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On The Question Of Wearing Pants

I have a dear friend who has a million children.  She calls it “a reckless number of children,” but I say “a million” because it’s easier and more specific.

Anyway, I babysat her kids last week.

It did not go well.

For starters, I fed her lactose intolerant child lactose within the first 15 minutes.

Here’s what happened:

  • The kid climbed a doorframe up to the ceiling;
  • I asked him to get off the ceiling; and
  • He said he would prefer to remain on the ceiling.

We were at an impasse.  So I did what any self-respecting babysitter would do:  I bribed him with candy.  Unfortunately, I used Pop Rocks candy, which is basically a lactose party in your mouth.

When I saw the ingredient list, I freaked out.  Was he going to break out in hives?  Was his throat going to close up?

His siblings assured me he’d be fine.

“He won’t get sick,” they said.  “Trust us.”

I thought about this.

“I want to trust you,” I said.  “But. . .”

“But what?” they asked.

“Well, none of you have any medical training.  And none of you are over the age of ten.  And. . .”

“And what?” they asked.

“And only one of you,” I said, pointing to a single, fully-clothed child, “seems to understand the importance of wearing pants.”

They blinked at me like I was a crazy person.

I closed my eyes.  “Okay,”  I sighed.  “Here’s what’s going to happen.  I’m going to go into the laundry room to think for a minute.  I’m taking this box of Oreos with me.  Yell if anything bad happens.”

But they had dispersed already.  Some to the TV room, some to the ceiling.  Some appeared to be eating pancakes that I didn’t remember making.  They had moved like the wind.

It’s amazing how fast you can travel when you’re not wearing pants.

When I got home, I ate a big bowl of pasta with meatballs.  I needed energy.  I was going back the next day.

There are lots of great meatball recipes out there.  I like baking some all-beef meatballs (instead of browning them on the stove top) and adding them to a tomato sauce.  The tomato sauce recipe below is mine, but I started with The Meatball Shop’s recipe for the meatballs.  Have you heard of this place?  It’s a meatball restaurant in New York.  I used to go to the one on the Lower East Side.  It was tiny, and the last time I went there the wait for a table was 2 1/2 hours long.  (I got some meatballs to go and ate them in my apartment while watching Groundhog Day.)  They have a cookbook now, thank goodness, so you can make them yourself.  I altered their classic beef meatball recipe to make it more like my mom’s.

Meatballs & Tomato Sauce {Download & Print Recipe}

Tomato sauce from me, meatballs adapted from The Meatball Shop’s recipe to be more like my mom’s.


For the sauce

1/8 c. olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, crushed in their skins with the side of a knife, peeled, and hard end removed

1 bay leaf

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

1 28-oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 15-oz. can tomato “sauce”

1 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed

1 Tbsp. red wine (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

For the meatballs (makes 40+ medium-sized meatballs)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 lbs. 80% lean ground beef

1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese

1/2 c. grated Parmesan

3 eggs

1/2 c. Italian (seasoned) dried breadcrumbs

1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley (I substitute some fresh spinach, fresh celery leaves, basil, or other leafy green when I’m out of parsley)

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1 tsp. ground fennel (if you have fennel seeds, grind them in a coffee grinder)


First, make the tomato sauce.

In a pot or a large, deep saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, bay leaf and oregano and sauté about 7minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent.  Do not let the onion or garlic brown (reduce heat to medium-low if necessary).

Add the can of plum tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you add them, and their juices.  Add the can of crushed tomatoes, the can of tomato “sauce,” the brown sugar and the red wine.

Stir and bring to a simmer.  Taste it and add salt and pepper to your liking.  Keep the tomato sauce at a very low simmer with the lid mostly on, stirring occasionally to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom, about 40 minutes, while you make the meatballs.

While the sauce simmers, make the meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour the olive oil into a 9 x 13 baking dish and use your hand to spread it around evenly.  Set it aside.

In a large bowl, place the remaining ingredients for the meatballs.  Mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.

