A Better You

Dear Jenny,

What a holiday! We had fun, didn’t we? Thanks for the jumbo ice cube tray, and the Nick Lowe shirt. I could not be more pumped to go back to work this morning. Remember last year when, in the clean-slate spirit of the New Year, we wrote up a list of confessions to one another and got some stuff off our collective chests? That felt good. (And while we’re on the subject, I have a new one: I fear I have lost all control.) This year, I was thinking we should do something different. Maybe we should set some goals for one another, little things we should work toward. What do you think? For instance, I think it would be nice if you would stop asking me, after a month of holiday binging, pork-braising, cookie-eating, cookie dough-eating, cheese-inhaling, and heavy pounding, after a month in which assembling LEGOs qualifies as exercise, if I still find you “attractive.” Yes, I still do. And I feel just as gross as you do.

You know what would also make me happy? If you would resolve to improve the kids’ breakfast routine. I have tried, and failed. I’m hoping you can use your magical powers of persuasion to get them to like eggs — or maybe just eat eggs — and free us from the beige, bready nightmare that our mornings have become. Because there is a good chance I will begin weeping the next time I have to make pancakes, just standing at the stove weeping, and the kids don’t need to see that.

Speaking of eggs: You have pickled, you have preserved, and you have grilled. You have made, and braided, your first challah. Maybe now is the time to master the egg. I love a poached egg, and they never come out right when I make them. Our omelets, too. They’re good, but they’re not, like, Jacques Pepin good. Perfectly runny soft-boiled over toast: Take us to the promised land!

More barley, less quinoa. That’s right, I said it. Pow!

Sell a million copies of Dinner: A Love Story so I can settle into permanent guest-blogger status and fully inhabit the bathrobe you gave me.

Stop feeding the dog from the table, and stop referring to her licking the plates clean as the “pre-wash.”

When I ask you to listen to the guitar solo, it would be great if you would actually listen to the guitar solo. (Me: God, listen to that. You: Hmm? Me: Listen to that! How good is that? You: It’s really good. Have you seen our rolling pin?)

Take some corrective measures re: dessert. We’ve gone over this before, and I know I’m (almost) as complicit as the rest of the family, but when Phoebe starts bringing the T Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups to the table before we’ve finished our dinner (every night, by the way, and we don’t even try to stop her), asks us how many she can have, and we answer “four,” a crazily generous number which would elicit a cheer in most houses but, in our house, elicits an “awwwwwwww” of disappointment, it’s time to admit: the pirates have seized the ship.

Let’s set aside one night a week where you’re not taking 67 photographs, from 32 different angles, of the food we’re all waiting to put in our mouths.

Recognize that, from now until Judgment Day, I will never stop comparing every TV show we watch to The Wire — and having them all come up short — until you suck it up and watch The Wire. I need you to KNOW. Your refusal to do so suggests there is a part of you I will never understand.

You know how you always make fun of me for saying, every time we finish our breaded flounder with tartar sauce and a salad, “Why don’t we eat this once a week?” Let’s eat that once a week.

I’ll end with a modest goal: I’ll be your friend forever if you could find a way, in 2012, to stop time. Because every time you pull out those old photos of our kids from seven years ago, when they used to nap on our chests and drool through their onesies, or dig up the birthday card Phoebe made me when she was in kindergarten, or show me Abby’s first diary which you found while cleaning out her room last week, or play that iPhone video of a tutu-ed, five-year-old Phoebe at her ballet recital… it’s too freakin’ much. I can’t take it. A cosmic punch to the gut. There it is, right there in those pictures, like you can just reach out and touch it, and yet it’s not available to me anymore. What’s not available? It’s not available. Everything’s not available. I’m sorry to go dark on you here at the end, but it’s not fair. This is my issue, I fully realize that, but you are so good at getting things done, and man, it’d be nice if you could figure out a way to make it so this doesn’t happen anymore. Thanks!


Dear Andy,

What a good idea — goals for each other! Mine are always so predictable and predictably unachievable. I love what you wrote above, especially the part about how good I am at getting things done. (You know how to make a girl feel nice.) Re: the old photos and letters and artwork, I hear you — I am totally fine with that resolution. But does this mean you will now be in charge of organizing that huge mound of memories in the corner of the boiler room? If so, at the bottom of the basement stairs are a few bins from the Container Store. Awesome! I just crossed one thing off my list!

OK, as for what you can work on, I will start with this one: Assume that I’ve salted the pasta water. Assume that, just because I forgot to salt the water that one night back in 2005, that there is very little chance I will forget to salt the water from this point forward. Even when there is long division to be done, even when there are eight people in our kitchen waiting to be fed, I promise you, I do not need reminding. It will be a successful 2012 if I never hear the words You salt the water? ever again.

