I put on my big-girl pants and moved over here.
I’ve never been a great meal planner. I love good food, but I don’t really like to cook it unless I can follow a recipe, and then have the whole day to test it. I tend to screw it up the first time, which results in a lot of cursing and requires a re-do.
When I first went back to work last year, our dinner “plan” was a nightly trainwreck. I’d buy things for a crockpot recipe and never have enough time in the morning to throw everything together. Or, I’d forget to turn the crockpot on entirely (that was a great night). I didn’t want to make-ahead anything, because why would I spend a whole day in the kitchen when I could be
breaking up catfights spending some quality time with my kids?
I didn’t need a 30-minute meal. I needed a ten-minute meal I could prepare with two hungry kids clinging to my ankles. My list of healthy go-to dinners includes:
1. Egg and Cheese Sandwiches. Whip up some scrambled eggs (or sure, fry them, if you’re feeling fancy. We are not fancy.), serve with fresh fruit and cooked frozen sausages.
2. Al Fresco chicken sausages. Low-fat, high-protein (the ongoing mission with young kids, right? Dear god, just eat this one ounce of protein so we can feel better about ourselves?) with a list of natural ingredients you can pronounce. And pre-cooked, so you just need to heat them up. While they’re cooking, throw on some frozen broccoli and quick-cooking brown rice, and you have another successful non-McDonald’s meal.
3. Dinner in a pocket. Keep refrigerated crescent rolls on hand. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and unroll them in squares, not triangles. Fill the middle of the square with anything dinner-ish. Chicken and cheese, cheese and that one vegetable you know your kid will eat, pepperoni, leftover taco meat, leftover anything, really. I’ve even done it with chili. Fold the square over, seal the edges, cook according to package directions.
4. English muffin pizzas. An old but versatile standby. I use whole wheat muffins and serve them with unsweetened applesauce and baby carrots or sliced red peppers. Do not underestimate the mileage you can get out of a bag of baby carrots.
5. Salt-and-pepper chicken tenders. This one requires me to remember to defrost the chicken tenders overnight, so obviously it doesn’t always pan out. However, my girls devour them when they’re seasoned with just a little salt and pepper and pan fried on the stove. Cook them for 5-7 minutes on a side. Add some egg noodles, vegetable of some sort, and pour yourself a glass of wine for being so speedy and resourceful.
We were late, as usual. Flung the car doors open, crammed my life inside – purse in the passenger’s seat, kids in their car seats, lunchboxes, briefcase, jackets, work shoes and umbrella in the trunk.
My youngest was still sob-sucking from a massive naked tantrum on the kitchen floor. She’s three, and has a fierce aversion to the notion of underwear. I’d tossed lunch items together while stepping over her limbs. My oldest cried because her sister was screaming too loud.
Did I mention we live in a duplex? Mornin’ neighbors!
“I want pancakes,” my oldest said. She buckled herself and flopped against the seat, because I obviously never feed her.
“No time for pancakes,” I said. “But look! I have cereal.” I pulled two Cheerio-baggies from my purse.
I snapped the harness on my three year old’s seat, handed her a bag of breakfast, and shut her door. “I wan’ a boook!” she wailed. I opened the door again, gave her a book from the seat pocket.
“Mommy,” Oldest said as I climbed into the driver’s seat.
“Hang on a second.” I glanced at the clock. I ran down my usual list of sorry-I’m-late-but excuses. Sorry I’m late but I couldn’t find my car keys. Sorry I’m late but the traffic was insane. Sorry I’m late but I, uh, love sleep?
“Hold ON. Let me get out of the DRIVEWAY.”
“Mommy, why does she get a book and I never do?”
“If you want a book, you can get it yourself.”
“But I want you to get it for me.”
For the next minute, I listened to her grunt and whine as she pretended to try to pull a book from the seat pocket. (The girl is over 50 inches tall. Amazon arms. She’d better thank me when she gets her Oscar.)
“Stop,” I finally said.
The car went quiet for a second.
“Oops,” she said. I grimaced. “Mommy, I dropped my cereal.”
While still driving, I glanced in the backseat. She hadn’t just dropped her cereal; she’d managed to spray it. There were Cheerios in every crevice of the seat, in the door handle, all over the floor. It was a fresh layer of gross on the weeks of dropped bagged insert-name-of-food-here that I still hadn’t had time to vacuum.
Then, in one of my less-proud mom moments, I pulled over and launched into how many times have I told you and you need to hold on tight, and even as I saw her eyes filling with tears I couldn’t stop myself, because don’t you see this just makes a mess and good Lord, it’s only 7:52 a.m., the day hasn’t even started, and we have to do this all again tomorrow.
Like I said. Not my greatest moment. But after 47 deep breaths, a hug and apologies on my part, she recovered in three seconds and spent the rest of the ride pretending to be Tinkerbell escaping from the highest tower in Pixie-blah-blah-blah. But here I am, still beating myself up about it.
The screeching harpy on the side of the road isn’t the kind of mom I want to be. I’ve been at this for almost six years. You’d think I would have figured this part out by now. But no, kids and life are sneaky and constantly changing and you just have to roll with it. So I’m rolling. And writing it down.
Winter with kids is so much fun.
And, winter with kids also sucks dinosaur balls. You just never know which one the day will bring. I’ve already received the no-school-tomorrow call tonight. I’ve been curled in the fetal position, chewing on my hair ever since.
The great thing about entertaining your kids during the winter is that you get to be a kid again. You make forts, run with sleds…though I use the term “run” loosely, kick up snowstorms with your boots and pretend that the icicles are magic crystals that Tinkerbell and her sidekicks need to make winter arrive on time. Or something.
