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Archive for the ‘day to day ridiculousness’ Category

I DID IT. Based on your supportive comments and gentle nudges toward action, I talked to my neighbor about her lovely lunch invitation.  First, I resolved to talk to her about it. Next, I cobbled together a script from several commenters’ suggestions, and I practiced it in the car and in the shower. Then, I waited for the Right Opportunity.

Carla provided me with a very nice segue – she was playing with the neighbor’s dog, and I needed her to come home to eat lunch. So I walked next door to fetch her. The neighbor came out and said hello, and I told her the reason for my appearance. Then I made my little speech: “Speaking of lunch, I was thinking about your kind invitation that we have lunch together, and I was so delighted by the offer that I said yes without thinking, but the truth is, Carla and I have so many silly food restrictions between us it’s not really worth getting into, and I was wondering if we could do something a little simpler, like afternoon tea or lemonade?” When I practiced it, I was Breezy and Casual and I had a little self-deprecating laugh in there, plus I also had a line about how of COURSE we wanted to spend time with her… and I also wanted to offer to bring homemade cookies or something… but it all came out in a rush and I forgot some of it. Oh well. At least I got out the important part which was LUNCH WILL NOT GO WELL.

Her immediate reaction was, “Oh no, sometimes I give Carla food when she comes over!” and so I had to reassure her that I didn’t mean allergies, but rather that Carla is the pickiest person on the planet. (Deftly trying to put the bulk of the blame on Carla’s food restrictions rather than my own.) Here is where Carla chimed in and informed our neighbor that I HATE tomatoes. So I am clearly not blameless. 

Once I had assured her she wasn’t doing something egregious by feeding my child cherries and red peppers, she seemed to relax a bit. She asked if something like tea and biscuits would be fine and I said that would be lovely and we discussed possible dates (though didn’t settle on anything specific). I am… so relieved. THANK YOU for helping me figure out the right way to handle this sticky situation. 

Now I can turn my Food Frets toward camp. 

Carla is attending a new camp this summer, and they don’t offer meals. So we will be packing a lunch. This is fine

Now that she is nearly NINE (which is nearly TEN, omg), I am looking forward to forcing encouraging Carla to make her own lunch (with supervision). We discussed some potential ideas for lunches, and her Ideal Lunch is a Lunchable. She only eats the ham Lunchable, and she only eats the ham, the cookies, and the crackers. She refuses to eat the cheese. If I pack her slices of other cheese – specifically cheddar that I have cut for her – she will eat that. 

So I was banking on sending her with Lunchables each day, and that if Lunchables become unavailable (again), or if she gets sick of them, we can pack a bagel and cream cheese with some pepperoni.

To round out her lunch, I would add other things she eats, like pickles and grapes and berries and grape tomatoes and red peppers and sugar snap peas. 

So I felt pretty good about our options. 

Then we got a note from camp that said NO PORK PRODUCTS. 

AHHHHHHHHH 

What now???

I suppose what we have to do is revert to PBJ. The camp is not a nut-free campus, so peanut butter is an option. Carla also enjoys eats sun butter, so she (and I) can make sandwiches every day. Carla eats sun butter sandwiches at school all year long, so I know she WILL eat them. But the last time I tried to make her one, she complained because my sandwiches weren’t the SAME as the ones at school. 

Weary sigh. 

I suppose I can just send her with the equivalent of Snack Dinner, but for lunch. But I am just not sure what the protein situation will be in that case. Snack Dinner usually has pepperoni or a couple of chicken nuggets or two.

I wonder if she would eat cold chicken nuggets (hork)? 

The reason that I am fretting about this is two-fold.

The first fold is that the camp really made a Big Deal about ensuring that we sent a LOT of food with our kids to camp. They emphasized that we should send MORE than we think – like, enough food for a week rather than a day. The kids work so hard and are so active, they are ravenous when they get to lunchtime. So I want to a) comply with the rules and b) make sure my particular kid is getting enough sustenance. 

The second fold is that Carla already eats next to nothing for lunch. I assume she eats something at school each day, although her reports are sporadic and often sound like, “Oh yeah, I ate a hamburger bun and a slice of American cheese.” So I am already facing an uphill climb when it comes to getting her to eat. I want to stack all the odds in my favor by ensuring her lunches are full of things she LIKES, not just things she tolerates. 

Well. I am not really asking for ideas, because I feel like it will be an exercise in frustration. (You, reasonably: “Send her with some chickpeas! Or beans! Or hummus! Or tuna salad! Or turkey! Or a protein drink!” and I will cringe at you while shaking my head because she will not touch ANY of that, and the list is endless.) (I am going to buy some turkey pepperoni and see if Carla will deign to try it.) I am just whining. New camp, new frets. 

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I have always dreamed extremely vivid – and usually super violent – dreams. But it’s been a long while since I’ve remembered any. 

This past week, I’ve had two that stuck with me after the fact. 

In one, I dreamed I was in an enclosure hiding from bears. The bears WERE going to attack, and if anyone wasn’t in the enclosure, they WOULD be mauled. There were other people who kept coming into my enclosure, but no one seemed to grasp the fact that BEARS CAN OPEN DOORS, and so they were leaving all the doors unlocked, so I had to keep going around and around to all the doors, locking them and shooting meaningful, grim looks to my fellow enclosees, none of whom seemed capable of grasping the fact that MAULING WAS IMMINENT. There were a LOT of doors, and the enclosure kept expanding. At one point, I went outside into a fenced-in area. The fences had barbed wire on top of them, but they were all only about two feet tall so that a really determined bear could simply step over them. 

I think we can all deduce what particular anxiety THAT dream is about.

The other dream is less memorable, and less perilous. But no less upsetting, for me. In the dream, I dropped Carla off at someone’s house for a playdate, and the mother invited me in to join everyone for a snack. The snack was bananas (which I do not eat), but Carla hissed at me, “You have to be polite.” So I ate a piece of a banana. And the host cut off another slice of banana, so I ate that too. And another. And another. Even though I haven’t eaten a banana since… preschool? I can still feel that mushy, sickly sweetness in my mouth. 

This dream, too, has a direct source. Our lovely neighbor has invited me and Carla over for lunch. The date is still pending, but oh my goodness I wish I could get out of it! 

Eating at other people’s homes has always been a HUGE source of anxiety for me. While I do eat a large variety of foods, I have a lot of super picky aversions. It’s not as easy as saying, “Oh, I have an allergy to X” and then the host just doesn’t cook with X. The list is so long I could not even hope to cover it all.

I remember, as a kid, DREADING going over to other people’s houses to eat. Just absolutely finding it awful. I have a vivid memory of sitting at a friend’s dining table with her whole family as they ate what was, I’m sure, a perfectly lovely meal, and I was just choked with anxiety because I did not want to eat any of it. And I tried to eat things here and there – the bread, maybe – and my friend’s mother was scolding me to clean my plate. It was awful. I don’t think I ever ate at that friend’s house again. In fact, unless someone was clearly and definitely serving pizza or tacos, I don’t think I ever ate at ANYONE’s house again.

I will never do the ”clean your plate” thing to Carla and I will never force one of her friends in my care to eat something she doesn’t want to. But that’s children. I am a grown adult. I should be able to go to someone’s house and eat the food. And yet. It is very anxiety producing, because I am equally afraid that a) I will have to eat something I dislike or b) I will offend the host by rejecting something I do not want to eat. 

