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With four growing kids, including one who has special dietary needs, and the price of groceries through the roof thanks to COVID's ongoing supply issues plus the war in Ukraine, our family has recently returned to meal planning with a vengeance.

And by vengeance I mean, four kids and a husband with loud and sometimes very angry opinions about what goes in the fridge and on the table.

(I have earlier written about how little I care about the complaining. When I get the old blog posts up on the site, you can read all about that.)

Questions about what we're eating for dinner start at breakfast, which I hate, so I have recently started listing our dinners on my Google calendar, and sharing it out to the family group I created, so everyone will leave me alone. That calendar also gets broadcast on our kitchen Dakboard. (I'm obsessed with the Dakboard but we can discuss that at another time.)

For the last few years, I've been planning our meals in Plan To Eat, the best app ever because you can import recipes straight from the web, and Plan To Eat will let you plan them on a calendar, and sort them into a grocery list. This is GAME CHANGING, because I love reading about food on the internet but I no longer have any interest in printing recipes and storing them in binders that take up space. I want everything digital, accessible on my phone, and easy to share with my family. That's what Plan To Eat delivers.

(Yes this post contains affiliate links to Plan To Eat, but truly I can't say enough about how much I love this app.)

So here's what we do:

Every week, I get the New York Times food newsletters and import recipes I want to try into Plan To Eat. Gaga sends me recipes that are Crohn's friendly, and I import those to Plan To Eat. All those funky Instagram recipes? They go to Plan To Eat too. It's incredibly easy to import recipes, you just add the link to the app, and Plan to Eat does the rest.

On Fridays, I build our calendar out on Plan To Eat -- breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. The more robust the calendar, the more robust the grocery list. And seriously: when you trust your grocery list, the less you spend at the store.

We have some basic rhythms to our week, which help ease planning. Taco Tuesdays, Kid Date Thursdays (we take one kid out to dinner each week and let the rest order in), Shabbat Fridays (generally roast chicken), Date Night Saturdays (the kids eat leftovers or cook for themselves).

Then I add the dinners to our Google Calendar, which I can also do using the Plan To Eat calendar feeds.

Once the plan is completely calendared, I use Plan To Eat's shopping list, and cut/paste it into an Apple Note. Then I check our pantry and our fridge for anything on the list we already have and delete it.

I clean out the fridge on Saturdays, and Mr. Big (Ideas) uses the shared Apple Note to do the Sunday shopping at our local farmer's market and Trader Joe's. Whatever he can't find, we pick up over the course of the week -- and because we can share the list, we know what's still outstanding if one of us has time to duck into the store.

Does this keep us from picking up things that we don't need? No. Because we are human, and Mr. Big (Ideas) has never seen a new product at Trader Joe's he didn't want to try. I try to go with that flow so he can't come at me with all the duplicate spices in our (very organized if I do say so myself) spice drawer. Marriage is about compromise, isn't that what they say?

So you wrote yourself a birth plan, huh? Then you took it to your OB, and your OB sort of pooh-poohed it, and now you think you need to find a more supportive doc?

I’m gonna tell you something:

Your OB has been to more deliveries than you have, babe. She knows that the best-made plans you’ve got are most likely … well … not going to go 100% like you suppose.

Nothing really ever does, right? So why should this be different?

Here’s the thing: Babies aren’t so great at following directions — and there is no telling that baby of yours how to exit its current building. There is no telling that body of yours how to handle the exodus, either. Sure, women deliver babies every day, it’s a function of human evolution, delivering babies is a “natural” process, and sure, you absolutely ought to be able to control the temperature of the room and the level of the lights and the volume of the music, and the numbers of people strolling in and out staring up into what you used to think of us your private business before you popped a baby out of it — or had it pulled out of the muscles just north — but here’s the thing … it might not go the way you planned.

I’m not saying you ought to get all panicky. If you really hate your doc, move on. You don’t want to hate the person in the room with you when you’re giving birth — you’re already going to hate someone in that room, I promise, and he’s gonna be the father of that kid. (You’ll like him again a couple of minutes after baby, so don’t draw up that divorce decree just yet.)

All I’m saying is — DO NOT GET TIED TO THE VISION OF YOUR PERFECT DELIVERY, because if it doesn’t happen, YOU WILL FEEL ROBBED. AND YOU DON’T WANT TO FEEL ROBBED. Promise. I have lots of girlfriends who were convinced their deliveries would go one way, and they went a-hell-another. These women were really sad, because it had never occurred to them that the idea of the NATURAL BIRTH means that BIRTHING IS AN EXPERIENCE OUT OF NATURE — and come on, folks, we all know we ought to have a HEALTHY RESPECT FOR NATURE.