And yet we’ve had more meltdowns in the last week than in the last six months. Why, you ask?
Both kids have developed an ongoing love-hate relationship with their winter outerwear. They love their snowpants. Then they hate their snowpants. The straps won’t stay up and oh, god, now they are twisted. TWISTED! Initiate tantrum sequence.
They can’t wait to try on their boots. Then their boots suck. Their socks are bunched up. The zipper is digging into their skin. Boots are the spawn of Satan.
Then, of course, I’m moving too slow. I’m moving too fast and now they think I’m going without them. I stepped on someone’s hat. I dressed that one first, and this one wanted to go first. This one is screaming at me. This one is going for a time-out.
Mind you, we’re still inside.
And don’t get me started on mittens. Specifically, the inability of mittens to stay on the hand, and the insanity of watching a two-year-old yank off her mitten in frustration, plunge her bare hand into the snow, and then scream because she has no mitten.
In general, once the whining subsides, we have great fun in the snow.
For eight minutes.
They’ll only remember the eight minutes, right? That’s what matters, right?!
I seem to remember spending hours outside in the snow with my brother. Now I realize that we were probably only out there long enough for my mom to retreat to the bedroom, smack herself with a pillow three times and then regroup in time to make us hot chocolate.
So. Winter fun. What do you do?
I’m not asking. I’m pleading.
Just now, while sitting here trying to think of what to write, I poked my bicep and thought, wow, this thing is kind of hard.
I know. Wow, Lisa, that is really f**king profound. Quit touching yourself and go do something productive.
Anyway, I’ve never been able to keep with a steady workout routine, ever. I think it’s the only toned muscle on my entire body. Unless you count my other arm.
How did that happen? Kids, of course.
They’re the muscles I use to pick my girls up when they’re hurt or scared. The ones I’ve used countless times to lift them into high chairs, booster seats, carnival rides, playground swings.
They’re the ones I’ve used to carry my 40-pound Munchkin up a flight of stairs for her nap. Because sometimes even a big girl needs to be cuddled.
I use them to help Kitt jump over the waves in the ocean. And to swing her in circles, just for fun.
I have to use them, even when I want to take a day off.
They’re the muscles I used to cradle their heads when they were babies, when I’d pull them into bed and ease back onto the pillow in a desperate attempt to squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep. I held them for hours. And when my arms were tired, I held them some more.
They’re my mom muscles. I’ve worked harder for them, put in more sweat and tears for them than anything I’d ever get from logging time at the gym.
And they’ll only get stronger from here.
En route to the ice cream store the other night, my 3-year old sighs thoughtfully and says, completely out of the blue:
“Mommy, I want a man.”
“What did you say?”
“I want a man.”
Ok, Lisa. Don’t panic. This is one of those Parenting Moments. This is what you’ve trained for, solider!
I think immediately of the fact that she hangs with an older crowd, eight-and-nine year old neighbors who also have older sisters. She’s just repeating something she heard. Like how she calls Kitt a “goofball” because she hears you say it all the time.
Or how she yells “Shit!” whenever something breaks.
Mentally, I am Gearing. Up. I rehearse lines that begin, “Sweetie, sometimes when bigger kids blah blah blah, it doesn’t always mean that you should blah blah blah,” and wonder, does she know what the word “appropriate” even means? What’s a smaller word that means the same thing? “Nice?”
Gah, what would Dora the Explorer do??
“Who said that to you, honey?” I ask her. “Did (neighbor) say that?”
“No,” she says, looking at me like I’m the dumbest human she’s ever encountered.
I’m getting concerned now. I want to know who I can blame for this, dangit. I stop the car, turn around and give her my most serious Mommy face.
“Munchkin, what do you mean, ‘you want a man?’”?
“I want a man ice cream. With the eyes, and the nose, and the hair..”
“What the – ohhhhhhhh…”
I devoted five whole minutes of parental brain bashing to none other than Mr. Conehead Sundae.
She got her man.
I could really go for one right now, actually. Then again, I bet he totally leaves his dirty underwear all over the freezer.
I used to explode out of bed in the morning when I heard the Munchkin waking up.
The second I heard her make a sound – any sound – I’d throw back the covers and stumble into her room, because obviously if she was awake, then I had to be awake too. That was part of my job. Obviously she’d be doomed to get a horrible score on her SAT’s and never get into college and probably go blind.
I read all about it on the Internet.
A former co-worker told me she once found herself running down her stairs full-tilt in the middle of the night because her two-year-old asked for a drink of water. Suddenly she stopped and said to herself, “Why am I running? This is not the Sahara. He’s not dying of thirst. I think I can walk.”
Damn tiny dictators.
Eventually, I figured out that kids? Kids are just regular people. And regular people don’t need instant beck-and-call response for everything. These days, when the Munchkin trots into my room at dark o’clock in the morning, I ignore her. In a loving way.
“Mommy, it’s time to get up and we can have breakfast and see our friends!” she will say.
“No. No it is not.”
“You wanna snuggle?” I offer.
Thirty seconds later: “Now we can get up and have breakfast and see our friends?”
And so on.
Eventually, she gets bored, heads into Kitt’s room and hops into her crib. Then there’s giggling, laughing, blowing of raspberries. The two of them have weird conversations where the Munchkin will talk for five minutes straight, then Kitt will reply with something like, “Bah!” and then they both dissolve into hysterics.
It’s quite possibly my most favorite sound in the world.
Until I hear someone’s body thud onto the carpet. Most often followed by screaming.
Then it’s game over. Time to…
…wait for it….
….get up, eat breakfast, and see our friends.