Apple Picking in Portland and Everything You Wanted to Know About My Menstrual Flow but Were Afraid to Ask

We have three couches. They have all been peed on. At the end of the day, when the kids are in bed and I have complete freedom to choose for myself what I want to do, I choose to sit, hunch-backed on one of these urine couches and look at my phone for three hours. I read all the things re: the election that facebook has to offer me (I’m obsessed, completely) and I look at pictures of bathrooms on pinterest. Sometimes Andy and I will watch something on television. But that’s it, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m choosing to do this stuff instead of writing blog posts and making shopping lists and cooking interesting meals and writing thank you notes that are now more than a month over due. I can blame part of this ennui on our nine day trip to Portland, when I was on 24/7 childcare duty and also had an endless stomach bug and had no hope of being productive. But we’ve been back for 11 days and I still haven’t done anything. Aside from looking at my phone and coughing up a lot of sputum, cuz something else is wrong with me. Isn’t sputum the worst word you’ve ever heard? Or in my case, read? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that word, and I don’t know if you say spoo-tum or spuh-tum. I’m gonna pick spoo. I feel completely worn out and apathetic and also kind of disgusted with myself for not doing anything. But then, last night, I felt like my old self again. Still the sputum, but I made a legitimate dinner that was not the endless parade of sandwiches and quesadillas we’ve been eating, I water-colored a cake topper for my sister, and I made food for a party, and I said, I’m back, baby! And shit y’all, I’m writing this blog post, so I’m officially unstoppable.

Things that have happened in the 20 days since my last blog post:

1) I dragged myself to the gynocologist (the word gynocologist is your cue to skip this paragraph if you don’t want to hear about vaginas. The un-fun aspect of vaginas) and got myself some super potent birth control.  Not for the birth-controlling part (because Andy has kindly seen to that in the manner that necessitated him spending an intimate weekend with a bag of frozen, thawed, and refrozen corn niblets) but for the period-controlling part. My periods are the fucking worst. Everybody says that, but I feel like mine really are and I win and get to complain the most. For the last year, they have been 12 days long. 5 light days, and then 2-3 unbelievably heavy days where I fill up the stupid diva cup every two hours and have to wear and change overnight pads at the same time, even though the diva cup says it holds one ounce and that’s how much most women bleed during their entire period! Rage. If I don’t empty it every two hours the thing starts to slide out of my body and it is the scariest feeling, when you’re at the grocery store with two little kids and a cup full of blood could spill from your vagina at any moment. Anyway, after I make it through those days I have another 5 light days. The whole thing is terrible. And in August, for the second time this year, I’ve had back-to-back periods, where I do all of this, and then get a week off, and then start all over again. I don’t like to intervene with my body’s natural processes. I want to believe it can sort this shit out by itself. But enough is enough. I’m on day five of my super-hormone-packed high dose birth control in an effort to get this shit in line. I have been warned that I might be an insane person for the next month or two. Hold on to your fucking hat.

The other exciting development is that we have mostly successfully gotten the kids to sleep together in their bed so Andy and I can be like real-life married people and sleep in the same bed again. I’ve been sleeping in the master bedroom with George since he was born, and Andy has been sleeping in Henry’s bed with Henry, because he didn’t want to sleep alone. Both kids were really happy with this arrangement and both Andy and I were really not. So we talked about it with them and went for it. Sometimes they both sleep through the night and we don’t have to do anything. Sometimes George wakes up and wants to cuddle for an hour before he falls back asleep. Sometimes I wake up suddenly to find Henry sitting in the rocking chair right next to my face, in the very spot where I put my glasses after reading election shit on facebook until 1 AM, because he would like a drink of water and wants to know if that’s okay. It’s been pretty great though. And it’s been really fun to listen to the kids talk to each other in the morning, while Andy and I are still in bed. The other day, I overheard Henry, pointing to something on the counter, ask George “Who did that?” George said, “Mama. The question is, where is mama?”

Also I caught a possum in a live trap and put it in the back of my Prius and drove it to a park and released it near a dumpster.

