Seeker of the divine. Hooper. Pianist. Wife. Tarot card reader. Tuna melt eater. Student of the world. Mommy. Squirrly mother fucker. Artist. Curry lover. Thrift store frequenter. Cooking enthusiast. Dog cuddler. Fashion handicapped individual. Small town transplant in the big city.
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Me: “I don’t understand this song, why would I need to brush that dirt off my shoulder? What does Jay-Z think I’m up to over here?”
Dad: “What do you mean?”
Me: “Why is there dirt on my shoulder? Never once in my life have my shoulders just been dirty… my shoulders are like the last place to get dirty. Either my shoulders are fine, or it’s a “whole shower” type dirt situation. What sort of activity is he involved in that just his shoulders are getting dirty?”
Dad: “So many things! Anything where you’re extending your arms above your head has the potential to get your shoulders dirty.”
Me: “What are you talking about?”
Dad: “Like when you’re putting Christmas decorations away on a high shelf, or dusting fans, or trying to get bats out of your attic.”
Me: “You think Jay Z wrote Dirt Off Your Shoulder about trying to get bats out of him and Beyonce’s attic?”
Dad: “Yes. Rich people have bats too Jenna, bats don’t discriminate based on your income, bats can’t even read so they wouldn’t even know how rich Jay Z was. Bats are universal problem and brushing your shoulders off is just how it goes.”
So there you have it, one of the great mysteries of our generation… solved.
It has recently come to my attention that I am an old old woman… and I have the grey hair to prove it. And as an old woman I have now bestowed upon myself the right to refuse to learn new slang, which really just means I don’t know what slang means so when younguns start talking to me my brain translates everything they say wrong.
What I think it means: Registered Nurse. Duh. Cause that’s actually what it means.
So when my token young person friend Demetrius tells me I’m being “too hyper RN”, there’s always like 5 seconds where I think he’s telling me I’m too jittery to adequately do his IV. And I’m like bitch I’m not trying to give you an IV, if you need an IV you need to go to a hospital.
What it really means: Right Now
What I think it means: The tiny purse called a clutch… which as slang I can only assume means something that’s meant to be helpful but is really just more trouble than it’s worth and totally useless. Seriously clutch, if all you can hold is my ID and $30 I’ll stick that shit in my bra and then have my hands free… WHAT IS THE POINT OF YOU?!?!
So when someone says “My mom is totally clutch.” I’m like “Yeah, I never liked your mom either… but it’s not her fault she’s dumb as a box of rocks and ugly as sin.” and then things get weird.
What it really means: awesome
What I think it means: Beyonce, because Bae sounds like Bey. Or poop, because it’s also the Danish word for poop.
So when people say, “I have a new bae.” I don’t answer. Because they either met Beyonce or they just took a really impressive trip to the bathroom and feel the need to tell me about it… but getting those two confused would be really embarrassing so I better just keep my mouth shut.
What it really means: Someone you love… I think.
What I think it means: I have no imaginary meaning for fleek. It sounds weird, I don’t understand it, and it never seems to be used in the same context. I like to think I’m pretty creative but seriously, I’ve got nothing.
What it really means: I seriously have no idea what it means. Like, at all. And also I think it sounds dumb… and I adamently refuse to learn what it means and try to use it which is something I can absolutely do because, remember, I’m old now.
Here’s a link to Part 1
I’ll jump right in. Breakfast at our house when we were super poor was almost always oatmeal or grits. Why? Because oats bought it bulk are hella cheap. When we’re not super poor I always keep bread for toast and eggs around. Why? Because eggs with toast or potatoes is still pretty inexpensive and it keeps everyone full. (Also my kids are a little obsessed with eggs, but that’s its own thing.)
Notice anything missing? Cold cereal. Cold cereal is really expensive compared to other breakfasts. To feed everyone enough oatmeal to keep them full costs me less than a dollar, to feed everyone a decent quality cereal (so not 50% sugar) that will keep them full is usually around $5. Part of that is that we have to have milk, part of it is just the reality that cold cereal costs a lot more per serving always.