I would say that my husband and I only rarely eat at other people’s houses. We have two sets of friends with whom we dine occasionally, and I feel like they are close enough friends that I can say, “No, I don’t eat lamb” when they ask, in advance of the dinner, if we eat lamb chops. (I say it regretfully, and embarrassedly, but with great relief.) But with the vast majority of people, you just show up! And eat the food they serve! I remember going to a new friend’s house and they served an absolutely beautiful meal of which the main course was chicken parmesan. Each breast was just smothered in tomatoes, which is probably my Number One Most Reviled Food. I cannot eat tomatoes; I have tried. I think I tried to be surreptitious in how I scraped them off the chicken, and then I helped wash the dishes, and I am SO hopeful that the host didn’t notice. (I am guessing the host noticed; I would notice. I would then, as host, fret that the food was bad or that I’d made something unpalatable to one of the guests.) Another time, we went to a friend’s house and she served chili with chunks of tomatoes in it. I ate around the tomatoes, but it’s so hard to do that in an unnoticeable way, and yet I cannot eat the tomatoes. I WISH I COULD. If I had access to a genie, and could only make selfish and self-serving wishes, I am pretty sure “make it so I love tomatoes” would be one of them.  

All this talk about tomatoes is making me queasy.

Along the same lines: Carla eats nothing. She is FAR more picky than I am and has not developed the techniques I have honed over the years for eating things she doesn’t like but can stand, or taking (as my mother-in-law calls it) a no-thank-you portion of something she doesn’t want, or trying something that doesn’t look appealing, or swiftly moving an item to her husband’s plate for him to eat instead.  

So now, this lovely, wonderful woman has extended this lovely invitation… to two people who eat NOTHING… and I not only have to somehow overcome my own anxieties about eating but also model good guest behavior to my child. Ugh ugh ugh. (What if she serves egg salad, a food I do not think I could force myself to eat??? Or some kind of lunch meat??? Or almost any normal lunch food????????)

Is there any way, after I have already said, “Oh that sounds lovely” to the neighbor, to now go back and say something like, “Carla and I have a bunch of really fussy food aversions – would it be possible to come have a glass of lemonade instead?” Is there any way?????? There isn’t, is there. I can almost picture her face falling as we reject her LOVELY invitation. Which is almost – but not quite – as bad as facing the Unknown Food. 

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We tackled a little home project over the weekend that was very satisfying: we replaced several of the window shades.

The previous owners had installed these soft, white cellular shades on all the windows on the upper floor of our house, and we never changed them. They are the kind that have a plastic tab at the bottom, and you use that to pull them down or push them up. They are inoffensive looking (to me) and they filter the light nicely – by which I mean they dim the rooms but don’t make them dark – and they offer privacy. 

Over the past, oh, year or so, they have begun to show signs of age. The shade in our bathroom stopped working fully. You can pull it down to its full length, but it declines to rise more than halfway. Then a little horizontal tear appeared in the shade in Carla’s room. And then, this weekend, the one in my bedroom just collapsed, fully, leaving the entire window naked. I wish I had taken a photo of it. It was quite comical, like an old timey slapstick film where a character’s old timey bathing costume pools around his knees. 

Typically, household failures of this sort follow a trajectory of “oh no!” and some poking and prodding to see how to correct the issue, maybe even some light googling, and then we learn to live with the thing, and now everywhere I turn things are broken. It’s not a great way to live, but it is difficult to deviate from so well-worn a path. 

However. This shade failure was, to me, an emergency. The shade is in our bedroom and the window it covers looks out over our street. And in no way do I want my across the street neighbors or any passersby on the sidewalk to be able to look up and a) see me in bed or b) witness me crossing the bedroom in my pajamas, which is often only a T-shirt. My husband tried to duct tape the shade in place the first night, but it kept falling off in the middle of the night. So we googled and I pushed and we went to Lowe’s and bought replacement shades. 

I would have purchased the same shades again, but ours came from J.C. Penney and I don’t know where a J.C. Penney is, in relation to my home; nor am I sure they currently sell home goods. I suppose I could look it up but I am choosing ignorance. What we did purchase were the shades our local Lowe’s had in stock. They look virtually identical to the ones we had. 

The installation is simple enough: You drill a couple of little brackets into the window frame (we were able to use some of the holes from the previous shades’ brackets) and then you clip the shade into the brackets and voila! All done. (I wonder if my husband would want you to know that clipping the shades into the brackets is NOT as simple as it should be, and that the brackets can be stiff and difficult to clip into place. But in THEORY it is very simple.)

We got a kind of shade that you can cut to size. We measured the windows so we could cut them, but when we were standing in the shades aisle of Lowe’s, I got a little nervous about altering the shade permanently before we were able to see if we could hang them. Luckily, the shades they had in stock were only about five inches wider than our windows, which I figured wouldn’t look too weird. Also in the plus column for not cutting them to size was the fact that there was a cutting station in the shade aisle and it said “Out of Order” on a big red sign. 

We got the shades (they were more expensive than I expected – about $80ish a piece) and brought them home and my husband and Carla installed them while I made dinner. They look fabulous (by which I mean they look exactly like the previous shades did) and the one in the bathroom WORKS and I am very pleased. 

Extra pleasing is that we got a blackout shade for Carla’s room. We have been talking about getting blackout curtains/shades for her room since she was about a year old, which is when we discovered her propensity for rising with the sun. And now we DID it, and I am writing this at 8:30 in the morning and she is STILL ASLEEP, which is unheard of. 

We have yet to install curtains on any of the windows on the lower floor. But maybe the success of this little project will spur us on.

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I am sad and my foot hurts and I have too many things to do but instead I keep bouncing back and forth between reading awful news articles and researching gun control legislation, so I am going to distract myself by blogging for a few minutes. 

Today as I was putting away the groceries (this is the THIRD trip to the grocery store I have made this week, which is a testament to how important it is to MEAL PLAN in advance because I did not do that this week and now here we are), I came across a giant five-pound bag of sugar that I bought in 2020 during the height of the sugar/flour shortage. I remember spotting it at Costco, alongside enormous industrial sized bags of flour and snapping it up with glee and relief. It has remained in my basement lo these many years. 

Well, my sugar container is looking a bit wan, so I will use the five-pound bag to refill it. My sugar container does not hold five pounds of sugar, though, so… I’m not really sure what to do with the remainder. That’s what gallon-size Ziploc storage bags are for, I suppose.

(The reason I need to refill the sugar container is because I am making cupcakes. They were supposed to do double duty: 1. They were to be dessert for an evening with friends, who were scheduled to come for dinner this weekend. 2. They were to be a special birthday surprise for our neighbor, who has become one of Carla’s favorite people on the planet; when Carla found out it was the neighbor’s birthday, she insisted that we make cupcakes. Anyway, the friends are no longer coming but the neighbor is still having a birthday, so I am still making cupcakes.) 

Pulling out the five-pound bag of sugar did jolt me back, a bit, into those dark days of the early pandemic. Not that the days have gotten a whole lot brighter, in many senses, pandemic and otherwise. But things are different. We no longer buy two jars of pickles a week, for one thing. I still note that we are getting low on paper towels or toilet paper, but I don’t fret. I raised my eyebrows when I saw that cream cheese was in very low supply (and zero of the Philadelphia brand was available), but I didn’t grab more boxes than I need for the cupcake recipe. The peanut butter shelves were near-empty, but that’s because of the Jif recall, not because peanut butter is no longer available. (Our giant two-pack of Jif was in the affected batch; we’d already eaten one entire jar but the other was unopened.) I have been gradually and purposefully whittling down our supply of frozen meat, rather than rushing out to refill it. 

I know things are still far from pre-pandemic “normal.” The note about “only four packages of baby formula per person” at my Target is a glaring example of that fact. But I do worry less. 

On the illness front: I have given Carla a Covid test before school every day this week. She keeps waking up with a sore throat or sniffles (that do seem to magically disappear by the time we leave for school), and I just don’t want to take a chance. Plus, Covid is rampant in her grade, with four and five cases per class as of last week (except in Carla’s class, so far). We are five days out from the end of the school year, and it would be amazing if she could make it the whole way… but that seems increasingly unlikely. 