Here’s what we ate three weeks ago. In Portland.



Westmoreland Park Nature-Based Play Area. Helen taught Henry to do this punk rock pose when she cut his hair into a faux hawk and now it’s the only way he’ll take a picture. This park is good. Too good. The kids stayed there for four hours and would’ve stayed longer if we didn’t remind them that we had to eat and sleep and live our lives.


Trader Joe’s Haunted House Kit. Gingerbread (or in this case, chocolate) houses are one of those things that are a good idea in theory and pretty miserable in practice. The icing in this kit was an abject failure. The thing fell apart over and over again until we mixed up an egg white with powdered sugar and used that instead. Meanwhile, the kids stole long ragged gulps of icing from the bags and became progressively more and more insane.


Kiyokawa Family Orchards. I’ve wanted to take the kids apple picking for forever. I did it once in college, in my roommate Julia’s hometown of Nashua, New Hampshire, and thought it was the most magical thing. We were the only ones in the orchard, and we saw the sun set over the surrounding hills that were covered with red, orange, and yellow trees. We made pies and drank spicy hot chocolate and slept in her beautiful old home and I wanted to do it again, so so much. I researched options for picking apples in Texas, but it doesn’t have the same appeal. Apples are only grown in the middle of nowhere, and are ripe and ready to pick for approximately 4 days in the middle of August. No thanks. Stupid Texas. Anyway, we made it to Portland in the very heart of honeycrisp season, my favorite apple. We drove along the Columbia river for about two hours, and stepped out of the car into this magical orchard. We picked more apples than we could possibly eat in the first ten minutes we were there and then wandered around a bit. We all loved it. I don’t know why Henry’s looking at George like that.


I made it to the line to weigh and purchase our apples right after a busload full of senior citizens did, so I had time to take a couple dozen pictures of the apples in my wagon.


Grilled Cauliflower with Chimichurri, Salmon Rilletes with Grilled Focaccia, Fried Brussels Sprouts with Brown Sugar and Bacon Marmalade at Solstice. On the plane ride to Portland I sat next to a neat scientist lady who does cancer research and also knew of the best place to eat in the Hood River Valley. The cauliflower was largely raw and not great, but everything else was outrageous.


George contemplates his peanut butter pizza. I ate some of this too, in between bites of salmon rilletes, and really liked it.


Vanilla Gelato with Lemon Zest at Cicci Gelato. Scientist lady told me we had to stop by this gelato shop, which is next to Solstice, and I’m so glad we did. The gelato was spectacular, and the guy who sold it to us was too. There was no one else in line, so he came out of the cart when we were done eating and told the kids to look under the cart. Someone had kicked a soccer ball under there, so Henry crawled under and retrieved it, and then this guy played soccer with the kids for half an hour while we talked to him about Italy and gardening. It was neat.


The majesty of this view was only moderately diminished by the discarded used condom we had to walk around to get to the water’s edge. Did people have sex right there on those pointy rocks? One of the great unanswered questions.


Enchiladas Suizas at Rocio’s. This is a really shitty picture, I’m sorry. This place is hipster and adorable inside, and the food was pretty good too. But they said they had agua frescas and then brought us club soda with a smashed up raspberry in the bottom and I don’t know what went wrong there.


Berry Crisp. Speaking of raspberries. The produce in Oregon puts our Texas stuff to shame. The strawberries were so soft and sweet! The ones I get are big and dense and sour. The raspberries and blueberries too- a huge difference. In spite of that, we weren’t eating these berries quickly enough, so I made a fruit crisp.


Chili. My parents were so good to us. My dad made us fried eggs and toast for breakfast and my mom cooked us dinner. They read stories to the boys and were endlessly patient about all the jumping on the furniture and spilling of drinks. My kids spill so many drinks, you guys. My dad likes to drink crystal light, which comes in little packets that you pour into plastic water bottles and shake up (does everyone know this but me?). The kids were instantly enamored. It’s like a science experiment every time you want a drink. You get to pour powder into liquid, shake it up, the thing changes color and then you magically end up with a sugary sweet drink. They also loved the plastic water bottles, which they could not resist squeezing to hear the crunchy crackly plastic sound, and which resulted in washing and rewashing the tablecloth from all the spills until I did the unthinkable and said they couldn’t have any more crystal light. Also, my mom’s chili is delicious.