Get back in the smoothie routine! Remember when I was on maternity leave with Phoebe and I’d wake up to find a “blueberry blast” or a “melonballer” yogurt smoothie in the fridge waiting for me? That was so nice of you. Can’t you get back into making them for us? Why the long break? What happened? Do you no longer find me attractive?

Resolve to clean your wine glass — or at least put it in the dishwasher — once you’ve sipped your last sip. And I will duly resolve not to ask you the next morning when I pick up the Burgundy-caked glass in the TV room “Are you finished with this?”

Less pork. More…pork.

Recognize that the reason I haven’t watched The Wire yet is because I refuse to do what you did to me, i.e. abandon your spouse for two straight months and refuse to slow down viewing while spouse attempts to catch up. (It was not spouse’s fault nor a reflection of spouse’s like or dislike of The Wire that spouse fell asleep halfway through Episode 1, Season 1. Spouse just happened to have had a long day when other Spouse decided to premiere the series.)

Can you just once stop air-guitaring to whatever it is you’re listening to (and also stop pointing out how f’ing good it is! holy f’ing s#*t! would you listen to that!?) and help me look for the rolling pin/girls’ hairbrush/dog’s leash?

I think it’s time to fess up to the fact that this whole “dessert” thing you’re so worried about is merely displaced concern about your own problem with snacks. Namely the Trader Joe’s cheese puffs and the olive oil popcorn, and the chips and salsa that we all end up inhaling before dinner or instead of a proper weekend lunch. Here’s my 2012 confession: You know how I kept “forgetting” to pick up the snacks when I went shopping by myself? Well….sorry. I know, the “kids” like to have something “crunchy” in their lunch and snack bags. And I know that I could, of course, just not eat the snacks myself. But you know by now that I am physically incapable of not eating something if it is in front of me. If we could eliminate four — or even just three — of the five crinkly bags of snacks we bring home from TJoes, it would make so happy.

Hey guess what, Bro???? It’s your turn to write a book! Your deadline for a preliminary proposal is April 1.

Lastly, please try to wrangle some stronger guest-posters for DALS this year. I know you can do better than 2011’s David Sedaris and Lemony Snicket and John Sullivan. Let’s try to break out the big guns in 2012, OK? Maybe you could get me someone a little more…snappy? That would be great for my traffic. Thanks a bunch and Happy New Year!

Love, Jenny

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This is so awesome! And maybe I’ll stop asking my husband if he salted the pasta water this year….


Thank you for bringing some laughter to my Tuesday morning! I’m looking forward to teaching my boyfriend how to cook this year!


I was going through serious DALS withdrawl this past week and this post made up for it in spades. Welcome to the new year! I seriously can’t wait for your book. It is the only book I have ever had on “pre-order” status at Amazon. And that’s saying somethin’…

Melissa@Julia's Bookbag

OH HOW I HAVE MISSED YOU GUYS!!! I have so much love oozing out of me (that sounds nice and gross right?) for y’all right now, you have no idea. My daughter’s take on dessert lately is to ask us constantly if she’s had enough dinner so that she can raid the two petit four boxes she got for Christmas from two different sources.

Oh and my husband I are also fighting over ‘The Wire’ – he hasn’t seen it and desperately wants to — meh, I say. But I did make him watch ‘Downton Abbey’ over the holiday so I guess it’s now my turn to suck it up….


Anyone who hasn’t watched The Wire really should. No excuses (@ Melissa@Julia’s Bookbag: I loved Downton Abbey AND I love The Wire. You won’t regret it.). And speaking of The Wire, if you’re a fan of Idris Elba a.k.a. Stringer Bell, you must all watch Luther. And start it together when you’re all rested up to avoid future discord. Happy 2012!


Okay, this post made me laugh out loud – thank you for one of the very best New Year posts I have read anywhere! You guys are a hoot! 🙂

Melissa@Julia's Bookbag

Thanks Tara! We’re totally going to get on the Wire watching — I think if we don’t start soon, we’ll be the only humans left on earth who haven’t seen it 🙂 And speaking of ‘Downton’, so excited for Season 2!!


Andy – I am so with you on the Wire. I think I watched the entire series in five days. I was utterly obsessed. My New Year’s goal is to find a show I like as much as that one.


Seriously, the best he said/she said back and forth ever. THIS is why I never get tired of reading this blog. Happy new year to you both!


Y’all crack me up. Seriously. I’m so glad you’re back! Happy 2012. And, um, I’ve never seen The Wire. But I watched Homeland, which I thought was amazing.