My family continues to wear masks in public, indoor spaces. I am accustomed to wearing one that I don’t really notice anymore how many people are or aren’t wearing masks. I haven’t been hassled. My husband thinks that our road trip later this summer will take us through a lot of areas where masking will be non-existent, and I wonder if we’ll be hassled then; we’ll see. Carla’s school went mask-optional a long time ago, and we allowed Carla to make her own choice about whether to wear one or not. She enthusiastically chose NOT. We have been urging her, as cases at school and in her grade have crept up, to reconsider, and I think she IS wearing a mask at least some of the time. But it’s hard to know. When you are eight, it is extremely difficult to understand abstract non-immediate consequences. 

We are in the very, very privileged position of not having any underlying health issues ourselves, and not having any immunocompromised people in our household or classroom/work situation to worry about so we are more relaxed than some. I don’t know much about Long Covid, so that does worry me a little. We are of course willing and happy to take stronger measures if necessary – like I am always happy to throw on a mask if a friend is wearing one, and I don’t insist on going out for coffee when it is perfectly acceptable to have coffee at my house. But I feel like we have reached a level of comfort and regularity with how we protect ourselves. More than ever, it feels like contracting Covid is inevitable. We have been so lucky not to have it (or to have had such mild cases it went through us undetected); that luck is bound to run out.  

We are looking at a nice long weekend ahead of us. I finally got some flowers into the flowerpots in my front and back yard, and that makes me feel much better about things. They were looking so dejected and depressed; now they have little bright spots of color. (Except for the pot that has been designated as Carla’s. She went with me to pick out the flowers, and she fell in love with some black petunias. She would have had all our pots full of black flowers if it were up to her. Instead, I bought her a black petunia and gave her her own pot. And then filled up the other flower pots with purple and yellow and pink.)

I am very disappointed that our friends are no longer coming. We haven’t seen them since February, and they are the kind of people whose social calendars fill up months in advance so the next time they can work us in is August. (In fact, we’d originally been scheduled to have them over for dinner in April, but they accidentally double-booked us and had to back out of that; late May was the first available option way back in March when they realized the issue.) So I am disappointed and cranky about that. Especially because I already bought – literally – ten Roma tomatoes so I can make salsa and five avocados so I can make guacamole. I guess my little family will be feasting on salsa and guacamole all weekend. Perhaps I can coax our neighbor to come over for a little birthday fiesta? 

In my planning for the dinner party, I totally forgot about the long weekend. So this morning I planned out our meals on the fly, mid-produce section. In addition to chips, salsa, guacamole, and strawberry cupcakes, here’s what we will be eating:

  • Ground Beef Tacos: Carla squealed with delight when I told her we will be having tacos. Same, Carla. Same.
  • Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Chicken, and Goat Cheese: I will be using regular strawberries this time, not pineberries. Also, I like to use a mix of spinach and arugula because I dislike spinach. Also also, I am going to make my favorite balsamic dressing instead of the raspberry vinaigrette. 
  • Steak Kebabs: This may end up being steaks and veggies instead because my husband has a very interesting aversion to cooking shish kebabs. Even if I am the one who threads the food onto the skewers AND grills the skewers, he is very… hesitant about it. I am choosing to see this quirk as cute.
  • Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas: This is what I planned to make for our friends. It’s fairly keto-friendly and always delicious.
  • Greek Chicken Chopped Salad: Unfortunately, I could not find any fresh oregano so I will need to go to the grocery store YET AGAIN. I will use that opportunity to buy more berries; I cannot get enough strawberries right now.

Salads and tacos. Sounds pretty great to me.

What are you up to this weekend? If you live in the U.S., are you doing anything special for Memorial Day?

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May is chaos. I was whining to the mom of one of Carla’s classmates recently about busy I feel, and she said in a gritted-teeth, long-suffering voice, “That’s just how May is. And it will get worse as the kids get older.” So that was cheering. 

It feels like I was just chugging along, doing my thing, and then suddenly realized that I have fifty deadlines heading my way and I am only partway through each project.  Luckily, this isn’t true (at least in the paying work sense; I am on top of those at least). But it FEELS that way. Worse, it feels like everyone else has alsosuddenly had the same realization. My email inbox is jammed with teacher conference requests and reminders to schedule my gutter cleaning and invitations to end-of-year parties and check-ins about summer swimming schedules and gently scolding messages from camp to fill out my kid’s many, many forms already and notifications to update school payment plans and on and on. 

We had, in the past week, an invitation to a musical performance at Carla’s school literally three days before the performance itself. And then a notice, seven days ago, from Carla’s teacher, that the class has themed days all this week – and require things like sandals that I had not yet purchased. Then we had to schedule a meeting with one of the teachers to review Carla’s goals for next year. And I (stupidly) signed up to volunteer at a big end-of-school carnival. Not to mention, we get alerts near daily about Covid cases in Carla’s grade. Plus, Carla’s been working on her big Eleanor Roosevelt research project. IT’S A LOT.

I have not felt up to most things lately – reading, cooking, planning meals, blogging – but I miss those things (except planning meals). So let’s try a random info dump. I will try not to complain TOO much, but no promises. 

Zoom Awkwardness: While I am deeply, sincerely grateful for the ability to meet with people virtually, I wish someone would figure out how to solve the end-of-meeting awkwardness. You know what I mean. When you have all already said goodbye, but then you have to fumble around to find the button that ends the meeting. I realize that this awkward moment lasts maybe five seconds, but I find it excruciating. Often, I find myself distracted in the last moments of the meeting itself because I am trying to plan my exit in the quickest possible way. But no. Even if I can find the “end meeting” button ahead of time, I inevitably fumble it, or forget that I’ve carefully hovered my cursor over it for exactly that purpose, or the “are you sure?” box pops up and I just want to die of embarrassment. I realize this may not be as big a deal to some people as it is to me, and obviously I have lived to zoom again, but I HATE IT. Just let me out of this virtual discomfort! 

End of Year Teacher Gift: Every year, our Room Parent (i.e. Room Mom) collects money for a class gift. Every year, I dutifully send in money. Every year, I fret and worry and scour Etsy for an additional gift that my kid can give to her teacher, personally, on top of the considerable amount we have already sent in. Every year, I decide that the collective gift is BETTER – usually it’s a gift card, and I’m guessing it is much more useful/appreciated by the teacher than whatever dumb crap I could come up with – and exit Etsy without buying the personalized water bottle/bookmark/coffee mug I was pondering. And yet, despite going through this for SIX YEARS NOW, I inevitably find myself in the last week of school, fretting and fretting about the possibility of being the ONLY person who doesn’t double gift with a physical gift in addition to the cash contribution.

Road Trip: I am doing a right terrible job of Not Complaining, so let’s talk about something positive. My husband and Carla and I are going on a Road Trip this summer!!!! Aside from the astronomical cost of gas, I am really excited about our Road Trip. (Yes, I am capitalizing it.) We finalized all our hotel stays over the weekend, and so now I am gleefully shopping for Road Trip Necessities. This is what my father refers to as a “Tool Buying Opportunity,” which is part of what makes the planning portion of something (an event, a hobby) as enjoyable as or more enjoyable than the actual thing itself. My husband is researching the best family audiobooks to buy (or check out from our library) for our trip, and I love that this is the way his trip planning excitement manifests. He has already played a few samples to Carla, so that they can figure out whether she’ll have trouble understanding the accent of the narrator. 