Butter Croissants with Strawberry Jam and Brie at La Provence. Come on! Look at that tiny piece of brie that comes with a croissant! Both the jam and the croissant were tremendous.


Henry picked a lemon tart and ate the whole thing. George picked a vampire cookie and ate enough to stain his mouth black and then left the rest in a crumbled pile in his car seat.


My parents got a new car while we were there. We went with them to the car dealership and took a lot of drinks out of the mini fridge and then left.


Look at my adorable mom!


OMSI. The kids loved getting to spend time with their cousin Jack, who is utterly delightful and so kind to the boys. He also turned us on to the Septimus Heap series, which we have been devouring.

Sand Belly. George does this exact thing anytime he comes into close contact with a pile of sand. It was quite the hit among the cadre of parents milling around the sand box.


I love this.


Baked Potato Soup. I don’t remember anything noteworthy about this day to share with you, but I had to make mention of how extraordinary this soup is. It’s one of my mom’s specialties and is creamy AF. She just learned what AF meant so I threw that in there for her. It is really creamy though.


Apple Crunch Pie. I got that stomach bug/flu/whatever the day we went apple picking and felt sick and tired for basically the rest of the trip, but I did pull myself together long enough to make an apple pie with my mom’s recipe and the newtown pippin apples we picked ourselves.


It’s just the best apple pie.


Potstickers, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Orange Flavored Beef from Hunan Pearl. George was furious with me during this meal, for reasons I still don’t understand. He yelled at me in response to any question I asked him. What would you like to drink? NOTHING! Wait. A SPECIAL DRINK! WHERE’S MY SPECIAL DRINK?! I DO WANT AN EGGROLL! I DON’T WANT THAT CHICKEN. ACTUALLY I DO WANT THAT CHICKEN. And on and on. It has sort of continued since that moment. I remember, of course, that age 3-4.5 was pretty rough with Henry and all signs point to George following in his brother’s footsteps.

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Back to the nature-based play area for more sand belly opportunities!


Lemony Cheese Blintzes, Latkes, Apples and Jam. I made Rosh Hashanah dinner. Henry ate the outside of one blintz and then burst into tears because he missed Papa. Also he got my stomach bug which sent me down a dark path of imagining all the various scenarios that could take place on a four hour flight home with two children with GI distress.

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The kids loved reading books with Grandpa too. This book, The Digging-est Dog, is unfathomably dark. This dog has seen some shit, you guys.


Bestest Banana Bread. I ruined this by taking it out of the oven too early. That’s just what I do with quick breads. I ruin them.


Tomato and Olive Salad. Isn’t it pretty?


My Mom’s Beef Stew. She doesn’t normally serve this on egg noodles, but without them Henry wouldn’t have eaten anything in the bowl.


We got home and put our underwear on our heads.

And now we’re all caught up! I did a thing! Now I’m gonna go sit on a urine-stained couch and read some facebook.

A Beautiful Birthday Brunch and Bad Attitudes

My girlfriends threw me a surprise birthday party! Andy was in on it, but Henry and George and I were not, so when I walked in and my friends yelled Surprise! I jumped out of my skin. Henry too- he clung to my leg, whether out of embarrassment at having been startled or because he didn’t get to stay at the party, I don’t know. Helen gave each of the kids a fat wad of cash and Andy took them to Gattitown, their favorite place in the world (the kids’ not Andy’s), and I got to stay in the company of other adults, adults I love, and eat beautiful food from a beautiful table and do art projects and it was the greatest. I felt embarrassed and enraptured in equal measure that these women had gone to so much trouble for me. I’ll never forget it.

Here’s what we ate this week.



