Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New Parents Have it Easy.

Yes, you read the title correctly:  I think new parents have it easy.

Really, when you think back, babies are not all that hard.

I realize this could incite new mothers the world over. But truly, if they have time to read blogs, they are only proving my point!

1. Babies cannot talk.

They also cannot roll their eyes or slam doors or throw tantrums. While their incessant crying tends to annoy, silence is found by simply placing a boob {or bottle} in the crying baby's mouth. Really, is that so hard!?   

2. Babies do not have back-to-back activities every day from 3 pm -7 pm.

Babies do not require intricate carpooling routines. New parents do not have to remember how the M-W schedule differs from the T-TH schedule, and oh! don't forget the birthday party on Saturday! No, a baby's schedule is the same every afternoon -- sleep. For hours! Heaven. I spend most afternoons in the car helping with homework and whipping up a nutritious dinner simultaneously. 

3.  Baby laundry is little and cute. 

Truly, one load of laundry and their entire little wardrobe is fresh and clean. The laundry of active tweens requires a full-time laundress {oh yeah, that's me}. And you'll never find me cooing "so cute" as I turn every single stinky sock right side in while sorting.  Never. 

4. Babies are not picky eaters. 

Babies, whether they take a bottle or breast, eat regularly and what they are served. Tweens are picky eaters. Or not hungry. Or only hungry for cereal. Babies lay sweetly in your arms and smile while you feed them. So peaceful and serene. Our dinner times are neither peaceful nor serene, but instead, have become a war zone with nightly battles over veggie intake, not talking while chewing, and keeping elbows off the table {and no, I am not the manners Nazi in the family}. 

5. Babies wear anything. 

There are no arguments over what to wear to church or for the family photo. There are no "dramatic sighs" when an outfit is suggested. Yes, babies may soil their clothing from time to time, but that simply provides further opportunities to display yet another darling ensemble! I still purchase the darling ensembles but consider it a win if my duo dons anything other than sport shorts and t-shirts. 

6. Babies can watch R rated movies. 

I do not suggest you bring an infant into an actual movie theatre. That is annoying and plainly inconsiderate to the other viewers. But, in the privacy of your own home, babies can simply sleep in your arms or play on the floor while you watch any number of inappropriate films. You need not be concerned with the gratuitous violence or sex. Babies will simply kick about in their bouncers while you stay up to date with the latest cinema and television series. If my duo walked into the room during Game of Thrones there would undoubtedly be questions and quite possibly counseling required.

7. Babies do not ask why the door is closed. 

So maybe you do not feel like spending private time with your husband for the first couple, few, six months, but in theory you could. There is generally some portion of each day when the baby is asleep and you are awake. I realize we all have priorities and yours may well be a shower. No judgment here. But suffice to say, if you are so inclined, the baby will not walk down the hall, open the door, and ask an uncomfortable series of questions. Not to mention, you have years before junior comes tumbling into your bed each morning. 

8. Babies sleep. 

Yes, it takes some adjusting to adapt to a two-hour sleep cycle. I remember those days. But no one expects you to do anything during that time other than produce milk {or not, your choice}. If you showered and made the bed in one day your husband cheers, "You are doing great!" This is truly an amazing time. Relish in your ability to lay about all day long, neglect the house, any timely grooming rituals, and allow others to feed you for weeks on end.

Seriously, what's not to love!?  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dinner this Week.

It is a short dinner-at-home week for us with Grandma Julie's birthday celebration dinner and Halloween. No, I do not plan to allow my kids to eat only candy for Halloween dinner, but I have yet to plan our annual fĂȘte. I realize that is this week, and thus, given my very organized method of planning all week should be included herein. Sadly, though, I cannot yet wrap my head around the utter madness that is Halloween at our house. I have at least three full days of procrastination left and plan to utilize them fully.

But here's what's on tap for the rest of the week: 
photos via Pinterest

Parmesan Crusted Chicken - This is a new chicken preparation method for me, but I do something similar with Tilapia from time to time so I think the kids will enjoy it. And besides, it looks super easy.