Roll the beef mixture into golf-sized balls and place them in the prepared baking dish.  Line them up even rows and columns so they fit snugly in a grid–they should be touching each other.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.  If you have a meat thermometer, it should read 165 degrees F.

Remove the meatballs from the baking dish with a spatula or turner, and remove bits of fat with a fork or paper towel.

Transfer the meatballs to the simmering tomato sauce.

Plunk the meatballs gently into the simmering tomato sauce and add the basil leaves.  Simmer for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour, so the flavors mingle.  (You can boil water for pasta during this time).

Taste the sauce and adjust the salt and pepper if desired.  Remove the bay leaf.

Serve the meatballs and sauce with pasta or bread.  I put extra ricotta and grated Parmesan on the table so people can help themselves if they like.  You can freeze extra meatballs and sauce.


This is the face Thunder would make if you told her she had to wear pants.

56 Comments Post a comment
  1. My five year old son also hates wearing pants. And loves meatballs. And thinks that Thunder should come and live with us because he happened to see her photo while I was reading your post and said “awwwww she is SO CUTE! I want that puppy – she should live with us!” So thanks for that – now I have to make my kid meatballs AND buy a puppy, all while trying to convince him that he does indeed need to wear pants. It’s going to be a long day….

    October 22, 2012
    • I don’t want to complicate things, but I feel obligated to tell you that there’s an 80% change a puppy would eat your son’s pants. Just, you know, in case you want to factor that in.

      October 22, 2012
      • ibreatheimhungry #

        Oh GREAT…

        October 22, 2012
  2. Cute story – kids can drive you to eat! LOL

    October 22, 2012
    • Heh. I also ate a lot of kid’s food that day. Oreos, goldfish crackers. . . I had forgotten how good goldfish are!

      October 22, 2012
  3. This made me laugh out loud. Kids climbing ceilings without pants, so good.

    October 22, 2012
    • Hee hee. The ceiling part was pretty amazing. He tried to teach me how to walk up the door frame and it was impossible for me and my big ol’ adult legs!

      October 22, 2012
  4. You are brilliant. i had a babysitter once who dragged the phone into the bathroom, called me and begged me to come back. It sounded like there was a war on. i got home to find they had barricaded her into the bathroom. Shrieking like devils. Though they were all wearing pants. Be very careful about going into the laundry alone next time. Make sure there is a window or something for a quick escape..

    October 22, 2012
    • Cecelia, that is amazing. And I’m glad you told me that story, because now that I think of it–the laundry room was a dead end! No escape route! But there *was* a pantry stocked with food in there, at least. And it smelled great, like fresh laundry. So at least I would have been comfortable if I had been barricaded in! (Whew!)

      October 22, 2012
      • Ah yes, well food and clean .. um.. pants.. sounds like a good place to hide out.. c

        October 22, 2012
  5. Ouida Lampert #

    I have to tell ya – your posts are delightful. Laugh-out-loud delightful!

    October 22, 2012
    • Ouida, thank you. I have so much fun writing them (even if, at the time, I was quite nervous babysitting!)

      October 22, 2012
  6. I can only guarantee my children will be fully clothed for specific short time periods. Around 10 minutes. They usually remained clothed in public unless they require the bathroom during which time they will have no trouble leaving the door wide open showing the entire restaurant their business. They have been known to run out into snow with nothing on but underpants. Also, the cat is a nudist.

    October 22, 2012
    • That is hilarious, Brooke. My friend’s kids like to pee outside. Specifically, on trees in an emergency. I think it’s so awesome. Life is short, you know? If you gotta go, you gotta go.

      October 22, 2012
      • The entire outdoors is my boy’s litter box. My favorite story though, happened at a funeral (before we had kids). We were outside at the burial, and I heard a little boy lean over to his Dad and say, “Can we pee outside?” When you gotta go, indeed…

        October 22, 2012
  7. someone’s always naked around here. so, call first.

    October 22, 2012
    • Ha! You should make that into a sign and hang it on your front door: “Someone’s always naked around here. Did you call first?”

