am pretty obsessed.
  5. It’s free! Yes, I know Publix has free online grocery shopping, too. But the closest Publix to my house is 45 minutes away and it’s not quite budget friendly enough to be the go-to store for my weekly basics.

I admit I was concerned about the produce, but I couldn’t have picked out a better bunch of bananas myself. All of this being said, the one thing that kills me is that I can’t use my own shopping bags. But I’m hanging onto the hope that following this whole hand sanitizer ban, the EPA will find that plastic bags are actually good for the planet. In the meantime, reusing and recycling alleviates my conscience enough (oh, the things you can make with plarn).

If you want to try it, use this link. You’ll save $10, and so will I.

 

 

I Should’ve Spent More Time on Facebook

…Said no one ever on their deathbed. But it was actually a friend’s Facebook post that served as a wakeup call to me that I was wasting away in one of my anxiety-induced future-planning panics and not being present.

This friend was one of the first moms I ever met in Asheville. We had our sons within days of each other. We went to story times together at the library. Her son’s first birthday party was my first kid’s birthday party. I was so blown away by the artistic talent she displayed on the invitation that it remained pinned on my bulletin board for several years. We still run into each other every now and then and have mutual friends. We are no longer what I would call friends, but acquaintances sounds so cold, and “cold” is not an adjective anyone would use to describe an interaction with “Sarah.”

We are the same age. We have boys the same age. And she was diagnosed with advanced, aggressive, incurable bile duct cancer. When I read these words that she found the courage to write and share, my heart rose into my throat, then sank to the pit of my stomach.

I started this post two weeks ago and yesterday found out that Sarah passed away. I’ve always empathized deeper than I probably should. In preschool, I sobbed when my friend Shannon (not a good friend) told me her grandmother (who I never met) died. I just couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes, imagining how Shannon must be feeling, and it hurt so much. So now, even knowing Sarah as briefly as I did, I’m overcome with sadness for her family and friends. And sad for her that as a mother, she didn’t get to see her child grow up.

I’m hugging my children a little more this week, spending a little more time on the back deck staring at the mountains and enjoying the outside sounds, spending a little less time on Airbnb planning my next escape.

Fuck a bucket list. I’m keeping a Fuck It list… a list of people, places and things that aren’t worth my time or energy. I may never make it to that women’s surfing/yoga retreat in Mexico, but when I find myself sweating the small stuff or reaching for that imaginary Xanax, I can take out my Fuck It List to remind myself that life is short, and can in the most tragic of situations, be even shorter. Will I wish that I traveled more? Maybe. But I know I won’t wish that I’d been scrolling more through Facebook to see friends on their beach vacations, kids all smocked clothes and smiles, while my own daughter stamps our walls because I’m too busy “liking” everyone else’s lives to notice. Facebook? Fuck it.

 

 

How to Pick Up a Babysitter

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Dave and I started dating in college, so I hadn’t been “out there” since before cell phones. Cell phones, people. I’ve had to bring my game out for friend dating, but what happens once you make friends is that you want to go out with them. Without kids.

If you don’t have parents in the area to watch your kids, or if you’ve decided the push/pull of passive-aggressiveness and guilt that comes with it isn’t worth it, you’ve got to find a babysitter.

Asking a friend for the name of their babysitter is like asking a serial killer where he keeps his victims. They’re not going to give that shit up without a fight — some things are too sacred. My mom still talks with contempt in her voice about how our neighbors stole our best babysitter from us, only to leave us with her less responsible sister, Julie, who would throw parties at our house while they were out. Julie would tell my sister and I we were playing hide and seek, and then never seek us. She bribed me with a giant stuffed Jokey Smurf. (I was four, and an easy target.)

So when my daughter’s preschool teacher introduced me to Sarah*, I didn’t waste any time. Here’s how I picked up my babysitter — and how you can, too — in 4 swift steps:

  1. Assess your surroundings. Where are you meeting her? I was meeting Sarah on the playground at my son’s elementary school where she works with the after school program. This tells me already that she has experience with kids. If I were meeting her in a bar, at 1am, I might be a tad more wary.
  2. Lay it all out there. This isn’t a potential new friend, so you don’t have to play it cool. Don’t be afraid to let her know how much you want her. But also let her know upfront what she’s in for. If she gets to your house to find out you have 3 dogs and she’s allergic to dogs, there goes your babysitter and your evening.
  3. Exchange contact info. Don’t put it off, saying, “Oh, I’m running late so I’ll get your number from X later.” Later will turn into never.
  4. Set a time to follow up. If you don’t have a specific date in mind for the first babysitting gig, tell her. That way she won’t wonder why she’s not hearing from you. If you do, go ahead and get it in both of your calendars. Really good babysitters are in super high demand — Abbie’s preschool teacher is booked with babysitting, dogsitting and housesitting jobs through the fall!

Now it’s up to you whether or not you want to talk money right away. For me, unless she says she charges $20 an hour for two kids, there’s not much she’s going to say that’s going to turn me off. We are REALLY in need of some nights out with and without friends, but DEFINITELY without kids. I’d rather lure her to the house first where there’s no turning back and then negotiate the rate. That being said, we also make sure to tip really well, especially the first few times, to make sure she knows how much we appreciate her and to gain her loyalty.

So we now have a great babysitter and I’m so excited I can’t stand it! It’s like how I felt when I found my first true friend after college, but the next level. I’m not sure what’s after this… I’m sure whatever it is will make me feel even older. Perhaps it will lead to a, “How I Found the Perfect Plastic Surgeon” post. But then you’d know I had work done, which of course I’d never do.