Lasagna Baked Ziti - I have made this numerous times and everyone {save Little Miss Thang who hates all red sauce} loves it. Pleasing everyone in my family is a feat I rarely accomplish. Little Miss Thang will eat all the components of this recipe sans red sauce. And I adore that little girl just enough to deconstruct as needed. 

Cider-Braised Pork Chops - This will also be a new recipe for me but it looks both delectably fall-ish and weeknight dinner simple-ish. Win-win. 

So what do you have in store for your family this week? 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dinner this week.

Last week was quite a successful dinner week for me. I shopped once and cooked every meal I planned. This is noteworthy, folks, as I generally shop a few times a week and still do not manage to properly plan meals. My organized friends are chuckling because they have always utilized this fancy little trick. The rest of you, who like me do not fall neatly into the "organized" column, revel in these little successes.  

Fingers-crossed that I'm turning over a new leaf for good! 

This is a short week for our family as we prepare to travel for a gymnastics meet/meet the in-laws this weekend. I will nourish us as well as possible before we spend the weekend eating {and drinking} poolside.  Yes, for those of you not in Texas, it is still possible to eat poolside. We do not consider this a plus, but take advantage nonetheless.

Until then, we will enjoy this mild cold front and a few warm meals. 

Last night I made the Classic Ragu Bolognese {bottom} and let me tell you:  It was absolutely amazing. Maybe not everyone gets quite as excited about a bolognese, but I love nothing more than a dish that requires hours of simmering {I swear my house still smells amazing} so the flavor meld and intensify. I also recognize that not everyone is home from 4pm-7pm to allow this magic to occur. If that is the case, make a double batch on a Sunday afternoon and freeze half. You will be so happy you did. 
Tonight I am trying Nigel Slater's Coq au Riesling {right}. It too looks amazing {cream + wine + pancetta + my shoe = yum!} but can be whipped together easily between homework, gymnastics, and tennis, making it a great weeknight meal contender. 

My final meal of the week is one of my kids' favorites: Pasta with Sausage. This is a weeknight standby in our house because (1) the kids love it, and (2) I can easily stock the ingredients. Yes, you will see it again soon. I have to balance all the new dishes with our tried and true. 

So, what's on the menu for your family this week?  Do you cook new meals regularly or stick to the tried and true? Share a link to your favorite recipe so I can try it next week! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

940 Saturdays.

True.  Of course it depends on your child's birth month and a variety of other variables. Only nerdy minds such as mine factor in such variables. Others just take this at face value and want to run off and plan a special weekend with her child. Sometimes I wish my mind operated on that level.

But it doesn't. 

And while I certainly understand, and at times, tout the "carpe diem" philosophy of parenting, I also have parented long enough to understand that some days are just too long to recognize how painfully short the years can be. 

The concept that young parents should simply "enjoy every moment because it goes so fast" infuriates me. Yes, enjoy the ride. Enjoy the big picture of parenting. But truly, I will never tell any parent to enjoy the moment when one toddler is standing in the grocery cart screaming and the other is running down the cereal aisle knocking down every box. Yes, you may eventually look back and laugh at that moment. But no sane or sober mother is laughing or enjoying that very moment.  

Nor will I attempt to make any working parent feel guilty because he or she cannot make the 300th soccer game of the season because of work. Work pays the bill for the cleats, the pizza party, and the trophy for every kid on the team. Work is a necessity. 

When and why did every moment become so special?  

Growing up my parents did not entertain me every weekend. Actually, think it's fair to say they entertained me very few weekends. Truly, those few were special occasions. Most weekends they were busy with yard work, chores, friends, and activities of their own. They taught bridge in our basement for college credit {this still baffles me}. They mowed the yard. They cleaned the house. They cooked meals. They socialized with their own friends. 