      October 22, 2012
    • This makes me wonder if Tammie’s kids were wearing pants when they tried to lick my birthday cake.

      October 22, 2012
  8. This is exactly why I refuse to have children in my house. They won’t wear pants. Also, they are very dirty and like to lick stuff – just ask my pal @craftytammie up there. Her kids tried to lick my birthday cake. DISGUSTING.

    Now – and this is very important – I need some meatballs and tomato sauce. Yours sound really, really awesome – like when a kid actually bothers to put pants on. So here’s what you’re going to do: you’re gunna make me some meatballs and tomato sauce, your gunna put it over some pasta, and you’re gunna find a way to get it to me STAT. K?

    October 22, 2012
    • I’d like to elaborate on something you’re saying here.

      So, I’ve been working at the farmer’s market. And I can tell you, since I man the goat cheese table, that kids will not only lick stuff; they PUT IT BACK. After they’ve licked it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a kid grab a cracker, lick the goat cheese off it, make a face like “ew. Why didn’t you tell me this wasn’t chocolate?” and then return the slobbery cracker to the serving plate so an unwitting adult like you or me can eat it.


      October 28, 2012
  9. Love every bit of your posts including the amazing comments!!!

    October 22, 2012
    • I *love* this group of commenters. It is so fun for me to read them!

      October 24, 2012
  10. Pop Rocks contain lactose??? How startlingly strange.

    October 22, 2012
    • Can you believe that? It’s the second ingredient. Never would have guessed. I guess it works as a binder. I made a recipe recently that called for milk powder to go on pretzels in order to kind of meld butter and candy pieces to them. Who knew?

      October 24, 2012
  11. Camille (the other one up north) #

    Being lactose intolerant myself (what a dirty, underhanded trick of my gene pool) I am left wondering if the ceiling climbing, pantless child ended up making it into the bathroom in time for the inevitable consequences of ingesting anything containing dairy? Let’s not ponder too long on the concept except to say…the laundry room would be a good place for you to hide out. Meatballs….yummmm….except I would have to leave out the ricotta and Parmesan, effectively rendering them having the exact same taste and consistancy of a golf ball. To reference how I actually feel about this situation, please refer to the photo of Thunder’s face in the last photo. *sigh* But I have to tell you: I love how you write and you do make me laugh…hard.

    October 22, 2012
    • Oh Camille, you crack me up.

      The child ceiling loiterer (as I shall now call him) seemed unfazed by the whole lactose-ingestion experience, but I did confiscate the pop rocks after a few mouthfuls. In any event, it was a babysitting miracle that we all got out of there alive.

      October 28, 2012
  12. cj #

    This is hilarious!! Thank you.

    October 22, 2012
    • CJ, I am always thankful that you stop by.

      October 28, 2012
  13. Pop rocks contain lactose?! I never would have thought.

    October 22, 2012
  14. Wendy #

    Oh, man! I have been looking for a good spaghetti and meatballs recipe. But I don’t really like the consistency of spaghetti, so using penne is a great idea. (or the curly cues, whatever they are called). I was looking at Pioneer Woman’s to maybe try, but this looks WAY better! It’s on the menu for next week. THANK YOU!!!!

    October 22, 2012
    • Hi Wendy! I hope you like them! I like those curly cues too. Fusili, maybe? Dunno. I always get the names confused. 🙂

      October 28, 2012
  15. Hilarious!! I think there’s a books worth of babysitting stories here! I can’t wait to read what the hellions get up to tomorrow! Thankfully I only had 2 little ones without pants at one time! (p.s. they now wear pants quite responsibly, so they can be trained!)

    October 22, 2012
    • Two little ones without pants sounds like QUITE enough!! I am glad to hear that your little ones came to accept the institution of pants. That gives me hope for the next generation, and for babysitters everywhere.

      October 28, 2012
  16. annerichardson #

    brilliant. that was hilarious. in fact, i would have been happy even without the recipe. but lucky me! thanks for the laugh.