Birthday Planning Stagnation: Despite ALL of your lovely suggestions, I have made ZERO progress toward planning Carla’s birthday party. Zero. This fills me with dread and anxiety. However, I will say that with every confident, encouraging comment about hosting a party here, I grew more and more entrenched in my certainty that having a party in my home is NOT the right way to go. So that was extremely helpful, and I am so appreciative. I genuinely envy those readers who are so easy-breezy about hosting an in-home birthday party. You make it sound so easy! And fun! And like the better choice! But my gut was clear: NO. So whatever we end up doing, it will be somewhere else. Your kind, helpful suggestions also clarified for me something that I already knew – but did not know I felt with such stringency – which is that I loathe trampoline parks. We used to take Carla when she was smaller, because it was a great way to release her endless reserves of energy in the dragging months of winter. But even then I always felt like I had to be careful not to touch ANYTHING, and I would always through Carla in the tub and her clothing in the washing machine the instant we returned home. Perhaps this speaks more to the cleanliness of my local trampoline park than to anything else, but since that’s what we have available, I am going to skip it. So I suppose even if I haven’t made any forward progress, I am at the very least narrowing the field. Thank you so much for your help, even if you may feel like I am ignoring your very helpful recommendations. Your advice is helpful nonetheless. 

Handyman: In other good news, I finally finally got a handyman to not only return my call, but to come over and look at my long list of projects!!!! He seems great. He reviewed things and took measurements, and was very clear on things he can/will do and things he cannot/won’t. The most important result, though, is that he CAN and WILL repair our ceiling. I don’t know if I’ve described our ceiling hole in this space, but I am going to do so now in case you want to skip to the next equally riveting bullet. It is not a hole, per se. It is more like a place where the plaster has declined to provide its normal coverage. The plaster is peeling away from whatever material forms the ceiling, and so it looks like a hole. We have had the spot examined several times by a plumber (and by our fathers), and it does not appear to be a leak. And it’s been there for YEARS, so I think we would know by now. But this stupid plaster lapse makes me so self-conscious about our house. It looks terrible, and it’s right above the kitchen table, and I hate it. And now it will be fixed!!!! Of course, there is no scheduled date for the fixing; the handyman warned me he is booked out for several weeks. So I guess now I am just hoping he really will send me an estimate and offer some dates. I almost don’t care what it will cost because I want it fixed. But then again, I have no idea what this kind of thing should cost, so… I will report back on whether it is a swallowable amount or something that kicks me in the gut and forces me to live with the stupid hole for longer. Like I said, we’ve been living with it for YEARS, so it shouldn’t be such a big deal to keep on living with it. But at some point in the past few months, I have reached some sort of tell-tale heart level of complete inability to co-exist with this thing for one second longer. 

Calendar Bedlam: Recently, I am having an issue that makes me think my mind is on a steep decline. I keep making plans, putting them in EMPTY SPOTS in my calendar, and then realizing – sometime later – that I have double booked myself. Example 1: A friend invites me to a performance. I check the calendar and see I have plans that night. I decline. Later, a friend invites me to dinner. I check the calendar and see I am free, so I accept. The next time I talk to the performer friend, she mentions the day of her performance… which is on the day I originally had free but now do not. Example 2: I set a playdate for Carla. The next day, I notice that she in fact has an orthodontist appointment that day, so I have to reschedule the playdate. Example 3: I have to do a mandatory nicotine test per our insurance, so I schedule it in an empty spot on the calendar. I get a reminder for the test at the same time I get a reminder for a meeting with Carla’s teacher, because I have scheduled them in the same time slot. WHY AM I DOING THIS AND HOW CAN I STOP.

Dirty Martinis: I recently learned the joy and beauty of a very, very dirty martini. My whole life, I have been staunchly anti-vodka, but it seems that may be because I have only ever had cheap vodka? I recently had a martini with really good, smooth vodka and it was delicious. Then I made one at home, with the fancy expensive vodka my father-in-law drinks, and it was also delicious. I am now out of olive juice.

Jury Duty: My stint of jury duty went GREAT. The summons said that we needed to be available for five days, beginning on a Monday. So I prepared to be gone that entire week. When I did jury duty several years ago, I went in on a Monday, sat around all day, and then was called to a courtroom near the end of the day. I wasn’t selected for that jury, but I was released from jury duty for the rest of the week. This time, you call a number in advance of your service and figure out if your jury number has been selected for that day. I got to miss two days, but my number was called for Wednesday. Then I arrived at the courthouse, sat around all day, and… was released. I didn’t have to go back at all! It was… kind of pleasant? Of course, the anticipation was the dreadful part. I had to worry about childcare for Carla for the whole week, and then I had to worry about driving on a freeway during rush hour, and I had to worry about parking downtown. But once I had Carla stowed at school, had made it downtown, parked, and successfully made it to the courthouse, it was fine! Pleasant, even! It was a beautiful day and we got ninety minutes (!!!!) for our lunch hour, so I got something from Starbucks and walked around downtown. I was even a teeny bit disappointed that I didn’t get selected for a case – I think it would be interesting to serve on a jury. The biggest inconvenience of the week, it turned out, was that I kept having to email the school to let them know that Carla would or wouldn’t be arriving early for babysitting services. 

Step Off: My watch has developed quite an overblown sense of its own roll in my life lately. Constantly telling me to stop and breathe, or noting that I am usually more active at this time of day what is up????, or advising me that I can “still do it!” if I just take a brisk 20-minute walk at 11:15 pm on a weekday. And now this??? Stay in your lane, watch. I am doing the best that I can.

Keto Stall: I feel the need to give you a keto update. During my extravagant jury duty lunch hour, I ordered coffee with cream (despite the fact that I hate coffee) and a pre-made lunch kit that seemed to be fairly keto-friendly: salami, cheese, and some nuts/dried fruit that I ate even though I’m sure it was full of sugar. I did not eat the crackers. Anyway: I continue to follow a low-carb plan. And I have completely stalled. It is SO frustrating. I am doing the plan, I am eating the high-protein/high-fat foods. I am in ketosis. And yet my weight has gone nowhere. It wouldn’t be so terrible except that I HATE it. Food is not fun or enjoyable. I do not look forward to meals, and in fact actively dread them. I cannot stand to plan meals, because they are inevitably some variation on meat + veg, or else they are complicated and frequently end up tasting awful. I am constantly asking my husband what I should make for dinner. I am not having fun, I am not losing weight, it is all awful. And yet any time I LOOK at a carb, I instantly gain two pounds. So I don’t think I’m ready to quit keto either. At least I am maintaining this not-quite-ten-percent-of-my-bodyweight weight loss. ARGH. 

A Good Salad: I did make a really good salad recently. It was arugula (yum) and spinach (yuck), heavily weighted on the arugula side for me and on the spinach side for my husband (who dislikes arugula). I added goat cheese, blueberries, strawberries, a sprinkling of sliced almonds, and grilled chicken. And then I added balsamic dressing because I love dressing as much as I love sauce. (Perhaps this is causing the stall in the previous bullet, perhaps indeed, although I don’t eat salads often because of the dressing factor.)

Strawberry Marketing: The strawberries in the aforementioned salad were PINK. My grocery store had a big display and they had a lot of marketing to assure customers that the strawberries are fully ripe! And taste like pineapple! I had to try them. My husband wondered if they might taste like underripe strawberries and indeed they did. They were fine with some goat cheese and balsamic dressing though, but NOT worth $6.99 per container when I can buy actual ripe strawberry tasting strawberries for $3.50. Between these berries and the miniature iceberg lettuces, produce marketers are really working hard for their money, let me tell you.