Lunch is usually people fending for themselves. My kids are old enough to make their own sandwiches, salads, grab their own fruit, or open a box of crackers. I try really hard to always keep fresh and dried fruit on hand that they can get to whenever they’re hungry.
Now that we’re not so mind numbingly poor we eat different for dinner. Lots of fresh veggies, lots of fish, lots of awesome things I find on pinterest. You know… all the stuff I couldn’t afford before. But this week I’m saving up most of my money for when Kristen comes to visit so we’re doing a little super budgeting flashback so I can spent all of next week hitting up breweries and eating sushi with her.
So here’s a few cheapy cheapy dinners.
Grilled cheese and tomato soup is cheap… but this is the even cheaper version I discovered when we were really stretching the money. A family sized can of tomato soup, an $.88 loaf of french bread (thank you WinCo), and some shredded cheese that I also got obnoxiously cheap cause it was on sale. I cut the french bread pretty thin, put some butter and garlic powder on top, and let that crisp up in the oven while it preheated. Once they were toasted I flipped them over, added cheese to the other side, and threw it under the broiler for a minute.
Then I cut them into little sticks because A)it’s easier to dip that way, B)it’s easier for tiny kid fingers that way, and C)Verona thinks it’s fancy and we’re very into Fancy Nancy right now. This fed 5 people tonight for about $3. BAM!
Here’s another winner, bean quesadillas. Because meat is expensive yo.
One can of refried beans, one can of black beans, one can of tomatoes, and a healthy scoop full of rice all mixed together. The rice is 100% because it’s cheap as hell and will make the filling stretch twice as far. Rice is magic. Slammed between two tortillas with some cheese. It costs about $5 to feel 6-7 people, or $5 to feed my family dinner tonight AND tomorrow. (It’d be even cheaper if I used dried beans instead of canned but the amount of extra effort involved to save $1 isn’t usually worth it for me.)
The truly magic thing about this dish is we almost always have the canned stuff and rice already but if we didn’t have money for cheese… ta-da! Now it’s a burrito instead! No cheese necessary! And if we couldn’t afford tortillas but had the cheese… ta-da! Mix the cheese in with the rest of the filling and just grill it up in the pan like a weird Mexican falafal. Poverty at it’s finest.
I am a firm believer that if you keep your feelings inside they will ferment and come out of you as farts, so I try to let all my feelings out as they happen, lest I suffocate my poor dog who sleeps under the covers with me that night.
Which means I don’t hesitate to tell other drivers what I think of them, but since I have kids now (and don’t live in Phoenix the Land of Universal Road Rage anymore) it’s no longer appropriate for me to roll down my window and scream that I hope the other driver gets gonorrhea and falls off a cliff. So instead I just snarl my opinions under my breath so my kids don’t hear… but apparently sometimes I’m not quiet enough because yesterday when some brodude in the douchey jeep behind me at a stop sign kept honking his horn because I wouldn’t zoom out into oncoming traffic, cutting a bunch of people off, so he could be on his way faster Verona not only heard me, she joined in.
Me: “Sorry dude, not going to kill my whole family just because your mom never taught you how to be patient. Oh, and also I hope when you get home tonight and check the mail it’s entirely bills. So have fun with that.”
Verona: “Yeah, I hope that guys dog eats something he shouldn’t and spents all night farting in his room. And I hope he can’t sleep so he just has to lay there in bed smelling the dog farts and a little bit of it gets in his mouth.”
Me: “I hope when he tries to watch Netflix tonight his neighbor is using his wifi so it makes everything go super slow and his movie keeps stopping to buffer every like 2 minutes.”
Verona: “I hope none of that guys dreams ever come true.”
Me: “I hope next time he goes to a concert the band doesn’t plays his favorite song.”