This is not to say that I was in any way neglected as a child. Quite the contrary. My parents were fabulous parents. They encouraged me and loved me unconditionally. They just didn't entertain me. If I said I was bored my mother handed me Comet and told me to clean all the sinks. And I did. 

I remember when my duo were just babes, my father said one day while I was playing with my kids on the floor of his living room, "You are always on the floor entertaining them. We never spent time on the floor with you." True. I have many pictures of myself in a playpen surrounded by toys. Mom was probably busy sewing a dress for herself. I was incapable of sewing on a button when my duo was little -- I was too busy sitting on the floor entertaining them. 

What caused this cultural shift and is it good for us or our children? 

Quite frankly, though I've already spent over 520 Saturdays "enjoying" my children, I would argue that every weekend should not be a special occasion. Children need to learn to entertain themselves, or perchance, to clean the sinks.  

Yes, we should enjoy quality time with our children. Often. But we should also enjoy ourselves - with and without them. 

We should enjoy family game nights filled with laughter and silliness, but we should not feel guilty about couple date nights filled with champagne and sushi. We need both. And they need to see a healthy relationship in action. 

We too should celebrate the change of the seasons and jump on the trampoline until our legs sag. We should also enjoy the crisp breeze from our perch in a hammock reading a book. Alone. Children can entertain themselves. More so as they get older, but even in small spurts when they are young. Work from wherever you are.  

Finally, we should not feel guilty about working. {Unless, that is, you are a workaholic who prefers working to living. That is another issue and one which I shall not address.} But if you, like the hubs, have a job that demands working weekends from time to time, then work on the weekends. Weekend days are not sacred. Find quality time when you can. Don't beat yourself up for providing for your family.

I have no doubt I will miss my children when they head off to college. I will most certainly miss the messes and the loudness and the busyness they bring. Without question. That tremendous feeling of loss, however, will not wane simply because we had 940 meticulously-planned, over-the-top Saturdays together. 

Carpe diem.  

When you can. 

Or lay around next Saturday and read a really good book.

Kids should have parents who do both. 

Because truly, while creating an-every-weekend-is-a-party mentality may prepare children for college, perhaps it is not in the manner you intend. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dinner this week.

I do indeed recognize that it is strange, or startling, or perhaps, even jolting for me to casually show up here in this little space of mine and suggest a menu for the week. I had no intentions of reincarnating this blog or this blog series. 

Truth be told, I'm feeling a touch of guilt for feeding my kids pasta three nights this week {hubs is in trial and not dining with us}. As if that weren't enough, one of my besties, J, said she missed this feature. Well, you see, J's babes are my God children, and thus, I take it as a moral imperative to ensure she does not fall into my pasta-is-so-easy-and-quick rut. Our children deserve better.

So, yes, I'm back on my meal-planning bonanza and I'm taking you all {or perhaps, just J} along with me.  Like it or not!   
So here's my week at a glance: 

Friday night - Out-to-dinner night {despite the fact that so was Thursday - this single mom gig is rough duty}.

Saturday night - Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak
The hubs can grill. He must take a night off eventually. And I'm pretty sure grilling is cathartic. Right?! I'll serve this with roasted or grilled veggies.  

Sunday night - Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs
We have a cold front coming through and this will be a glorious day to have something warm simmering on the stove making the house smell incredible. Yes, it does take all day to make, but that's what Sunday's are for.  Make extra.  The leftovers are divine. Serve with a side salad and crusty bread. 

Monday night - Easy White Chicken Chili
I'm hoping the air is still brisk.  This is an easy weeknight dinner. Hopefully you have leftover crusty bread.

Tuesday night - Salmon with Avocado Salsa.
Another quick weeknight meal. Quinoa as the side with similar salsa ingredients incorporated and dressed with lemon and olive oil.  Of course, it will be hot again so this will be refreshing.

Wednesday night - Vanilla Bean-Whipped Sweet Potatoes.
I realize this is a side, but I could eat the entire bowl pictured.  I love this with a pork tenderloin {roasted at 425 for 20-25 minutes}.


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