I say all this despite having had three great, drug-free, vaginal deliveries.

That said:

The first time around, there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, I had to have a mag drip in my arm and an oxygen mask on my face, and ended up with a no-time-for-pain-blockers episiotomy. And the mag drip blew and my arm looked like Violet Beauregarde after she started looking like that giant blueberry.

The second time, the charge nurse refused to believe that Gaga was coming any second DESPITE my explaining to her over and over again that big sis Diddy had arrived in under 2 hours from the first contractions to taking her first breaths. I literally said to the nurse, “No, really, the baby’s coming now,” and she threw a blanket over my legs and I popped the kid right then, just like I said I would, onto the table. The baby, by the way, was born IN HER SAC, and had my amazing doula not grabbed the blanket out off her face, she might have drowned on the table in her own fluids. Did you notice how there is no doctor in this scenario? That’s because my doctor missed the whole fucking thing.

The third time, my NEW doctor was totally committed to me delivering Pancake and Sausage vaginally, despite Sausage being breach. This doc is a superhero, and I applaud her moxie — she was way more confident of this plan than was I. When you deliver twins at most hospitals, even if you’re trying to avoid a C-section, they like you to deliver in the OR just in case things go south. Fine. So we’re getting ready to go into the OR and the fucking anesthesiologist tells me I can’t have Mr. Big(Ideas) AND my doula in the OR — too many people. This puts me in the fine position of having to choose between my husband (whom, to be fair, since I am in the throes of labor, I situationally HATE) and the woman I absolutely NEED to have by my side for this experience, as she had been for the arrivals of Diddy and Gaga. The choice would not have been THAT hard, but again, my OB is awesome and she totally over-ruled the anesthesiologist. That just made the anesthesiologist HATE me — she actually lectured me in the OR because my labor was too far along to plant a port for the epidural I might need in an emergency. So I called her an asshole — really? It’s MY fault I can’t tell my labor to go more slowly? BITCH. Then I delivered two babies within ten minutes and the second one was PULLED OUT FEET FIRST. Which, by the way, I do not recommend — there’s a reason evolution prefers the other way — you really want the BIG part to exit first, ladies, not last.

I say all this to make one overarching point:

I STILL DUG MY LABORS. Despite all the crazy stuff that happened, and that I couldn’t have planned for — because I wasn’t tied to a plan.

Do yourself a favor. Visualize what you want. Hope for what you want. Stay flexible and present and deal with what comes — you’ll feel better about it later, promise. In the meantime, do the one thing you CAN control, and pack yourself a fun little delivery bag full of stuff for you and your newborn.

Here’s what I’d bring if I had to do it over again:

ChecklistMommy’s DELIVERY BAG LIST

  • An IPAD or laptop — so you can watch Netflix if it takes forever to get your labor started, and so you can watch Netflix when/if you’re nursing those first few days, because nursing in the beginning is like a forty-minute process each session and you really ought to catch up on movies while you still can. And if you don’t feel like exposing your newborn to screen-time — not that it bothered me, I watched the entire first season of Downton Abbey one night in the peds ward with Sausage, when he was three weeks old and admitted for two days for RSV — you can use the Kindle app and read a book.

  • Nursing bras / tank tops (these are great) and super-comfy pajama bottoms or yoga pants — because honestly, the sooner you get out of that hospital gown, the better you’ll feel.

  • A bathrobe.

  • Slippers — hospital floors are FREEZING.

  • Snacks — in case it takes forever to get your labor going — and for the middle of the night munchies after baby arrives. Chocolate is good. Also fruit-leathers and nuts.

  • Your phone and a camera.

  • A pillow. Hospital pillows suck.

  • Your basic toiletries. Make-up, if you care. (I don’t.)

  • A pair of footie pajamas for the baby to wear home upon discharge.


You don’t need diapers, you don’t need blankets, you don’t need extra clothes for the kid while you’re still at the hospital — for the most part, the hospital will be more than generous in supplying your baby with what she needs. And TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT GENEROSITY. (You’re paying for it, anyway — just wait till you see all the charges your insurance tries to wiggle out of — did I mention mine didn’t want to pay for BOTH babies when I delivered the twins?) So, take the extra diapers home. Seriously — stockpile and steal. Take extra blankets, extra snot-sucking bulbs, and extra baby hats. Extra nursing shields. Extra pump parts and breastmilk storage containers. Those maxi pads and mesh undies they give you for your sensitive lady parts? ASK FOR MORE. You’ll want them later, promise.