Verona: “I hope next time he goes to Taco Bell he orders a chicken burrito but they give him a stupid bean burrito instead.”
Me: “I hope next time he wants a slushie the 7Eleven he goes to is out of the flavor he really wanted.”
Verona: “I hope next time he orders a pizza they make him a pizza that only has broccoli on it.”
Me: “Yeah, and I hope when he takes the first bite of that broccoli pizza it’s still a little too hot so he burns the roof of his mouth and it completely ruins his pizza experience.”
Verona: “Woah mom, woah. You just crossed the line. Hot pizza is the worst… now you’re just being too mean. You need to calm down.”
So there you have it folks. The line between “acceptable mean” and “too mean” is at burning your mouth on hot pizza. Now we all know.
Someone asked me today to please please please write about my meal planning and food budgeting on here. Why? Cause I’m awesome at being poor. Poverty is a skill and damn it after years of rocking it I have got the skill. The skills to pay the bills when you can barely pay the bills… sorry that was cheesy. Even for me.
I digress… for a while when David was in school our food budget was $100 a month for a family of 3… that’s about $1 a day per person in case you suck at math. I don’t mean to toot my own horn but I can stretch the daylight out of a packet of ramen. Now, for the record, I don’t recommend doing that level of budgeting unless you absolutely have to. Why? Because there’s a time and a place for that much ramen… and it’s called college.
We are definitely not on the $1 per day budget anymore (thank god) but I’m pretty good at keeping on top of it so I will share with you my wisdom… or whatever the mediocre version of “wisdom” is. Here’s my weekly menu board, it’s a clipboard from the dollar store covered with some pretty paper I had laying around and then glued tiny clothes pins to. It does not need to be as amazingly cute as mine is… I just also have a skill for using unnecessary art projects as an excuse for not doing the grown up kind of things I really should be doing.
“But Jen!” I hear you say, “I don’t want to meal plan! It’s boring and I don’t have the time!” Bullshit I say! Bull. Shit. It literally takes me 1 minute to flip through my stack of tiny cards and pick a couple to put on the week. 1 minute… and involves an incredibly low amount of mental energy and saves a lot of money.
The meals we make all the time I write on pieces of pretty paper, also from the massive stack of pretty paper sitting in my basement waiting for me to need an excuse to procrastinate. (Days that I’m doing something new I just leave it empty.) And here’s the best part… On the back of the cards I have the maximum amount it will cost me to buy stuff to make the meal (I don’t count the stuff we always have around like butter, oil, rice, spices… etc). It usually ends up being less than that because I have a couple of the ingredients already (which is often why I decided to make it in the first place) or I can find stuff on sale but that’s worst case scenario what I’ll need. Almost all of our regular dinners will feed 5-6 people because I like to be prepared in case someone shows up.
So that’s that. In the next week or two I’ll show you a couple of my cheapy cheap dinners… or when you’re not quite at “ramen forever and ever amen” level poor but squeezing all the pennies.
Edit: In theory I go to the store twice a week… in reality I get food for the first 3-4 days and then one of those days someone invites us over so we’re not home, and one of those days the kids beg on bended knee to go get sushi so we go out, and one day we’re all lazy and just eat cheese for dinner (don’t you judge me) so that 3-4 days of food lasts all week. Then usually I just do the rest of the week the next week.
I walked up to the barely-past-teenage cashier at the crappy grocery store down the street much earlier than I was even usually awake and dropped multiple boxes of lice shampoo down on the conveyor belt much harder than necessary.
Barely-Past-Teenage Cashier: “Ooo, looks like somebody’s having a crappy morning.”
Me: “Yep. What gave it away? The fact that I just woke up and look like I crawled out of a gutter or that I borderline abused your conveyor-belt just now? Sorry about that by the way.”
Barely-Post-Teenage Cashier: “No worries. And I have some news… that lice shampoo works great apparently. So have fun with your killing.”
