Suburban Snapshots

Five Signs of Kid Infestation

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Just before we left Boston, bed bug outbreaks in our neighborhood made national news. Broadcasts included helpful tips on what to look for, how to manage the spread, and alternatives to lighting all your belongings on fire and leaving town naked on a bicycle. Now that we live farther north we find there's an even bigger, more permanent problem: we've got a kid infestation. Here are five telltale signs:

1. Malfunctioning television refuses to broadcast any adult content. You find yourself ignorant to even the biggest news until you glimpse a headline as you run past the newspaper stand that happens to be positioned between the grocery store entrance and the dairy case.

2. Unexplained, illegible marks on all walls, three-feet or lower. Like termite damage, these types of markings accumulate over time. They may not compromise the integrity of your foundation, but can interfere with your desire to own anything nice, ever.

3. Disappearing furniture. You may notice your once-useful coffee table suddenly missing. One of the surest signs of acute kid infestation is finding this central piece of furniture replaced by two pairs of shoes, a pile of DVDs, and three Squinkies.

4. Car impounded, hoarding intervention. A concerned friend or relative noticed four pairs of shoes, six sippy cups, a week's worth of gummy bears, several hundred napkins, nineteen discarded Starbucks cups, and enough changes of clothes for a five-day camping trip, and called the authorities. The good news is that your stash isn't illegal and you're prepared for any natural disaster.

5. Filth Blindness. You realize only when it's time for your mother-in-law's summer visit or just as the babysitter's pulling in that your house has been overrun by herds of angry dust bunnies and heaps of petrified Cheerios. You wonder as you're hunched over the couch chiseling away half an inch of yogurt with your thumbnail, how it is you never noticed the mess before now.


Not Without My Mayo

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A year and a half ago, I joined Weight Watchers for the fourth time since eighth grade. In all my thirty-eight years I've lost weight repeatedly, usually by doing grossly unhealthy things like eating only salads for a month, sticking to a limit of five-hundred calories per day, or having a boyfriend whose blinding hotness made me too nervous to eat — unless I was drunk — for a good two weeks (true story).

Needless to say it never stuck, and I'd always end up squeezing myself back into the two pairs of jeans that didn't suffocate me. I wasn't comfortable. I had lumps in places I didn't enjoy. I was self conscious, jiggly, and dimpled, and I never felt quite like I was rocking anything I wore.

This month marks a full year for me at my goal weight. In total I lost twenty-three or so pounds, depending on which day I'm weighing in. I still step on the scale once a week, and check-in at The Dub-Dub once a month. I still don't love working out. I still refuse to acknowledge fat-free "half and half" as a real thing. I still eat the fries Anna leaves on her plate. I still have a dent on my ass big enough to stage a moon landing, and I still have an ass big enough to accommodate that dent.

But things have definitely changed. I haven't cringed at a full-body photo of myself in over a year. This summer, I confidently wore a bikini in public. When I lie in bed, I don't curse myself because there's belly lying next to me, or because my thighs are putting my hands to sleep. When I walk, my rear-end doesn't feel like a horse trailer roped to a Yugo. I stand up straighter, I seek out form-fitting jeans, and now when I try something on that doesn't fit, I blame the manufacturer instead of myself.

I'm not here to evangelize for Weight Watchers or to tout the 'new me,' because I'm still the same me. I still have a thirty-eight-year-old body with ripples and wrinkles and dents. But with those twenty-something pounds I also lost the whole vocabulary I'd used to guilt myself, and that makes me feel lightest of all.

This is Where I Release
Her Into the Wild

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Here's something I think when I watch Anna playing with her little friends: How will I know if she's the annoying kid? 

We all know one. I think in my childhood I was her for a while — the one who talks too much, or too loudly, or laughs dramatically like some goddamned theater major, the one who's maybe a little too bossy or too precocious, the kid who's overbearing. I just wonder if as her mother I'd have the objectivity to recognize it in her, knowing that there's nothing I love more than everything she is.

I think about these things more now that she's been off making friends without my help. She's the littlest mayor of our block, stopping at three houses on our evening walks to goof around with friends and dodge mosquitoes. It's amazing to observe and to realize that she's probably going to grow up with these kids — that I'll be walking her to school in this neighborhood pack of bedraggled, caffeinated moms chaperoning their backpacked children off to the elementary down the street.

Last Saturday as we made our rounds from the farmers' market (Anna insisted we buy a small pumpkin from Hot Farmer and I really had no choice but to comply. She said "please.") to the playground, we stopped where two boys were horsing around on the soccer field. "Mom, can I go play with them?" I could tell the boys were older, maybe five, and were deeply engaged in a game of tackle kickball. I worried they'd ignore her, or worse, reject her. (Interestingly, I didn't worry about my three-and-a-half year old playing tackle with two older boys, so maybe I need to re-prioritize my concerns.) I told her to go ask if she could join them and watched as Anna inched toward the two, turning to wave me toward her as I shooed her forward. I held my breath, and the next thing I knew there was a tangled pile of three giggling kids at my feet and a soccer ball languishing in its goal.

They played together for a good ten minutes before the official soccer game started. I was proud of her courage at approaching the boys, I loved watching her being independently social, and I realized that this is really the start of something. This is the start of her really being out in the world.

You guys. Hold me.

My First Giveaway Will Make
You Fat and Happy

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The cookbook was won by Allison Reid, whose go-to recipe is rice bowl of melting chard and two beans.

I didn't always have a feel for cooking. I once made overdone hamburgers on English muffins for a dinner date (spoiler: we broke up). I used to dump dried spices into canned tomatoes and call it sauce. Then there was the time I had to put an entire vat of what was supposed to have been caponata down my garbage disposal. Back in the day I couldn't tell a good recipe if Julia Child herself handed it to me.
To the delight of subsequent boyfriends, I developed the ability to cook and even have a repertoire of dishes I don't need recipes for — my sauce is outstanding. I cook almost every night for the three of us, and when I make new friends the second thing I to do (after Facebook stalking them) is feed them. Sometimes I use one of my by-heart recipes, but usually I flip open one of my collection of America's Test Kitchen cookbooks. Below is a totally un-Photoshopped but completely dorky picture of my baking cabinet (here's the adorable outtake).

I have never, ever, ever cooked up a dud from these books. My favorites are dog-eared and drip-stained. I go to them for everything from impressive dinner party ideas to simple salad dressings. While Steve insists on silence in the house during The McLaughlin Group, I shush everyone through episodes of America's Test Kitchen (wow, I bet you're clamoring to come hang out with us now.)
To win a copy of their newest offering, The Cook's Illustrated Cookbookofficially the biggest and heaviest cookbook I own — leave a comment below with just the name of your number one go-to recipe. Make sure to include your email address so I can contact you (I will not use it beyond this giveaway). I'll randomly pick a winner on Monday at 9:00 EST. You must live in the U.S. to win the book.