Garden Inertia: Let us turn to another pleasant topic, which is gardening. Of which I have also done ZERO. What the hell am I doing with my time, if I am not cooking or gardening or planning Carla’s birthday party? I am fretting and wringing my hands and going in circles is what. We have people coming for dinner this weekend, so now I am suddenly feeling Very Urgent about having at least some flowers in pots. It’s not like my “garden” is anything impressive. But I do like to have a few pots with flowers and I need to do that. Perhaps Carla and I will go after school. 

Spring Shopping Syndrome: In addition to fretting/hand wringing, I have been struck by Spring Shopping Syndrome. You are familiar with this yes? The point at which the weather begins to edge carefully toward warmth and suddenly you hate every single item of clothing you own? I have been buying (and then returning) things with great abandon. Loft has been my latest obsession, and they know it: they keep emailing me with adorable dresses front and center, and so I order the dress and then it doesn’t fit and I take it back. But, to get free shipping, I added on a cute blouse, and that DID fit, so now I have that sweet, sweet dopamine rush of clicking “buy” alongside the possibility, however small, that the item I bought will be cute, which makes me want to repeat the process all over again. Interesting how I am able to analyze this behavior and see it for what it is and yet I still can’t stop/won’t stop. 

All right, that’s it for now my dear Internet.

What’s clogging your calendar this month? Have you made any springy purchases? Tell me which deer-proof flowers to buy for my garden. 

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Carla’s birthday is a little more than a month away and I have NOTHING planned. Usually by this point, I have fretted all over this little blog about theme and where to find theme-appropriate napkins and how difficult it was to pin down a venue and which cake I’m going to make. But this year, I have… nothing. 

(Not even a cake request, which is very un-Carla! And perhaps… perhaps this is the year I outsource the cake baking????)

Part of the problem – maybe the MAIN part – is that Carla doesn’t have any sort of specific desire for a party this year. I mean, she wants A Party. But she hasn’t said “I want a tea party” or “let’s all play LEGOs” or “I want to paint pottery!” or whatever. I am not a creative person, when it comes to birthdays. All my creativity crumples into dust beneath the anxiety of planning an event and executing that event and then attending said event with multiple other humans, all of whom I am expected to interact with. 

The only things at all that Carla has expressed interest in are a) a sleepover and b) a party at our house, featuring a treasure hunt. 

Treasure Hunt: When Carla’s cousin was here recently, I made a treasure hunt for them. I’ve done one another time, when I hosted three other families and did a treasure hunt for the kids. I LIKE making treasure hunts. But the older the kids get, the more challenging it is to create clues that won’t stump them, but will take more than five seconds to solve. 

Plus, while I am fine chasing my one niece and my one child around our very safe cul-de-sac while they look for clues, I don’t know a) how I would feel about chasing multiple nine-year-olds around the neighborhood or b) how other parents might feel about their kids being let loose into the wild.

It is almost more challenging to come up with prizes for this age group. Although I suppose if Carla lands on a theme, I could find something that works. 

The biggest challenge of all with treasure hunts is making them long enough. You can make 20 clues and have the kids run up and down the stairs and around the cul-de-sac and it still ends up taking them under 15 minutes to finish. Which is quite deflating when it takes MUCH LONGER THAN THAT to create the clues and hide them.

Party at Our House: The main issue, though, is that I don’t want to have a party at my house. I find the idea of a bunch of kids invading my space SO stressful, even though it shouldn’t be. 

All my birthday parties when I was growing up took place at my house. And they were wonderful! I remember, when I was really little, playing games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or drop a pin in a bucket while blindfolded. My mother made treasure hunts, which is probably where I learned to love them. 

My mom was fantastic about birthday parties, my whole life. She always did something fun and delightful. My favorite childhood birthday was the one where she bought a little Troll doll for each guest and we all sat around my kitchen table and decorated them. I seem to remember that it was a contest, but… I’m sure she found some way to make it so that everyone won. 

(Is there a Troll-doll equivalent that today’s nine-year-olds would like?)

There’s also a bit of Keeping Up with the Joneses going on, I can admit. Carla’s classmates often have very impressive parties – think bouncy houses and country clubs and backyard pools. Most of Carla’s friends live in enormous homes with beautiful properties. When we’ve been invited over for parties, there are gorgeous decorations and catered food. Our backyard is (currently) a marsh, and gets so incredibly hot in the summer that it’s not really comfortable for guests. Our outdoor furniture is old and mismatched and we don’t have the ziplines or stone patios or pools that many people have. Our house itself is smallish and somewhat in disrepair – both facts that seem glaringly obvious when we have other people over. Plus, after hosting Carla’s first two or three birthday parties here, I find decorating SO stressful it’s just not even worth it. I want the Instagram/Pinterest-worthy party, but I am not great at executing that level of creativity/cuteness. I suppose I could pay someone else to do it, but that sounds pricey.

If I could be certain that all the parents would just roll up to our driveway and toss their kids out the door and leave… I might feel a little bit better. Kids in general aren’t super judgmental – I don’t remember noticing the décor or size or quality of furniture at any of my friends’ houses – and I think as long as they got to roam around and eat cake, they would be okay. Maybe this is the age where parents would feel okay dropping them off? Maybe this is the perfect time for me to get away with a banner and a couple of balloons and maybe a colorful tablecloth and not do anything else???

I don’t know. Even if it were just kids, I think I would find it very anxious-making. I much prefer going to a specific place that has employees who entertain the kids or supervise an activity and then going home to my quiet, clean, one-kid-only home.

To recap: it feels like having a party HERE would require a) outsourcing and spending a lot of money or b) doing things myself and becoming very stressed AND probably spending a lot of money. I want to avoid it… but I don’t have any alternate ideas. It feels like we’ve exhausted the typical birthday party venues… and I’ve tried looking for others with no success. 

The new Jurassic World movie is coming out around her birthday, and Carla is desperate to see it. Our local movie theaters were allowing people to rent them out for birthdays… but I haven’t looked into whether they are still doing that. Plus, I don’t know how many of Carla’s friends’ parents would allow them to see a Jurassic World movie (nor how many of her friends would actually want to see it). That may be something the three of us do as a family. 

Sleepover: Probably the best compromise would be hosting a sleepover. The reason this feels like a compromise is that I would limit Carla to one or two friends, so it would be less stressful. Presumably. But… then she would have to choose just one or two friends, and she’s a kid who has a LOT of friends, so I don’t know how she would choose. In this time of Covid, would anyone even be comfortable with that (not that they aren’t sharing the same air every day at school)? And my beloved child is a person whose energy level escalates in direct proportion to how tired she is, so I am imagining that NO ONE would sleep at all. Not that you are expected to sleep much at a sleepover, but… no sleep sounds pretty dreadful for all involved, including the poor parents who would be collecting their exhausted children the next day. 

Plus… what do you DO for a nine-year-old sleepover? The only sleepovers I remember (and, bless my parents, sometimes I had MANY friends sleep over) involved activities like calling boys on my phone or watching scary movies or playing with my Ouija board… all of which seem a little mature for this age group. 

A few of my friends-who-are-parents don’t do a party at all for their kids. For some, this is just the way it is. For others, maybe some years it works out and some years it doesn’t. I wish we could go this route! But I know Carla LOVES a party, so I’m not sure she would roll with it. 

As usual, the VAST BULK of this stress is mine. I know Carla wouldn’t really care about any of the things that bother me. I know her friends wouldn’t really care, I know even the most judgmental of parents would only turn up their noses for a few seconds before forgetting about me entirely. And yet I cannot talk myself out of feeling the stress. 

So here I am, doing nothing but fretting, as the weeks tick by.