Me: “Yep, that’s why I’m buying it. It was either that or pour bleach over everyone’s heads.”
and without missing a beat the guy looks at me and says “Do it. I think you’d look great as a blonde.”
Well for the record I completely disagree that I would look good as a blonde, I think I would look jaundiced and awful. But the guy totally made my day.
That morning I found a lice. Or a louse. Or whatever the singular term is for those little fuckers that crawl from kid to kid, ruin my life, and haunt my dreams. I cannot get over how grossed out I am by the idea of tiny bugs crawling over or in and out of anywhere or anything because OMG ew. And I’m not even someone who’s super scared of bugs.
Anyway I found a lice, or a louse, or whatever, on Verona’s head so naturally I handled it like a totally level headed adult and checked everyone thoroughly for lice and then acting calmly and accordingly. Just kidding! I totally lost my shit, flew through the grocery store like a crazy bat out of hell grabbing every anti-lice product they sold, then upon arriving home I sprayed everything with horrible noxious cleaning chemicals that I normally never use (sorry essential oils but I’m benching you, shit just got real) and then accidentally saw a pair of scissors so I chopped everyone’s hair super short. Including about 18 inches of my own. My madness knows no bounds.
Here’s the thing about lice shampoo, it says right on the bottle that one of the side effects of using it is that your head will itch like mad…
…but your head itching like mad is usually how you know you have lice…
…so the stuff that’s supposed to kill the lice gives you the symptoms of having lice…
…which means you have no way of knowing if you still have lice or not…
…which is terrifying.
In retrospect I may have totally over reacted. But like I said… tiny bugs and whatever. Eww. And it’s been a couple weeks now so even if we were mostly lice free to begin with I’m pretty sure we are for real lice free now and that’s good. And just for funzies I took a picture of my new super short hair… the shortest it’s ever been since I first grew it past this length at age like 4… and did a 30 second awful photoshop job to it to make my hair blonde so we could all see what that would look like if I did a horrible job of dying it.
10 on 10… the 10th of every month (or every 5th month if you’re me… don’t you judge) 10 pictures in 10 hours of everyday life in all it’s everyday glory.
The welcome home banner since David came back from his business trip.
Somebody got into the Halloween stuff.
My blackberry bush has exactly one blackberry. If I were in an “everything is meanful” type of mood I’d point out that if you focus the camera almost anywhere else on the bush all you see is thorns, but if you focus it right here all you see is delicious fruit… and how that relates to your attitude towards life or something.
What happens to your face when you eat an entire bag full of cherries super fast.
I’m a Mennonite. We value hospitality and humility, justice and peace. It’s part of why I love being part of this tradition.
This last week at convention we passed some incredibly hurtful resolutions against the LGBT in our community. And I’m grieving.
I’m having a really really really hard time being a fucking Mennonite right now. I just… I don’t know… I always thought we were better than this. I know some congregations are more liberal (mine) or more conservative (the one I grew up in) but I thought over all we were better than this. I absolutely didn’t think we were going to be “those guys”, who took a million years to get on the right side of history. Who when we look back people say “Yep, those are the ones who opposed interracial marriage until the fucking 70s.” That’s going to be us on issues of sexuality. And that is heartbreaking. And infuriating. And absolute bullshit.
And I feel like we’ve been doing this my entire life. I remember hearing these “We talked about this at convention and decided not to make any changes now, we’ll talk about it again in four years.” updates from convention as a little tiny kid. The little tiny kid with the gay parent. No, there was never the anti-gay hate speech I’ve heard in other denominations… but refusing to stand up for us hurt too. Refusing to formally acknowledge my family no matter how much compassion was shown still hurt. It hurt then and it hurts now.
