The White Jeans Debacle of the Tenth Grade

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As you may have already figured out, I have a slight addiction to Pinterest. When I was pinning ideas for gluten free side dishes the other day, I noticed that one of the people I’m following had pinned an outfit to her “My Style” board. It was an outfit where the model was wearing a pair of white skinny jeans. “Oh no, no, no,” I thought. White jeans. Suddenly, I was hurdled 22 years into my past (insert Wayne and Garth’s homage to Scooby-Doo here) and was, once again, riddled with humiliation, thinking about MY pair of white jeans.

It was the fall of 1991 (oh my god, I’m old) and I was 15 going on 16 (I’m suddenly singing a Sound of Music song), starting a new high school in Michigan as a new student in the tenth grade. First of all, let me just say that starting a new school was always horrible. Talk about butterflies in the stomach! But starting a new school as a teenager was the worst. But I was all decked out in my new back to school outfit and feeling brave. For those of you born after 1991 (oh my god, I’m old enough to be your mother) or those of you who have forgotten the fashion missteps of the early 1990s, neon was all the rage and white jeans were IN.

So there I was in my turquoise B.U.M. Equipment t-shirt that covered me to my waist and my high-waisted white jeans and white Keds sneakers, on my first day of 10th grade. I’ll set the scene: Lunchtime. The cafeteria. Round tables with plastic bucket chairs filled with strangers. I quickly pick a seat next to a girl that was in my homeroom. Lunch commences. And then I stand up. Homeroom Girl tells me there’s something on my pants. I look down. My brown plastic bucket chair (I’ll hate them forever) has some unidentified brown glop on it. And I sat in it. IN MY WHITE JEANS.

Cheeks ablaze with embarrassment (if I were a romance novel character, I would be described as having a strawberries and cream complexion and I would have swooned) I ran for the nearest bathroom. I had to ask directions. Stupid new school! Anyway, as I sat in a bathroom stall sobbing because I now looked like I had shit myself and was wearing a shirt that would never, ever cover my ass, I decided that white jeans were a definite fashion mistake. In fact, I was thinking that even getting my period in the white jeans (which had always been my fear when I wore those jeans) could not be worse than having a brown smear of a stain right over my asshole. An upperclassman knocked on my stall to ask me if I was okay. In between hiccupping sobs, I told her what had happened. She told me to pass my jeans under the stall door and she’d try to wash them. As I’m huddling in the bathroom stall in my underwear (can life get worse than this for a teenager?), the bell rang. My pants were passed back, now wet and still with a brown smear.

Let me just say that as an adult, I would have simply put on my wet, faux shit-stained white jeans and walked home. Even though I didn’t know how to get home from the school because we had only moved there the week before. I still would have walked out of that school. But alas, I was a naïve goody two-shoes of a girl who had never even had the thought of skipping school enter her brain. And so I put on my faux shit-stained white jeans and proceeded to walk through the now empty halls of my new school while holding my pink spiral-bound notebook behind my back to cover my ass. (Yeah, like that was a casual pose. Ugh. The shame, the shame….)

I got to class only to find out, while standing in front of the classroom, that I was in the wrong class. The teacher told me how to get to my real classroom. And now I arrive even later to my real class where the teacher keeps making me get up from my desk so she can give me my textbook, and then so she can give me the syllabus, and then so she could sign my schedule for the office. (Really, lady? You haven’t learned how to have kids pass things back? You couldn’t have remembered to give me everything and sign my stupid schedule all at one time?) And as I was repeatedly getting up and walking to the front of the class, all I could think about was that freaking brown stain. And how everyone must be staring at it.

When the school day finally ended (and I don’t think there has ever been a 15 year-old more happy to hear that bell), I was walking around with a full 7 classes worth of textbooks and workbooks trying to find my locker. Locker found, but wrong locker combination. (Really? Really?!) As I trudged outside with all my books, I looked around for the buses and saw that they had all left. I turned to one of the students smoking outside and asked when the late bus was. “Late bus?,” asked the slacker. Oh, that’s right, because stupid Michigan doesn’t have stupid late buses and stupid me has to use a stupid pay phone (remember those?) to call her dad at work to come and get her because she doesn’t know how to get back to the new house.

As I sat outside on the curb (effectively hiding the brown smear), I thought, “This has to be the worst first day of school EVER.” And as my dad drove me home, angry that he had to leave work to pick me up, I thought, “white jeans suck.” And I was right. And I will always hate plastic bucket chairs, short t-shirts, the entire state of Michigan, and all pairs of white jeans.

Forever.

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Wiggles and Giggles

I have been feeling so blah lately. I don’t know if it’s the lack of sunshine, or just my hormones, but I am definitely dragging.