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I have a deadline but am going through my usual pre-writing ritual of not being able to focus on my assignment AT ALL. The best thing, when that happens, is to lean into it. Completely ignore the work, and do something else. Probably I should attack the literal mountain of clean laundry I have been avoiding for two weeks now. I just keep… washing clothes and then heaping them on the guest bed and not folding them. Carla and I have both worn some things we would normally avoid simply because it is impossible to find something in Mount Laundry. It is at a very dire point indeed, and also my family owns way too much clothing.

While I discover which Important Task I am willing to procrastinate more, I will write a blog post.

A Thing I Am Dreading: I am scheduled for jury duty soon, and I have known about it for months (and delayed it twice), and at this point I just need to get it over with. Jury duty would be so interesting, I think, if I didn’t have to worry about Carla logistics. Once this current project is done, I have a break from paying work, and the idea of listening to a real, live legal proceeding sounds kind of cool. Not to mention all the people watching I could do while I wait to be called! But even though I have arranged before- and after-school care for Carla, I am still stressed out. The court is in the middle of the city, and I have to drive on the freeway during rush hour, both ways, and it’s far enough away that I am stressed I will be late dropping Carla off or picking her up. My husband will try to help where he can, of course, but his work schedule is too unpredictable for me to count on him. The last time I did jury duty, I remember being SO stressed about the exact same things. I was there for an entire day before I got called into a courtroom to be screened for that case’s jury. I can’t remember exactly what happened – maybe they filled the jury before they got to me? – but I was sent home at the end of the day and didn’t have to come back. Here’s hoping something similar happens this time, too! [Semi-Related Tangent: When I searched my blog to see if I had already whined about jury duty (I had, right here), I came across this post and wow, I can really work up a good froth about bureaucratic BS, can’t I?]

A Thing I Need to Buy: Carla is doing a school project on Eleanor Roosevelt and will need this month an Eleanor Roosevelt costume. Does Eleanor Roosevelt have a Signature Look? Not so far as I can tell! Mainly dark, severe-looking clothing, furs, long strands of pearls, a wide variety of hats. I am… not having much luck finding anything in a child’s size. I think I can cobble a few items together (maybe this WW2 dress? (Which… why is that a costume???) And this fur shawl? And this hat?) but it’s not an insignificant cost when you add everything up, plus Carla says that the hat NEEDS FEATHERS. I feel like maybe we could put together something from things we own, although Carla would prefer to use this as a Buying Opportunity, but I am afraid that the few things that we have that are even adjacent to looking like they are from the right era won’t look Eleanor Roosevelty enough. Surely most parents aren’t going to buy a full-on costume (like one of the moms I know is doing) and are going to slap something together at the last minute, right? The whole thing is making me grouchy. You don’t happen to have an Eleanor Roosevelt costume lying around in your closet, do you?

A Thing I Recently Made: My husband and I ate this balsamic chicken and mushrooms dish last night. (I made a half portion and used goat cheese instead of feta.) It was a little bit of a hassle because the recipe required that I brown the chicken and mushrooms before putting them into the casserole dish. However, it was quite delicious and just 5 net carbs per serving. I did feel a little weird not having anything else to go along with it. I’d planned to do a side salad but it just didn’t happen. (“Is this… all?” my husband asked when I plated it alongside a big empty slice of plate.) But it was yummy and very filling. Definitely something I will make again. 

A Thing That Went Well: I had a work meeting this week, and five minutes before it started a bunch of workmen started unloading a big digging machine into my yard. They are doing some sort of work for the city, I think, and I panicked. My office is on the front of the house and I don’t have any other Zoom-appropriate backgrounds in my home. So I ran outside in my bare feet and begged the workers to delay until the end of my meeting. AND THEY DID. The meeting went really well and it was very quiet and once it was done I went back outside and thanked the workers. They got started and I was VERY GLAD I’d asked them to wait. You’d think all the rain we’ve been having would have made the ground nice and soft, but it sounded like they were clanging metal directly against rock the entire time. 

A Thing I Have Been Thinking About: For some reason, I recently found myself reading a couple of old blog posts I wrote right around the time of Carla’s birth. And I realized I have never posted her birth story. Now that it’s almost nine years later, it’s too late, right? Or maybe it isn’t? I don’t know. Now that I have some (a lot) of distance from it, her birth seems like not that big of a deal. But at the time it was so traumatic to me, and dredged up so many intense and complicated feelings that I couldn’t even THINK of it – for years! – without crying. I am pretty sure I’m past that now. I have more perspective. Time really does heal. But it might be fun to have a record of that time, even if the record is being made now, from memory? I don’t know. We’ll see. 

What influential dead person would you dress up as, for a third grade social studies project?

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When my husband and I did Keto in 2020, we went hog wild. We bought ALL the Keto-specific products. We bought cheese by the cartload. We bought packages and packages of crunchy cheese snacks. We bought almond flour and flaxseed meal and xanthan gum. We bought avocado oil and MCT oil. We bought Keto pancake mix and Keto maple syrup. We bought Keto powdered erythritol and liquid stevia. We had all these plans to make Keto recipes and made many of them. But we found that a lot of the things we tried were either unpalatable or palatable only once or twice. 

This time around, I have been trying to live without Keto recipes and Keto items as much as possible.

But I have found a few Keto-specific items that I really like. This is, perhaps, in part due to the passage of two years’ time. Keto still seems very popular, and I think more and more products have become available since 2020 – and the products that are coming out keep getting better and tastier. 

My primary care doctor recommended two of the first Keto-friendly foods I tried this go-round, and they turned out to be two products that I really like:

Two Good Yogurt: Each container of yogurt contains 3 net grams of carbs. I don’t love this yogurt (it has a slight aftertaste, which I associate with stevia, and it is a little on the tangy side for my taste), so I don’t eat it every day. But it definitely scratches the yogurt itch. And it comes in a lot of different flavors, which adds some nice variety to my life. My favorite is mango, followed by raspberry and vanilla.

Protein Bread: My doctor told me that this was ONLY at Aldi’s, and so far, that’s the only place I can find it. (Strangely enough, Aldi also sells bread that has “Keto friendly!” on the wrapper, but turns out to be… a lot of carbs.) This particular bread has 4 grams of net carbs per slice. That is a lot – more than 20% of my daily allotted carbs – but sometimes I just need some bread. And I find that this bread is VERY satisfying. It tastes fine – nutty and wholesome. But more important, it is BREAD. My husband made a loaf of “Keto bread” in 2020, and it was NOT bread. It was crumbly and bitter and did not count as bread in my mind. But this protein bread is definitely bread in taste and texture. It’s pretty hearty, too, and since I usually pair it with cheese or avocado, it makes for a very filling, satisfying meal. I don’t eat it every day, so I remove a few slices and then freeze the rest. I find that it takes longer than most breads to toast – I like a nice, crunchy piece of toast. Putting it in the oven helps. 

There are a ton of low-carb and “Keto” breads on the market lately… but I have only tried this one. Because of my experience in 2020, I am wary of spending money on foods I end up hating. But… I am curious about some things. The last time I went to Whole Foods, I found a low-carb bread that I want to try. It was out of stock, of course, but if I ever get my hands on it I will test it out and let you know. 

One of the things that I crave the most while on Keto is pizza. And many of the Keto-friendly pizza options I have tried are not great. Most so-called “low-carb” crusts are not actually low-carb. Like the cauliflower pizza crust at Trader Joe’s is 16 grams of net carbs for one-sixth of the crust. If I am going to blow 16 grams of carbs on one meal, it better be for an entire pizza. I have made “Fathead Dough,” which is a low carb pizza dough… and it is so hard for me to make. It never comes together correctly. I think the one time I got it to work, it was fine, but it wasn’t worth the work or the frustration. Plus, it’s still 2 grams of net carbs per one-eighth of the total crust, which… again, I want to eat more than one slice of pizza, you know? And I want to be very clear: I am not eating pizza crust made out of chicken. That sounds… highly unpleasant. (Although my husband has tried it and thought it was fine.)