In the course of putting a party together, Helen and I often obnoxiously chime, “love is in the details!” Which is a quotation we always attributed to Martha Stewart, but she didn’t say that. Anyway, there was so much love in this party. Amanda grew, gathered, and arranged these flowers- aren’t they spectacular? I think she is astoundingly talented. Helen made me a beautiful cheesecake with a gorgeous cake topper and decorated the space, Joanna and Christy brought food and the most wonderful craft projects, and Molly made the most lavish and delicious feast of all time, in addition to being the world’s best hostess, and making beautiful name cards and fans and paper flowers and a fancy hipster cinnamon toast crunch cocktail(!).


Another table shot because I think it’s so pretty.


Another Amanda arrangement, before it was surrounded by rich eggy delights.


You’re officially an adult when you receive a throw pillow as a birthday present.


Molly! Everybody needs a Molly. She is brilliant and fiery, hilarious and charming, and above all, loyal. We’ve been best friends since we were five- the two outspoken bitches of Hays county. I stayed at her house for whole weeks at a time during the summers of our adolescence. We’d play cards, eat ice on the porch, and watch untold hours of Jerry Springer and Ricky Lake in the afternoons and that crazy Christian show with the lady with big hair and lots of makeup that came on after midnight. Was this the 700 Club? I have no idea. We were in it for the hair. I’d do anything for Molly and she’d do anything for me and I know how truly lucky I am to have a friend like that. I love you, Molly. Thank you for my beautiful party.


I’m looking rather dour here, but had to share this picture anyway because everything else is so good. Look at that spread! And at Molly’s good morning asshole mug!


Helen took all these pictures for me so I could just sit in a chair and eat a lot of food. Molly made gingerbread waffles with berries, two quiches, candied bacon, and some cheddar green onion grits I have been dreaming about ever since. Also the perfect brunch cocktail, which I think was like the linked recipe except with cinnamon toast crunch soaking in the milk instead of honey smacks. A good change! I always hated that frog on the smacks box, and also the cereal sucks. Christy brought a big beautiful salad and the loveliest brie en croute with honey and almonds, Amanda brought one of my favorite things- bacon-wrapped dates, Joanna brought a delicious bacon-y quiche, and Helen made me a showstopping birthday cheesecake with A LAYER OF FUDGE INSTEAD OF CRUST and an almond whipped cream and a honey caramel sauce. I loved all of it, every bite, all the more so because of the people who cooked it for me.


Fudgie the Cheesecake in all its glory. Or most of its glory, because it doesn’t have its whipped cream or caramel sauce yet. I love that Helen chose to depict me as a bunny-holding flower child. This is the embodiment of me in my every day life, yes it is.


The sister-of-my-life! And my big toothy grin.

After eating for a long time, we decorated wooden Day of the Dead skulls that Joanna brought and everyone sewed bats for a bat mobile (the other kind) that Christy thought of and that I got to take home. I had been talking to Christy about remembering the Halloween decorations that my mom would hang up every year- a paper skeleton with brads in its knees and elbows on the door, and a black witch on a broom that hung from the light near the front window-  and I wanted to have a few decorations that I could bring out every year. Now I do, in addition to a feathery black wreath that Christy made for my front door, and I’ll have the additional joy of remembering making them with my friends when I take them out every year.


I’m the luckiest. I love you all.


Leftover Brie en Croute with Honey and Almonds, Meats and Stuff. I got to take home the rest of the brie and bread, and thus it was the gift that kept on giving, because it meant I could just throw some meat and apple slices on a board and call it dinner.


Scary Witch. I’ve been wanting a real witch costume for years, and every year I intend to sew myself one, and every year I end up cobbling it together at the last minute, with lackluster results. Last year I took out the black material I’d purchased eight or more years earlier for a witch costume and thought that I could at least sew a simple black skirt. I couldn’t. Turns out I can’t eyeball how to sew a simple skirt- it was lopsided and too tight and unwearable. But not this year! My parents bought me a witch costume and witch shoes and it even comes with black press-on nails. I just gotta work on my scary witch face.