I’m hurt and I’m pissed and I’m OVER IT. I’m so so over it. And I want to just quit. Just quit and leave and find another faith. Because I can. I totally can. But what does that solve? If we all flee how does that help change happen? What does that accomplish but make more divisions? And if you can just divorce your community over an issue like this what does that say about your level of commitment? But I have kids and I don’t want them to grow up hearing the “four more years” conversation either. I want them to know that EVERYONE is welcome at Christ’s table. Everyone. Equally.
I don’t want to leave because this is community and that should mean something and because I love being Mennonite. But I’m tired of fighting. I’m so tired.
I’m exhausted and hurt and broken.
And usually when I’m exhausted and hurt and broken I go to my community… but to do that right now I need a community that accepts me completely no matter what. And accepts everyone in my family wholeheartedly with love. And accepts my children no matter who they love.
If you can’t do that maybe you’re not the community I thought.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is really the difference between having kids when you’re young vs waiting till you’re older.
Why you might ask? Because all my friends are like 10 years older than me… and I’ve realized maybe that’s weird. I like to joke that it’s just because I’m super mature (but then I usually follow it with some sort of MILF joke so clearly I’m not that mature) but the real reason is most people my age are working 20 hours a week at a coffee shop to keep their student loans deferred while they figure out what they want to do when they grow up and spending their evenings in trendy bars… and I have two kids and a mortgage.
So instead we mostly hang out with people who also have a couple kids and mortgages also and would rather drink those margaritas in my living room (because they agree that bars are way too loud)… and basically none of those people are also in their mid 20s because most people wait a second before popping a baby out of their lady garden. We’re in this weird middle place where we’re too young to be old but way too old to still pretend we’re young.
So what is really the difference between having kids in your early 20s vs having kids in your mid 30s? We parent similarly, so that can’t be it. That whole “the baby weight falls off faster when you’re young!” thing is absolute bullshit, if you don’t believe me go ask my poor abused spanx. What is it?
I think I finally figured it out.
The difference is that when you have kids really young you never have a chance to get your shit together first.
I mean, David and I had the major points of adulting under control… we paid our bills on time, held down jobs, stayed out of prison, and didn’t live with our parents. But all those finer points of adulting that everyone else figured out in their 20s was lost on us because there was basically no space between the “I was too drunk to remember to put my half eaten bowl of ramen in the fridge before I passed out last night so this morning I’m going to eat it for breakfast before I go to work” phase of life and the “I’m responsible for another human” phase.
And if you haven’t gotten those finer points of “adulting” down before you have kids you’re basically just not going to, because parenting is a whole new set of shit you’ve got to figure out so the “How often do I actually need to wash my sheets?” questions get put to the side. Indefinitely.
And even once you do sort of get your shit together you never know for sure if you really have or not because you don’t even know what “real adulting” means anyway. I am left constantly wondering, should I stop doing X because I’m “a grown up” or is this something everyone else does too and just doesn’t talk about?
Like eating the ramen you forgot to put in the fridge last night the next morning for breakfast… cause that still sometimes happens (although now it’s just cause I’m tired, not cause I’m too drunk). Am I allowed to do that?
Do all adults occasionally find a shirt on the floor and give it the sniff test to determine if it really needs to go in the hamper or if they can just wear it today instead?
And seriously, how often do I really have to wash my sheets? Can I just wait until they feel kinda gross? Or is just thinking that gross in and of itself?
I like my mediocre IKEA furniture and don’t ever want to upgrade to the nicer brands… does that mean I’m broken or is that a valid life choice?
Does everybody occasionally have that moment when they’re going to bed and realize the only things they ate that day was coffee and two handfuls of girlscout cookies? Or is that just some college level bullshit I need to seriously work on.
So yeah, that’s the difference between having kids in your early 20s vs mid 30s in case you were wondering. And also if anybody wanted to give me any insight into those other questions I would love it.
IKEA, for those of you unfortunate enough to not live in a major city, is a magical land full of elaborately staged show rooms, $200 couches, and assemble-it-your-damn-self furniture that pretty much always comes with a bunch of extra pieces they throw in just to fuck with you.