To address my pizza craving, I turned to tortillas. And I was pleasantly surprised to find several low-carb tortilla options. Here are my two favorites:

Protein Plant Powered Tortillas:  Each of these tortillas has 3 grams of net carbs, and when you add sauce and cheese and pepperoni, it bakes up to be a very satisfying pizza. The tortilla is slightly sweet, and it’s very soft and thin. It crisps up decently in the oven, and I find it to be a really good option for a Keto pizza crust. I have not tried it for other purposes (yet), but I’m guessing it would be a perfectly adequate substitution for burritos or even tacos. 

Street Tacos Carb Balance Whole Wheat Tortillas: These little tortillas are smaller than the above ones, but they are thicker and – I think – tastier. You get two of them for 3 grams of net carbs. Because they are a little thicker, they make a nice sturdy crust for a mini pizza. I always make at least two mini pizzas, sometimes three, and they definitely help curb the pizza cravings. Somehow I haven’t tried these with tacos yet either, but I think they would be delicious.

Keto Blueberry Cinnamon Nut Granola: I bought this on a whim at Costco, and I am very glad I did. (Apparently, you can also buy it on amazon. There are multiple flavors, too!) One of the things Keto lacks is an abundance of crunchy foods. (Outside of vegetables. And dehydrated cheese.) One-third of a cup of this granola has 3 net grams of carbs. (Hmmm. On the Nutrail website, it says 2 grams of net carbs… but on the bag it says 3… Either way, a decently low carb count for what you get.) Pair it with the Two Good yogurt and you have a very satisfying breakfast on your hands. Like the yogurt, it doesn’t taste exactly like regular granola. I feel like the monkfruit sweetener is noticeable, although it’s not bad. But it has a great texture and I love the addition of the dried blueberries. 

Keto Ice Cream: I don’t miss sweets a whole lot on Keto. I think I’m too busy missing black beans and soups and chips and pizza and garlic bread and pasta and beer. Ahem. Where was I? Oh right, sweets. I’m just not a big sweets eater. But once in awhile, I do miss ice cream. Fortunately, there is an abundant variety of frozen desserts available to us. What a time to be alive. Continuous outbreaks of war and ongoing gun violence, but grocery stores have frozen desserts as far as the eye can see. My two favorites are Halo Top Chocolate Cheesecake (from its Keto series; not sure if there is a chocolate cheesecake flavor in its other series) and Keto Mint Chip. If you have never tried these before: they take some getting used to. The texture is so very, very different from real ice cream. It’s… crumbly. But if you let it sit out for a very, very, very long time, or if you grow deeply impatient and microwave it for 15 seconds or so, it starts to melt and become creamy. At least around the edges. Texture aside, I like the flavor of both of these ice creams. The Halo Top is satisfyingly chocolatey, and has these weird (but tasty!) little cream cheese pellets that add a nice cheesecake essence. I am describing it accurately but not appealingly, I realize that. I do actually LIKE it. The Keto option is refreshingly minty and has a profusion of good-size chocolate chips. I have yet to try any other flavors, but there are LOTS.

Atkins Keto Caramel Almond Nut Clusters: I mentioned these before, but I am including them here as well because they are just really so good. At just 2 grams of net carbs per cluster, they are the perfect response to a candy bar craving or to the feeling of FOMO one gets when one’s entire family are eating chewy, delicious molasses cookies with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. And the crunch of the nuts and the chew of the caramel makes them extremely satisfying. They do have that slight aftertaste of erythritol, but it’s not bad. And sometimes you just want something that is as close as possible to candy without being candy. 

Okay, so those are all the things that are made low-carb on purpose. But there are also some products that exist free of Keto/low-carb boundaries that I nonetheless turn to frequently.

Milkadamia Unsweetened Macadamia Nut Milk: When I did Keto in 2020, I used almond milk for my tea, which is a great option that I still love. (The brand of unsweetened almond milk I bought was 1 gram of net carbs per eight-ounce serving. Some brands have a LOT more carbs though.) But when Nicole mentioned that she had switched to macadamia nut milk, I decided to give it a try. It strikes me as slightly thicker/creamier than almond milk, and the flavor is unobjectionable.  It also has less than 1 net gram of carbs per eight-ounce serving, and I use a full cup of it in my tea every day. 

Moo is moot. Apparently.

Low-Carb Sauces: One of the things I love most in life is sauces and sauces are tricky on Keto. A lot of sauces have sugar or other carb-heavy ingredients. That’s why ketchup is a no-no on Keto. I make do with copious amounts of sriracha and mustard… and then I try any no-carb sauce I come across. I picked up this delicious no-carb Lemon Herb Aioli at my grocery store and love it. It’s excellent with salmon. Rich and creamy and flavorful. It does not taste like a diet food and that’s because it is NOT a diet food. I bet it would be tasty with artichokes or asparagus. I loved it so much, I grabbed the Sriracha Aioli (which has 1 gram of net carbs per tablespoon, so I would use it more sparingly) (not that I use a TON of the lemon herb aioli; a tablespoon goes a long way) the next time I went to the store. I’m going to put it on shrimp and roasted cauliflower and see if it works as a marinade for grilled chicken or pork. Stonewall Kitchen has a bunch of flavors, and I want to try the Chipotle Aioli and the Habanero Mango Aioli. Perhaps that is too much aioli for one person to have in her refrigerator, I don’t know.

Bubly: For that dangerous hungry time between five o’clock and dinnertime (which, for me, is usually 8:00 or later, sigh), I find myself craving wine. What a delightful discovery when I learned that a can of Bubly sparkling water with a squeeze of cherry Koolaid liquid works just as well as a glass of chardonnay. Especially if I pair it with some slices of sharp cheddar cheese. The cherry Bubly is my favorite, but I also love the raspberry and the blackberry. The grapefruit is good (and pairs well with gin/tequila and lime juice!) and the passionfruit is decent. The only Bubly flavor I do not care for is blueberry.

The one thing I haven’t found yet is a good Keto tortilla chip. It seems like there are several options that contain only 3 to 4 net grams of carbs per bag, but I haven’t come across any in the wild… and don’t really want to spend $20-$30 to order a bunch of chips I may not end up liking. If I find a single bag at a grocery store somewhere, I will definitely try it and report back. 

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Do you have siblings? What is your relationship with them like?

One of the things that absolutely FASCINATES me is siblings and sibling relationships. I think this is because my brother and I are so far apart in age that we are more like two separate only children who were raised by the same parents and shared the same home for twelve years. 

When I left for college, he was in sixth grade. Sixth! Grade! That is a vast distance, when you are a kid. He is sort of stuck at age twelve in my mind, with the glasses and the sticky-uppy haird, which is quite hilarious now that you consider he is a six-foot tall law enforcement agent with a wife. 

Anyway: I went to college, and then I never really came home (beyond a summer or two). And then when I graduated college, I went to grad school. And after I graduated grad school, my brother went into the Army and served in Iraq. We never lived less than 2,000 miles away from one another, and currently we are separated by a distance of 3,900 miles and three time zones. 

The time zone thing prevents regular communication, by the way. That plus the fact that he often works nights. I don’t remember the last time we talked on the phone. 

I love the kid (Army veteran with a beard and a Master’s degree), but we aren’t what I’d call close. 

When we went on vacation, my brother and his wife were there – which was FABULOUS. I have a real idea of what to get each of them for their next birthdays, for one thing. But one notable observation I made was that my sister-in-law has a VERY close relationship with her brother. 