Andy took the day off for my birthday, and he and the kids went out and bought me Valentina’s breakfast tacos and gave me presents and homemade cards. Andy got me a camping trip! Which he hates and I love, so it’s a really selfless gift. Then I got to go to the West Elm outlet store with Helen and Amanda and they helped me pick out two beautiful and very cheap arm chairs for our house. One doesn’t have legs, which is why it was cheap, and I had to sort out what to do about that, but still! New chairs! Anyway, then I came home and had the shittiest birthday. The boys were awful. I think Henry was mad that I had abandoned him two days in a row, but he slammed his body around in my new chair and did his best to try to knock it over, and then grabbed at my ankles and almost tripped me and George just screamed and screamed about I don’t remember what. I went into the backyard to sit by myself and wondered what to do. It seemed stupid to spend an hour making the falafel dinner I had planned to cook when the boys were being so rude and probably wouldn’t eat it anyway, so I thought, I’ll just make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for me and Andy and buttered noodles for the kids and we’ll do an early bedtime and then Andy and I can come out in the backyard and build a fire after they’re asleep. But I’d forgotten that an appraiser was coming to our house the next day (in hopes that it would appraise high enough for us to stop paying private mortgage insurance) which meant we had to spend the whole evening cleaning up. I know it sounds unbelievably lame and bratty but I was so desperately unhappy at the evening- the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the hours of cleaning and not liking my children that I sat on the bench in front of our house and cried.  I spent the night and most of the next day feeling sorry for myself.


Falafel and Funky Olives. Here’s my would-be birthday dinner, one day late. Those olives were terrible but the falafel is perfect. I did what I could to make a plan to feel happier. I talked to Henry about how much I do for him to make his birthday special, and said that I had hoped he could have been nice to me on my birthday. He seemed to understand. Then I asked Grandma Mary if she could babysit so Andy and I could go out on a date. We hadn’t been out on a date since July and we’d gotten into a pattern of doing stuff for the kids and then doing what needed to be done around the house, or contract work, or any number of things that made us more and more distant.

The next night, we went to Lenoir, a semi-fancy restaurant just up the street from us. It was so wonderful to sit and just enjoy being with Andy. And to eat a beautiful meal. I had a summer bean chaat, a sea bass poke salad with fried okra, grilled quail with papaya salad, and a smoked apple creme caramel. We made a plan to make our relationship a priority, and to do something fun together every night, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. There was a recent meme on Facebook where people listed their 7 favorite movies. I had seen very few of the ones people listed, and many of them showed up on lots of people’s lists. So we went to Vulcan Video (which relocated and is now just about 5 minutes away from our house) and Andy and I have been watching movies together all week. Almost Famous was one of the ones that people listed in their top 7 over and over again, so we watched that. Spy (with Melissa McCarthy) and Wild (with Reese Witherspoon) showed up on no ones list, but we watched those too, and loved all three. And I loved spending that time with Andy. I feel a lot better.


Sopita, Beans in a Tortilla. My parents gave us the opportunity to buy their old car, which is in great shape and has an unbelievable 14,000 miles on it. We figured we shouldn’t let this opportunity pass because we’d never be able to find a car with that mileage for that price, but wondered if it was the right call, because the car Andy drives is old, but worked fine and is completely paid off. The day after we decided to buy my parents car, Andy’s wouldn’t start. And it’s not the battery. So, we need no longer doubt our decision to buy the new car. The kids and I drove Andy to work, then went on a nature hike over the mosquito-infested creek at Windmill Run park, then drove way up north for a science class for Henry. The science class is for homeschoolers, and takes place in a real science lab with real equipment and Henry loved it. He got to put his hand in a blubber-like glove to see how it insulated him from cold water and make fake snow and learn about what happens to our bodies when they get too cold. George and I played with toys nearby and I listened to the instructor and liked learning about frostbite too. We had to go pick up Andy from work when I would normally be cooking dinner, so we had a quick garbage dinner but I liked that too.