I was feeling about as gray as the rainy sky this morning when Chase just cracked me up in the car. My kids say the funniest things sometimes. In fact, after the I-love-yous and the hugs and kisses, my favorite thing about my kids is the stuff that comes out of their mouths. Even when they are saying things I don’t like I am still secretly laughing on the inside. An indignant 5 year old with her hands on her hips and an attitude to boot just makes me giggle in general. But this morning, we were driving to an appointment and listening to the radio. A Jeremy Camp song was on the radio singing “Take My Life” (its about God, so no gasping here!) and there is a section of the chorus where he sings “take my will.” Although in sing-speak the word “will” has 2 syllables. Every time he sang, “take my will” Chase would giggle. Finally, Chase says to me, “Mommy, how can you take someone’s wiggle?” Maybe you had to be there, but I needed that laugh!

A few weeks ago we were sitting at dinner and Caylie spilled her water. Mike told her not to freak out, just get up and grab the paper towels and wipe it up. Well, Caylie sat there whining about how that would be too hard. Before Mike or I could say anything, Chase says, “Then stay wet.” and went back to eating his dinner. Our on-going problem is name-calling and Chase thinks anything that starts with the word “butt” is a horrible insult. You can imagine our complete amusement when Chase started calling Caylie “buttercup” in as nasty a voice as possible.

I have a friend who had someone ask her if there was anything rewarding about having kids. My friend had to think about it for a while because, frankly, being a parent is a pretty thankless job. But my answer would be, unconditional love, baby kisses, little arms squeezing you in a hug, you’re never lonely, and they can make you laugh like nobody’s business!

What is the funniest thing your child has ever said to you?

Mommy Brain

There was a time in the past when I was pretty sharp. I could keep facts, dates, names, skill sets, the proper spelling of words, the exact word to describe something and my entire to-do list in my head and still get everything done correctly without dropping the ball. Then came kids. “Mommy brain” is all I’ve got these days, which can be added to the long list of things that take a hit at a mom’s self esteem. Wider hips, saggy boobs (saggy everything, really), a messy house, stained clothing, dark circles under your eyes from sleepless nights and just a general sense of exhaustion round out a list of things that can make a mom feel less than wonderful about herself. Some moms are good about finding the time to keep up the pre-children personal grooming habits like eyebrow plucking, manicures, pedicures, at home facials, regular leg shaving, professional haircuts and styles and the other basic things that make women feel beautiful. But the majority of us (and I really hope I’m in the majority here) are just too tired and too preoccupied to take too much time for ourselves.

But I was talking about mommy brain. My once extensive English major vocabulary has been reduced to using words like “stuff,” “thingy,” “whatchmacallit” or the much-hated “uhhh” because I can’t remember the word I was searching for. My to-do list must be written down and kept in a very visible place, or I will forget I even have a list in the first place. I forget birthdays, what day of the week it is, and have even been reduced to pointing and calling one of my children “you” when the name didn’t pop into my brain fast enough for my mouth to say it.

I call it mommy brain because being around my kids keeps me so distracted that I can’t seem to hold a coherent thought in my head. I am constantly keeping one eye on them to make sure they don’t get hurt, hurt each other, hurt someone else, break something, color on something, pee on something, eat something they shouldn’t and so on and so forth. And while one eye is on the kids, the rest of me is doing something else. And the quality of that something else is usually compromised. Even when I’m alone (which is either when I’m asleep, or in the car, which I count as being alone because the kids are actually quiet) my mind is off in la-la-land, replaying a phone call I just had, preparing for a phone call I have to make, thinking about whether I defrosted the meat for dinner tonight, wondering if I remembered to put the laundry in the dryer before I left. The list goes on.

On Friday, I forgot my daughter. Luckily, I didn’t leave her somewhere where she was unsupervised, but I forgot her nonetheless. I took Chase to the library, which is about 2 blocks from Caylie’s school, and when we got in the car to leave the library, I was thinking, “great, I still have 10 minutes until pick-up time. We can sit in the car for a bit and listen to the radio and relax.” So I proceeded to pull out of the library parking lot and drive home. About a mile from my house, I looked up in my mirror to check on the kids and realized that there was only one kid in the backseat.

Sometimes I joke about how having children has destroyed some of my brain cells. But a lot of the time, I mean it! I feel like my IQ has gone down. I am still an avid reader, but the deepest thought I have these days is whether or not my control-freak, anxious mothering is psychologically damaging my children. And I forgot to buy milk. Oh, and the laundry has been sitting in the dryer for 3 days because, I, uhhhhh, forgot about it.

What was I saying?

My Hundred-Dollar Challenge

Do you think you could grocery shop for a family of four for $100 or less each week? I didn’t think I could, but I accepted the challenge from my husband for the month of January. Let’s face it, gas prices are up, health insurance premiums are up again from last year and food seems to get more and more pricey. So I have become the queen of eating cheap and still staying gluten free. Mike wanted to see just how cheap I could be!