*I’ve changed the name of my sitter to protect her privacy and also to keep you from stealing her.

That time I stopped making excuses for writing my novel and just wrote it

This is that time.

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With every friend and colleague who publishes a book, I become more and more motivated to actually start writing mine on paper (or rather typing mine on computer) and stop merely musing about it in my head.

I recently read a friend‘s manuscript and it wasn’t good. It was freaking brilliant. I couldn’t put it down. Sure it needed some polishing and shaping, but she wrote a novel. And she did it while working part-time, mothering three children, wifing a husband, cleaning a house, caring for two dogs, a cat, and I lost count of how many chickens. She has me beat. I have no excuses.

Here’s David Sedaris’ advice for aspiring writers: “Write every day and read everything you can get your hands on. Write every day … with a pen that’s shaped like a candy cane.”

I don’t have the candy cane-shaped pen, but I’m going to start the whole every day thing. It might not always be on the blog. I’m also going to keep a journal handy — Lord knows I have enough half-filled ones lying around.

I have my main character. I know her pretty well, and I know what she’s been up to. I just need to figure out how to introduce her to you.  She’s pretty sure you’ll hate her, but she doesn’t give a shit. (She actually does give a shit, but she pretends she doesn’t.)

As I write this, I’m in a cafe listening to three middle-aged women in the booth across from me talking about their writing and their works-in-progress, and I just know it’s time for mine to be in progress. The woman on the left says she doesn’t care if hers becomes an NYT Bestseller. She’s a big fat liar. I want mine to be a success. And I want it to happen while I’m young enough to go on a book tour without an oxygen tank in tow. A nitrous tank would be cool though.

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20 Thousand Questions: The Real Kids’ Travel Game

You’ve gotta love the curious minds of kindergartners. But the questions, my God, the fucking questions. Kids are so cute. They’re so precocious. Until you’re stuck in the car with one for 8 hours and sticking to your guns with your “I didn’t have an iPad when I was your age, I just looked out the window” crap.

Jed’s questions go from smart and philosophical:

  • What’s the goverment?
  • What does it mean to judge?

To strange and downright disturbing:

  • Do raccoons lose teeth and if they do, does the tooth fairy visit them?
  • Why is it illegal to dig up dead bodies?

It’s like having Carlton Blanchard (Wings) buckled up in your backseat:

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“Why do they call them handcuffs if you wear them on your wrists?”

“If the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, what do you suppose a doorknob would feel like?”

“If they were to carpet the state of Florida, how long would it take to vacuum it?”

“If dogs don’t sweat, then what are their armpits for???”

“Geez Louise, for the love of Mike, for Pete’s sake; Who are these people?

I’ve tried the “answering his question with a question” tactic when I don’t know how else to respond: “I don’t know Jed, do you think the tooth fairy visits raccoons?”

But some things you can’t leave to chance.

Me: “Digging up dead bodies is wrong, Jed. It’s just wrong.”

Jed: “But why?”

Me: “It just is. Doesn’t it just seem wrong to you?”

Jed: “Um, well –”

Me: “Yes! The answer is ‘yes!'”

What are some of the most shocking questions your kids have asked you? Have you been stumped or simply stunned?

What Nobody Tells You About Hannukah

For nine out of 10 Americans, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Whether you’re Christian or not, Christmas is a big freakin’ deal. Even the buggiest of bah-humbuggers can’t escape the incessant ringing of the Salvation Army bells and the red Starbucks cup fiasco in their social media feeds.

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But here’s what almost 10 out of 10 Americans don’t know: Hannukah is NOT a big deal.

Because it runs in tandem with Santa’s reindeer, many think that this Jewish holiday must hold a great deal of importance. But truth be told, it’s not even in the Hebrew bible. Historically, Jews gave and received gifts on a spring holiday called Purim. The story of Hannukah, which comes from the book of Maccabees, is a minor Jewish holiday at best. And don’t get me started on the Maccabees. How bummed was I to find out only recently that the heroes of our Hannukah story were equivalent to modern day religious terrorists?

And then there’s the oil that was supposed to burn for one day but miraculously burns for eight days, hence the eight nights of presents (the part most folks are familiar with). As a child, I felt smug to have a holiday that lasted longer than Christmas and milked more gifts out of my family. As a parent, I’m glad my children have a reason to get gifts at a time of year when they would otherwise feel left out. But truth be told, Hannukah is not the Jewish Christmas. If you’re not a kid or don’t have kids, then Hannukah is hardly a holiday at all. It amazes me how businesses try to capitalize on such a trivial holiday, even making Hannukah toys for dogs (which of course, I can’t help but buy every year, they’re too funny!).

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Our big holidays are known as the High Holy Days: Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). They are nowhere near as fun as Christmas and Easter. No candy or presents. No bunnies or fat, jolly white guys (unless you count the sweaty dude in the third row at temple). Kids can miss school — they are excused absences, but absences nonetheless. And for what? To sit in services all day wearing itchy tights and neckties, followed by more sitting around the family dinner table (in Yom Kippur’s case, after a day of fasting). It’s arguable that being in school is more fun than sitting through a two-hour guilt-ridden sermon about why you should come to temple for more than just two days a year for the holidays.

So if you accidentally wish me a Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays, don’t feel bad. Or if you wonder why I might not travel to spend Hannukah with my family, you can stop wondering. Have a very Merry Christmas, and don’t worry about us. We have our Chinese food on Christmas Eve, and our movies on Christmas Day, and we love it.