Nutty Applesauce Squash Tea Cake. This was also the day of the autumnal equinox. I thought this would be the perfect cake for it because it combines zucchini (summer squash) with apples (a fall crop). Half summer, half fall, just like the equinox. I put down a beautiful new table runner Christy quilted for me for my birthday, we put the tapered candles Helen bought for me, because I never have them and always want to light some, in the candle holders, and Andy and I each found a poem to read for the start of the fall. It would have all been very charming, if the children gave two shits. George yelled and climbed all over me while I read my poem, which I tried to keep reading for a while before giving up, and then the kids left the table to go do a lightsaber fight (not very equinox-y) before Andy read his. He read it to me instead and I enjoyed it very much.Oh yeah, we also made sun prints using some special cyanotype paper I bought at the science lab store. So that’s sort of equinox-y.


Spaghetti with Tomato, Onion, Butter Sauce. My sister is moving into her very first house this weekend! I helped her pack on Saturday and she had to politely tell me she had errands to run a few times before I could pull myself away from the box of brown paper and the pile of glasses that needed to be wrapped up in it. I hadn’t gone to the store so we had spaghetti for dinner.


Frozen Chicken Strip Salad. The whole family got together to help Helen and Jordan move on Sunday. We did the whole thing- loading the truck, driving to the new house, unloading the truck, with breaks to stop and eat breakfast tacos and heaps of barbecue- in just about five hours. Pretty damn good! With kids to maneuver around too!

When we got back home, Andy took the kids to the grocery store so I could pack for our trip. The boys and I are visiting my parents in Portland for nine days. I’m nervous about flying on a plane with the kids without another adult to help, and about having to do bedtime by myself for over a week. And I’ll miss Andy. But otherwise, I’m excited. We get to go apple picking (it’s honeycrisp season!) and hang out with Cousin Jack and spend time somewhere with real fall temperatures (we’re bringing jackets!) and of course soak up time with my parents. Happy Fall, everyone!

Birthdays, Poke without a Diacritical on the E, and Righteous Indignation

I’m full of rage and have hated everyone for the past week, at least. When I say ‘everyone’ I mean my husband and children. I’m pretty sure the problem has been me, and not them. At least, that’s (again I say, probably) true with Andy. I’m not willing to give up that ‘probably.’ There’s still a chance I’m right about everything and right to be hateful. After we’ve hurtled through another day, after we’ve begged and pleaded for the kids to change into pajamas and brush their teeth and pee, I’ve felt like I just want to close myself into a dark box and be completely and blessedly alone. I finally deigned to share my feelings with Andy last night, and even though the kids were no less shitty today, I feel better. The internet, by way of some of my witchy/hippie friends, says that I have every right to blame this on the moon, and I feel like this is as good an excuse as any.

It’s been two weeks since I last wrote a blog post, and more than that since I wrote a good one, but I just couldn’t do it until now. We have been busy, and I’ve got a whole slew of excuses for my absence, some of which you’ll see below and some you won’t. But on top of that, I’ve been tired and I just haven’t felt like doing the thing. I’m worried that my recent pattern of sporadic and delayed posting means that my blog is dying. I don’t want it to die, primarily because I think it’s good for me. It’s a time for forced self-reflection. Also I like attention. But it also feels overwhelming, to write an interesting paragraph for every day of our lives. Our days are so repetitive. Do an errand, read a million books, stop or don’t stop the kids from throwing things at one another’s heads, dinner, bedtime, exhaustion. I think the good solution to this is to be a better writer, and take notes about the novel things that happen during these days and then carefully shape those stories into something special and insightful. But that sounds hard, so I’m going to go for a different, worse solution, which is to only write what I feel like writing, and if I don’t have something to say about every dinner or day, so be it.

Here’s what we ate this week.


Bo Bun Salad, minus the good stuff (grilled chicken and fried shallots), Strawberry Shortcakes. The shortcakes were a quid pro quo in exchange for serving my family a plate of zoodles.