Week 1: I lucked out and scored meat that had been marked down. So I grabbed 5 pounds of ground beef and 5 pounds of chicken at a significant discount. I can make 10 pounds of meat last about 2 and a half weeks if I’m smart about it. My total grocery bill for the week was $97.

Week 2: Since I didn’t have to buy meat, I was able to stock up on a lot of fresh produce. We had a lot of meatless meals that week! My grocery bill came out to $86.

Week 3: Well, there were no deals on marked down meat and Mike had filled his personal grocery list (He makes his own lunches. Yes, how awesome is that?!) with fresh produce and a couple pounds of meat. Add to that a bag of walnuts and a pound of almonds and I was struggling to stay below $100. I also wanted to try making a recipe for Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad that I found on Pinterest and decided to pick up some gluten free crackers to spread the chicken salad on. And cheese went up .20 cents a block. After stressing a little bit, I remembered that I had been under the week before and could go over a tad. The bill that week was $110.

Week 4: I underestimated a few prices for different things when I was making my list this week. (And I absolutely needed some potato chips or I was going to freak.) So I went over again this week. I squeaked out at $104.

After 4 weeks, I was averaging $98.75 a week for the month’s grocery shopping. But alas, I wasn’t off the hook yet since January was a 5-week month. Those 5-week months always get us when we are trying to stay within the budget. It’s been tough. And it’s really made me pay close attention to the prices of food.

Week 5: I totally blew it this week! We have been scarfing down all the nuts and I was really feeling like I needed some variety with the kids’ lunches and snacks. So, after spending $14 on nuts, and buying some snack food, yogurt, dried fruits, frozen fruits, and too much fresh produce, I checked out at a whopping $135 for the week.

For the month, I averaged out at $106 per week. Technically, I failed my challenge, but it sure doesn’t feel that way! According to my budget-welding husband, I saved us just over $150 on groceries for the month.

Now, just how did I do it? I plan out my weekly meal menu every week. I pay attention to what I already have in my pantry and freezer. I also try to piggyback meals. So week one, I was making a meal for a friend who had just had a baby. I made them a Chicken Enchilada Casserole. Since I knew I would be buying ingredients for a Mexican meal, I planned one of my own. This way, I was able to buy things in larger amounts, which is always cheaper per ounce. I also had a ham bone in my freezer that I had saved from our Christmas ham. Pick up a .78 cents bag of dried peas and vegetable broth at .96 a can, add the ham bone, carrots and onion already in the fridge and I have the ingredients for a big batch of split pea soup that only cost me $1.74. The soup fed all of us for 2 separate meals.

When I have my meals planned out for the week, I sit down and write out all the items I need to buy. Then I write down what I think the price is for that item and add it all up when I’m done. If I’m over, I re-work the menu to incorporate fewer ingredients. The first week, this was tough because I wasn’t familiar with all of the prices of the things I needed. So I went shopping in the evening, alone, with my list, a calculator and a pen. I wrote the actual price next to the item so that I would know it for next time. And I could add up my items as I went. I did this for 4 weeks to get a good sense of prices.

Here is my 7-meal dinner plan for Week 4: 1. Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas  2. Cauliflower Casserole  3. Shepard’s Pie, vegetable side dish  4. Stuffed Cabbage  5. Chicken Tator Tot Casserole, vegetable side dish  6. Avocado Cream and Chicken Enchiladas, vegetable side dish  7. Coconut Chicken with Hawaiian rice, side of peaches

Here is my grocery shopping list for Week 4:

Hummus: $1.98

2 avocados: $2.36

fresh spinach: $2.18

bananas @ .57/lb: $2.00

5lbs chicken breast: $9.65

8 oz bacon: $2.48

7 oz can green chiles: .88

can enchilada sauce: $1.38

can chicken broth: .96

5 blocks cheddar: $10.88

1/2 gal. whole milk: $2.56

dried cranberries: $1.48

chips: $2.68

Cauliflower: $2.98

Bag green onions: $1.22

Bag of carrots: $1.64

Corn tortillas: $1.98

Bag of tator tots: $2.00

2.5oz bag of bacon pieces: $1.66

can black beans: $.68

bag of coconut: $1.72

8oz cream chz: $1.98

2 18-count eggs: 5.76

canned chicken: $1.88

Cabbage: .58 cents/lb.

Cilantro: .93 cents

3lb bag of apples: $3.37

5lbs ground beef: $14.88

3 bags frozen vegetables: $2.96

pineapple salsa: $2.28

can diced tomatoes: $.64

2 blocks MJ chz: $4.36

coffee creamer: $3.28

whipping cream: $1.78

gf crackers: $2.78

All in all, I feel like I was very successful with keeping the grocery bill low. Once I find some more meals to add to my dinner menu rotation, I think I’ll be able to predict what each meal will cost and plan accordingly every week. If you are interested in getting some of these recipes, 4 of the meals listed above are located on my Pinterest board: Gluten Free Recipes. Follow me at: http://pinterest.com/tamaranoyer/