They are closer in age – three years – and they text each other all the time, talk to each other on the phone at a whim (a whim!), and my sister-in-law has flown out to see him in grad school several times. My brother has never even been to my home! And I’ve lived here for a dozen years! Listen I am not jealous or upset – my brother and I get along, we love each other, we would be there for each other in a heartbeat – I just find it fascinating!

My parents each have multiple siblings, and they talk to those siblings… occasionally. The siblings show up for major life events (milestone birthdays, birth of children/grandchildren, funerals, weddings), but they are scattered across the country and rarely see each other in person. 

A good friend of mine lives near her sister, and they work from home together, share a nanny for their combined kids, own a vacation home together, and take vacations together. That is so wild to me! 

What must it be like to have a close relationship with a sibling? And what if you have MORE THAN ONE sibling? Are some siblings close and others not as close? Do your sibling relationships emulate those of your parents? If you DON’T have a sibling, do you wish you had one? Sometimes I feel terrible that Carla doesn’t have a sibling (and many, many people have shamed me/us for not giving her one), but there’s no guarantee that siblings will like each other, let alone be close!

The whole thing is very interesting to me! And, unless my brother and I jointly agree to drastically change our lives/personalities, it’s something I can NEVER KNOW or experience!

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Some people mentioned an interest in my current Keto Experience, and since – as when on any diet – I think about Keto a lot, I am happy to oblige. 

However, I keep feeling blocked when I try to talk about it. I feel like I have to have an explanation for trying Keto again. And the explanation (I want to lose weight) feels unsatisfactory to me. 

For one thing, the subject of weight is so FRAUGHT. My experience of my body should have nothing to do with anyone else’s experience of their body, and yet weight is so comparative. It is almost impossible to say that a person who wants to change her body is not passing judgment on someone whose body is different from her own. I think we all know that both things are true: I can look at myself and find fault, while seeing absolutely no fault in others. I can know that, experience that, but also feel judged by others who are on their own personal paths. I would never want my decision to lose weight make someone else feel bad. And I don’t want to TALK about weight a lot, either – I had an acquaintance who recently lost a lot of weight, and I am very proud of her for achieving a goal she set for herself and happy for her that she feels so good, but literally EVERY conversation we have includes weight talk and I cannot handle it. So beyond a few posts, which I will clearly label as Keto adjacent, I promise to avoid weight talk. Maybe I will come back and update you on progress, if there is any, but maybe not. 

Another thing that makes me feel conflicted about Keto is that I have tried – so hard – these past two years to love my body the way it is. I’ve tried to accept its changes, to eat intuitively, and to buy clothes that fit me. I feel like I should love my body. But I don’t. So wanting to lose weight feels like a failure. 

But the fact is, I DO want to lose weight.

Plus… I feel like I’ve been instructed to lose weight, which makes me feel both resistant and ashamed. When I went to my new gynecologist earlier this year, she told me I needed to lose weight. Those weren’t her exact words – and I don’t think she even brought it up. I think I may have made a comment about gaining weight during the pandemic, and she said something about how it would be a good idea for me to lose [obscene amount] of weight. When she said that, I felt crushed with despair. I think we can all agree that it’s one thing when you know that you need to do something “for your health.” But it’s entirely another when a medical professional tells you the same thing (especially when she is suggesting it to you in a reasoned and compassionate way). 

When I went to my new primary care doctor, I mentioned what the gynecologist had said. My new doctor (I love her so) shrugged and said that the gyn was going by OLD rules, and that I was really fine. There is a wider range of “healthy” weight/BMI than medical science previously prescribed, and I was within that range. But then she said I might be more comfortable if I lose [less obscene amount] of weight. 

She was the one who recommended Keto. And because I am nothing if not A Rule Follower, I felt like I had to at least give it a try. (As I explained it to my husband: if I ask for advice in solving a problem and then don’t follow that advice, I can’t complain to you later about the same problem.)

I told her that I had done Keto before, and that I hated it in part because – as with all diets – you had to think about food all day every day. My husband and I went All In, the first time. We were super strict. We tracked all of our macros – protein, fat, and carbs – and made sure we were getting the prescribed amount of each. It was a constant battle to get enough protein and fat without drastically overreaching one or the other. It was just as bad as calorie counting, and I hated it. It feels disordered to me, to be constantly wondering if you’re eating enough or too much. I never wanted to do that again.

My doctor claimed that she didn’t track every little thing. She simply stays under 20 grams of net carbs per day. 

I was suspicious. But it sounded appealing, to only think about the carbs. And I wondered if maybe I could fit Keto/low-carb to my needs rather than the other way around. 

I have been much more relaxed, this time. And – not surprisingly – the weight is coming off much more slowly. But it is coming off. (It went right back on when I ditched Keto over my vacation, though. So I will have to figure out how – or if – I can ever add carbs back to my diet without gaining everything back. But that’s a problem for the future.) 

The first time I did Keto, I lost about 10% of my bodyweight in about six weeks. 

This time, it took me about six weeks to lose 6% of my bodyweight. BUT I was taking at least one weekend day “off” of Keto during that time. 

It’s clear to me that if I want to supercharge the results I want, I need to stick to it more strictly. But my husband thinks that it might be more sustainable to do it the way I am – slowly, without feeling overly restricted.

I don’t know. It still seems like early days – especially since I took a week off for vacation and it feels almost as though I am starting from scratch. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. 

Here are the main “rules” I am following this time around:

  1. I try to limit my intake of net carbs to 18 grams per day. I use the free version of Carb Manager to track my carb intake. I think it’s a very user friendly app, and the database of foods is vast and fairly accurate. 
  2. I try to eat foods I like as often as possible. Salmon vs. eggs, for instance. And I am trying to continue to make and eat recipes I like. For example, I will still eat stir fry, just without so much sauce and with no rice. 
  3. When it comes to veggies, I try not to be too restrictive. One cup of raw broccoli, for instance, is 4 grams of net carbs. If I have only 8 grams of net carbs available for dinner, but I want to eat a third cup of broccoli, I eat the extra broccoli. 
  4. I prioritize protein over fat. True Keto is a balance between protein, fat, and carbs. But when I did Keto before, I found myself forcing down things I didn’t want in order to get the “right” amount of fat. I would add MCT oil to my tea, for instance. It was awful and made me feel sick. Now, if I don’t get “enough” fat, oh well. 
  5. I try to drink a LOT of water. I have found that I feel more full if I start the day with a glass of water than if I go straight into tea/breakfast. 
  6. I do not think about calories. When I look at my Carb Manager app, my caloric intake is all over the map. 1400 calories one day, 1100 the next, 1500 the next, 584 calories the next (which obviously is not sustainable or healthy, and the low calorie content was certainly not intentional), 1350 the next. The carbs are my focus, not the overall calories. This helps, I think, keep me from the feeling that I am constantly thinking about food and tracking food all day long. I mean, I do track my food. But it’s much less of an ordeal than it was either in 2020 or when I’ve done things like calorie counting and Weight Watchers. My attempt to be less consumed by this diet is, so far, working pretty well.
  7. For the most part, I try to stick to “real” foods, rather than processed snacky things. For the most part, because I definitely have bought some pre-packaged helpers, which I will tell you about next time. But I find that I feel happier and more satisfied when I am eating things like shrimp and zucchini noodles or pork tenderloin and asparagus than when I am eating 100% hot dogs and freeze-dried cheese. The cheese thing is interesting to me, because one thing that’s great for Keto is cheese. But I eat a LOT less cheese this time than I did in 2020. 

Okay. That’s enough. If you are still reading, first of all, bless you, and secondly, let me know if you have any questions. 

I will do another post about the Keto purchases I have made that I like. And maybe a post about what I eat in a typical week (mainly for Future Me). And then I will stop talking about it. (Mostly.)

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