Pro Tip: If you take a picture of yourself making a funny face, and send it to people, there’s a good chance they’ll send you back pictures of their own funny face. I’ve got an impressive collection on my phone now, all inspired by George.


Molly and I went out to eat poke! A delicious paper boatful of cultural appropriation that is also environmentally unsustainable. But damn if it’s not delicious. You have the option to add avocado or macadamia nuts to your order and I did both because I love fat. The scene is undeniably hipster. Everyone has interesting hats and takes pictures of their food before they eat it (myself included, of course, except for the interesting hat) and drinks warm cans of La Croix or tall bottles of Topo Chico.

We ate our fish piles and Molly told me tales from her jet-setting life as a savvy business lady and I read Molly notes from my 8 hour enneagram workshop. I’m super boring. Molly is an eight, like me, but she’s even eight-ier. I thought she would have loved Joey, the speaker’s daughter, who seemed so much like Molly and explained that the golden rule doesn’t apply to eights because eights treat other people exactly as they’d like to be treated (with bluntness and without regard to feelings) and people hate that. We’re supposed to instead treat other people as they would prefer to be treated. Which is a lot harder. Thanks a lot, Joey.


The Weekend of Andy was reduced to nothing more than a hot dog topped with a slick of canned chili. The beans are also from a can. The chips are crab flavored and disgusting.


My parents came back to town for a double-birthday spectacular. My dad’s on the 8th, George’s on the 11th. It’s been really wonderful to see the bonds grow between my kids and my parents. Henry and George are skeptical of everyone, but they really love their grandparents. Henry kept a running countdown until the hour Gangie and Grandpa would show up at the house, and said how excited he was over and over again. When they finally got there he hid under a table and then gave a quiet ‘hi’ and went to his room and closed the door. I gave him some time alone and then went to check on him. He was thumbing through a chemistry textbook that I didn’t know we had. I said, “What’s up? I thought you were so excited for Gangie and Grandpa to get here, and now you’ve closed yourself in your room to read a book?” And Henry replied that he’d found something he wanted to read first, and he’d be out in a little bit. I don’t understand him at all. Anyway, he finished doing whatever it was he was doing with his book and then came out and had a wonderful time with my parents. At the end of my dad’s birthday dinner, Henry gave him a big hug and said “I wish every day was your birthday.” I loved that.


Samosas with Cilantro Chutney,  Green Beans with Mustard Seeds and Ginger, Cauliflower, Cashew, Pea, and Coconut Curry, Rice and Naan. My dad loves vegetarian Indian food, so we had a Made in India feast for his birthday dinner. Not pictured: eight gallons of mango lassi.


Helen decorated the table with beautiful colored scarves, she painted golden henna designs on candles, and she strung up colorful flowers on invisible thread and hung them from the ceiling.


And she made this spectacular cake topper for the not-at-all-thematically-appropriate red velvet cake I made for dessert. You can also see the hideous remains of the eight gallons of mango lassi and the bottle of soy sauce Henry begged to put on his rice, which is also not thematically appropriate.


Red Velvet Cake. You might have guessed that this was not dyed with beets. There’s a whole bottle of red food dye in this cake (2 tablespoons), which is insane. But my dad loves red velvet cake and I’m not going to serve him a murky brown not-red velvet birthday cake that tastes like beets just to rub my snotty food preferences in everyone’s face. The linked blog post compares four red velvet cake recipes, including ones from Smitten Kitchen, Cooks Country, and Saveur. The Saveur cake won, and is the one I made for this party.  It was spectacular. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a really red cake and don’t mind increasing your children’s chances of an ADHD diagnosis.


Brisket Tacos from Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ. We rolled up to Valentina’s on Friday at 11 and there was NO LINE and I got to put these brisket tacos in my face and it was pure magic. Getting two was a mistake because one by itself will make you full, but I ate both of them anyway.  I want another one right now and I just ate.