    October 22, 2012
    • Thanks, Anne! Have a good rest of your weekend.

      October 28, 2012
  17. Jen #

    OMG! I think you were in my house this weekend! LOL I have 2 (almost)14 year olds, a 4 year old and a 2 1/2 year old. Need I really say more. 🙂

    My 4 year old is our stripper in my house. I’m pretty sure every time my neighbor came over between her 1st birthday and 3rd birthday my daughter was wearing nothing but a diaper.

    Lucky for us we’ve had the same high school babysitter my “strippers” whole life. Although, I’m fairly certain after experiencing my zoo (I mean kids) she’s never having any of her own kids. 🙂

    October 22, 2012
    • Wow, you have ALMOST as many kids as my friend, Jen! It must be nuts (in a good way) over there. Thank goodness for your babysitter!

      October 28, 2012
  18. I pretty sure, while president, Bill Clinton made most of his decisions pants-less.
    and he likes meatballs.
    and pop rocks too (although you won’t find that in any biography)

    October 23, 2012
    • These are all excellent points that I will take under advisement.

      October 28, 2012
  19. Pants, no. Pink, polka-dotted necklace, absolutely.

    October 23, 2012
    • You noticed that, eh? It’s new! 🙂

      October 28, 2012
      • I love her collar – I just got my herd of puppies all new collars and Coco has a lavender and navy one just like that LOL

        October 28, 2012
  20. a #

    I am happy to report that my daughter wears pants most of the time. However, whenever she’s “hot” the first thing to come off are her pants. At least she does wait until she gets home before taking her pants off.

    Also, my husband was just complaining that I added pork sausage to the meatballs I just made, so he will be happy that I’ve found a beef-only recipe!

    October 23, 2012
    • Ha!! This made me laugh. What a great sentence: “However, whenever she’s “hot” the first thing to come off are her pants.”

      October 28, 2012
  21. This made me laugh!

    October 24, 2012
    • So glad, Liz! Have a good rest of your weekend.

      October 28, 2012
  22. I have days when I don’t want to wear pants. My kitties don’t wear pants. When my son goes to college, I will walk around without pants. Just thought I would share. And I love the idea of spinach in meatballs. 🙂

    October 24, 2012
    • I don’t want to freak you out or anything, but college kids often forget to wear pants, right? So it’s only fair that you do the same in your own home.

      October 28, 2012
  23. I just spent an hour reading your blog back until July because of how much I loved this post..and it’s official.. I love it even more now! You are hilarious.

    October 24, 2012
    • Hannah, thank you! I’m so glad you stumbled on it!

      October 28, 2012
  24. Ha! You should do stand-up. Not sure which I like better:

    “Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to go into the laundry room to think for a minute. I’m taking this box of Oreos with me. Yell if anything bad happens.”


    It’s amazing how fast you can travel when you’re not wearing pants.


    I got some meatballs to go and ate them in my apartment while watching Groundhog Day.

    October 24, 2012
  25. I just laughed so hard I convulsed in hiccuping snorts.

    October 25, 2012
  26. juanitascocina #

    Pants are overrated. But not meatballs. NOBODY appreciates meatballs as much as they should be appreciated.

    October 27, 2012
  27. i saw the Meatball Shop dude a few months ago on the Martha show, and ever since then, this book has been on the “to rent from the library” list. i have never made a professional meatball before, so it’s high time i tried.

    October 29, 2012
  28. I have no idea what I would do if I was in possession of a child on the ceiling. I might leave it there, but perhaps that’s why my friends never leave their kids with me. I once found a spider on the ceiling and fashioned a huge and elaborate poking device to squish it. It worked. Kinda. The spider completely disappeared into thin air. To this day I have no idea where it is and sleep uneasily whenever I remember. You have simeultaneously reminded me of this fateful day as well as given me a potential remedy. These meatballs might just settle my nerves and help me get a good night’s rest. Thanks. Kinda.

    November 1, 2012

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