It also has free childcare for up to an hour and a half, free coffee, and super cheap dinners… all of which basically make it my co-parent when David is away on long business trips (which is more or less always). All of those amazing facts (well, mostly those last three) make me go even though I’m fully aware that you should NEVER take children out in public. Ever. Because they A) have no filter at all and B) have a severely inferior grasp on the concept of “indoor voices”. Or maybe that’s just my kids… whatever.
Anyway, since I’m out of interesting things to write about I’m going to tell you exactly what it’s like to take children to IKEA if you’ve never done it yourself. (Or more accurately, exactly what it was like to take my kids to IKEA tonight.)
First you’ll get the kids out of the car and expect them to run at top speed into the store like they always do… but since it’s raining today they’ll walk as slowly as humanly possible until you’re all completely soaked, then sit down on the sidewalk and cry because they don’t want to get rained on… so instead of through the door that 10 feet in front of them they’re going to sit down in the rain because they don’t want to be rained on anymore. Because of course.
You’ll get them inside and begin filling out the sheet to get them signed into the free daycare while your daughter announces to the childcare employees that “This rain is total bullshit.” followed a minute later by a loud and very dramatic rendition of “It’s Raining Men” sung as a duet by the two of them for everyone within 100 meters aka ear shot (my children have no problem with projecting.)
Once they’re signed in and playing get your free coffee and do your shopping. This will remind you of why you came in the first place… shopping alone and drinking coffee alone.
Once their time is up you’ll go get them and decide to have dinner since it’s kids eat free night which makes it cheaper than any dinner you were going to make at home anyway. You’ll ask them in the crowded elevator if they need to go to the bathroom before you eat… when they say no change your mind and demand that everyone go to the bathroom before you eat because you know otherwise there is a 110% chance they’ll suddenly have to pee the second you take your first bite of that meatball. This will be followed by a 20 minute excursion in the bathroom during which your 3 year old will attempt to touch every single surface with his hands, a large portion of them with his tongue, and then lock himself in the stall because he absolutely does not under any circumstances need any help… except he totally does. But he doesn’t want it from you. But he needs it. But go away mom.
When you finally get everyone’s food on the tray and walk up to pay for it that same 3 year old will announce that he has to go to the bathroom again. When you remind him that you were literally just in the bathroom for 20 minutes, 5 minutes ago, he’ll say in his loudest of loud voice “Last time I peed, and it was a good pee, I peed really really fast, but this time I have to poop. I would rather poop in the yard, but since IKEA doesn’t have a yard I have to go to the bathroom because I’m going to poop a lot. Like, a lot a lot a lot.” he will also throw his arms out in both directions to pantomime how big this alleged poop will be.
So you’ll go back to the bathroom where he will not poop or pee, but will touch everything. Again. Because of course.
When you’re finally back in the restaurant and eating your food your daughter (who overheard a conversation between you and a friend last week about how you need to go bra shopping) will loudly announce to the very full eating establishment, “I don’t even know why we’re here when the only place we REALLY need to go is to a store that sells giant bras!”
When you (and the people at all the tables around you) stare at her in horrified silence she will assume you just don’t understand what she said so she’ll elaborate. “For you. … You know, for your huge boobs. … You need to get bras for your huge boobs but have to buy them at a special store for bras for huge boobs. … Remember? You told Brittney about it? … Your huge boobs.” You’ll then explain that it’s not necessary to yell everything you say. Or talk about your huge boobs in restaurants. Or ever.
Then you’ll leave and swear you’re never taking your kids out in public again, while also knowing full well you will tomorrow partly because you believe in 932nd chances second chances and partly because you just have no choice.
And also a little bit because at least they were really nice to each other the whole time and at least they never lied… this rain today really is total bullshit, Finn does like pooping in the yard, and your boobs really are huge. *shrug*