And then it was George’s turn! Part of my ongoing exercise in giving up some of my control over every last detail of everything meant letting George have a hand in planning his birthday party. We sat down to talk about it a few weeks beforehand and I’ve gotta hand it to him, the kid’s a natural. What food should we serve? Apple juice cupcakes, blueberry cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, sausages, and tea. How should we decorate? With pictures of George! What favors should we give your friends? Shirts! With buttons! I didn’t do the shirt thing but we nailed the cupcake/sausage/tea/pictures of George parts.


Another Helen cake topper! She beautifully encapsulated the theme of the party, as outlined by George, of cupcakes, apples, and pirate ships. The 16 candles were also George’s idea.


I stuffed that pinata to the gills, and after a few meager swipes from tiny children, the thin piece of twine that held it up snapped and the pinata fell. Andy’s fixing it here, and I really love the polite concern on the children’s faces.


Success! Sadly, I forgot to nab one of the York peppermint patties from the melee.


Brotherly love.


My mom got this shot of George hurling a water balloon into Josie. These balloons were too small to pop upon hitting your tender fleshy bits. The only hope you had of getting someone wet with them was to throw them at their feet or try to dump the cooler full of water on top of them, both of which were attempted with varying degrees of success.


And that’s a wrap on George’s third birthday. There are a lot of things that I love about George. He makes up rhymes and songs that are honestly fantastic. He tells us stories. He cannot let a stick pass through his line of vision without picking it up. Lately he has referred to said sticks as his ‘mega hammers.’ Every night before bed we read a book together in my room until George announces that he’s ready to sleep, at which point he says, “Henry, I’ve got a surprise for you.” And Henry says, “What is it?” And George says, “Open it up and see!” And Henry takes the imaginary thing from George’s hand and we all sit silently for a few moments while Henry thinks of what the surprise could be before saying, “Oh! It’s a lollipop! Thank you, George.” He’s a very small person and is so nice to hug. Happy Birthday, George❤


We spent the day after the party sitting around in our underwear and eating steak.


And baked potatoes, and a salad with a soy-balsamic dressing. The steak is from The Food Lab, and so is the salad dressing and both came out exactly perfect. This was the last night my parents were in town and we all lingered around the table, eating some novelty ice creams. And after that everyone went home and Helen and Jordan’s little dog, Bonbon, was hit and killed by a speeding car. It was a horrible thing. Please send my sister and her family some love, and give your own dog some extra love too, and a nibble of the fatty bits from your steak, if you make one.


Turkey Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Szechuan-Style Green Beans. I don’t know how to write a smooth transition from losing your pet to a plate of turkey meatloaf. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned Bonbon at all, except that it felt wrong to write about the food we ate the night she was killed and just say the steak was delicious and not acknowledge the awful thing that followed.

A lot of nice things happened on meatloaf day, though. My friend Amanda came over in the morning to look at my backyard. She’s a talented designer and gardener and she’s making me a plan for my backyard for my birthday. And then my neighbor Otto, a carpenter, came over and started working on a few changes to my kitchen. He knocked out a set of cabinets that hung over the sink and counter. They had started pulling away from the ceiling and every time I put a bowl or measuring cup away I imagined the thing crashing down on me and the children. My kitchen is tiny, and I thought it’d be tough to lose a third of my storage space, but it turned out it wasn’t a big deal at all. I gave away a lot of gadgets I don’t use and wine glasses I’ve never used and added a fourth shelf to my two remaining cabinets. And the room looks a whole lot better. And then I got to go to lunch with my food52 friends, and they surprised me with birthday presents and a cake and I got to eat fried green tomatillos that were delicious and a black bean dip that wasn’t and that filled my teeth with bean skins. And then we ate meatloaf, and I liked that a lot too.

Tomorrow is my 33rd birthday. Today, my best friend Molly, with the help of my friends and family, surprised me with the most beautiful and special birthday lunch of all time. I’m still feeling awash in the love they showed me today. So great is my feeling of love and peace that I thought about rewriting my bitter diatribe at the top of the post. I didn’t though. I’m so excited to share pictures of the lunch in my next blog post, which will be right on time. Yes it will, yes it will.