Seriously awesome post! Love the air guitar! Love to hear about the TJ desserts! I have a slight addiction to the salted caramel chocolate, but I hide it from everyone else (hiding spots must rotate regularly for that to work!) Happy New Year!!


Andy, you’re freakin hilarious. I love reading your posts!

Good luck with the eggs. We even have chickens in our backyard, which the kids collect the eggs from and they still fight me. Finally I got them to eat a dippy egg yolk. ONLY THE YOLK. And only if buttery toast goodness acompanies them If there’s any white around, they protest. I always feel so rediculous cooking up four golden circles. Anxious to know if you find the magic egg key.


What a hilarious post! I love how the old photos give you a gut punch. I’ve been noticing ours lately and it’s time for me not to get all weepy everytime I see our family photo from last year when the kids’ hair was just perfect and everyone had a perfect smile and we were all looking in the right direction!


You absolutely must watch The Wire. You will not regret it and you will forget that you ever cared where the rolling pin was.

My one caveat – I grew up in Baltimore and most of it is not like The Wire 🙂


That made me laugh out loud! Thanks for yet another round of merriment.

PS – Jenny, I’ve never watched The Wire. Wanna come over and give it a go?


Oh, my holy god, I thought nothing could top the Confessions of last year, until I read this. You two are a scary talented couple!


Face it guys – The pirates seized the ship from the first moment they napped on your chest. It was just a matter of shifting the focus of the goals – from requiring diapers be changed on a Q1 hour basis (that is medical-speak for hourly) to requiring no fewer than 5 (count’em) TJ’s cups. I think it is best to just surrender to the higher powers (you may want to learn how to kneel and kiss a ring), and give those poor kids 5 well-earned and most certainly deserved peanut butter cups 🙂


love this post. Salting the pasta is found in our house as me rear-ending a car (as the last car in a 5 car pileup) in 2004 for the love of Pete!! Aarrgghh

The Wire is found as me and Mad Men. He drifts in and out trying it, but not consistently enough and then declares “does anything happen in this show?”. I gleefully do the same thing to him when it comes to football. Join in January, asking technical questions and then declaring “I just can’t get into this sport, it’s useless.” And then I wait until next January to do his head in.


Ha! I just banned the Wire, Round 2, from our house. Lost my husband for about 72 hours straight and if I hear that stupid intro music one more time, my head might explode. In fairness, I loved the series, but I had to struggle through the first few episodes and pretend they weren’t dropping f-bombs every other word. But a second time? Can’t do it! Good on you for abstaining altogether!


I had to read this to my husband and we were both rolling especially over the “do you still find me attractive” and air guitar parts. Humor is so helpful…I love this.


These posts are my favorite 🙂 The “please really listen to the guitar solo” is the story of my (married) life… just last night, my husband was listening to music on his laptop in bed with headphones and actually woke me from my near-slumber to “just listen” to this “f’ing awesome” verse. Good. Ness. I had faint hope that this might fade one day when we have children, but Andy here is squashing that quickly 🙂 You’re (both) not alone.


This is hilarious – I am a first time reader and love it. For the record, my husband begged me to watch The Wire too and it was SERIOUSLY JUST AS BAD ASS AS THEY SAY! SO DO IT! 🙂

Bindi N.

You guys are my favorite blog based couple. I absolutely love this. I don’t have a family, it’s just me and my husband of one year, and I totally relate. I love your humor, and very nice way of helping us try to keep fighting the good fight of eating family dinner. Does it count if we eat together while he watches TV, and I read a 2 month old issue of US weekly I “found” at my gym? YES, It still counts!


So nice to know we are not the only family dealing with the dessert dilemma! Thanks for the blog. The content is great and the number of posts is perfect…not too many…not too few!


I love your lists! They seriously had me smiling and even giggling out loud all the way through.
It’s comical because every married couple has the same stories, with their own cast of characters and specific situations…but the gist of it is the same.
You two should really start writing a sitcom pilot! After your next book proposal of course 🙂


those *#)@*$$ pirates. they’ve seized more than one ship in these seas.

best of days in 2012 to you both. thanks for the grins!

zella jensen

I had to return to the post that originally drew me in and comment/praise you. I looove your site and haven’t been able to get enough. This won’t be the last you hear from me. You are amazing and have the cutest family. Thanks for all you do.


Yup, you’ve cracked the code for dinner and written beautifully about it. But it is also your happy marriage, for which there is no recipe, that we all witness. Good on you.


The bit about stopping time? There must be some dust in here, or there’s something in my eye, or maybe i’ve been chopping onions and forgot. Really loved this whole thing.