Right after Diddy was born, I was in the car listening to NPR and I heard a child safety educator say, “Stop telling your kids not to talk to strangers. They might need to talk to a stranger one day. Instead, teach them which sorts of strangers are safe. You know who’s safe? A mom with kids. Period. Your kid gets separated from you at the mall? Tell her to flag down the first mom with kids she sees.”

This was fantastic advice. I have shared it with everyone who will listen, ever since.

Last month, I finally got to meet the woman who’d said this brilliant thing, when I had the enormous good fortune of attending a kid’s safety seminar led by Patti Fitzgerald of Safely Ever After. Safely Ever After offers seminars to adults and children on the subject of “keeping kids safe from child molesters and abuse.”

I didn’t seek Patti out. I don’t spend every moment of the day worrying that my kids are going to end up in white slavery. But Diddy and Gaga’s preschool offers the material to parents of pre-K students as a preamble to teaching it to the pre-K kids, and Diddy’s a pre-K kid, so I went to hear what Patti had to say.

If it makes you uncomfortable to think about offering this sort of material to a 5 year-old, let me reassure you by saying our school offers an opt-out. But after spending a morning listening to Patti’s presentation, I can honestly say I would have let her go teach my 3 year-old about “tricky people.” If the boys could understand it, I’d have her come over and talk to them, too.

And they’d like it. Really. I did. Sitting around listening to all the horrible things that could happen to your kids might not sound like a good time — but oddly enough, with Patti Fitzgerald, it is.

For one thing, Patti knows her stuff, and I felt confident that her information was accurate and her advice studied and strong. For another, she’s pretty funny — so the material she presented never felt horribly gloom-and-doomy so much as matter-of-fact and manageable.


  • It is unlikely your kid is going to be abused by a weirdo at the park (huge sigh of relief).

  • That said, if there is a weirdo at the park, he’s not going to fit the “stranger” model — so stop teaching your kid about strangers! He’s going to come up to your kid and introduce himself. Voila! He ain’t a stranger anymore.

  • Teach your kids about TRICKY PEOPLE, instead. TRICKY PEOPLE are grown-ups who ASK KIDS FOR HELP (no adult needs to ask a kid for help) or TELLS KIDS TO KEEP A SECRET FROM THEIR PARENTS (including, IT’S OKAY TO COME OVER HERE BEHIND THIS TREE WITHOUT ASKING MOM FIRST. Not asking Mom is tantamount to KEEPING A SECRET.)

  • Teach your kids not to DO ANYTHING, or GO ANYWHERE, with ANY ADULTS AT ALL, unless they can ask for your permission first.

See how I said ANY ADULTS AT ALL? That’s because:

  • It’s far more likely your kid is going to be abused by someone they have a relationship with, because most cases of abuse follow long periods of grooming — both of the kid and his or her family.

  • Bad guys groom you and your kids to gauge whether or not you’re paying attention to what they’re doing, and/or to lure you into dropping your guard. Don’t. Kids who bad guys think are flying under their parents’ radars, or kids who seem a little insecure or disconnected from their parents, are the kids who are most at risk.


  • Be suspicious of gifts that adults in positions of authority give your kids. There’s no reason your son should be coming back from Bar Mitzvah study with a cool new keychain or baseball hat.

  • Be suspicious of teachers who tell you your kid is so special they want to offer him more one-on-one time, or special outings. That teacher who says your kid is into Monet, he wants to take him to a museum next weekend? Say thanks, and take your kid to go see the exhibit yourself.

  • You know that weird adult cousin of yours who’s always out in the yard with the kids, never in the kitchen drinking with the grown-ups? Keep an eye on your kids when he’s around.

  • Oh, and that soccer coach who keeps offering to babysit for free, so you can get some time to yourself? NO ONE WANTS TO BABYSIT YOUR KIDS JUST TO BE NICE.

And, here’s another good reason to add to the PANTHEON of reasons to teach your children the anatomically correct names for their genitalia:

  • There isn’t a child molester on earth who’s going to talk to your daughter about her vagina. Really. But if she suddenly starts calling it a cupcake, you can ask her who taught her that.

* Ultimately, after spending an hour with Patti, I felt LESS worried, not more. That, to me, is the number one sign of a good book or seminar about parenting — it doesn’t stress you out. And you know why Patti Fitzgerald and Safely Ever After won’t stress you out?


Check out Patti’s site. Read her material, buy her kid’s book, organize a bunch of like-minded parents to take her seminars. I promise you’ll feel better after — and way safer — when you do.

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