Sometimes I have a “Fend for Yourself” night for dinner. You know, leftovers, sandwiches, cereal or a whatever-you-can-find kind of night. When I’ve worked all day, the kids are crying, and my husband just wants to watch TV, I just don’t feel like cooking. That was me last week. I got home, and I just wanted to lie down. I got one of the girls a sandwich, and made the other one a bowl of cereal. My husband said he would “find something.” And, honestly, I wasn’t hungry. We didn’t even sit at the table together that night, which is fine. We all have those kind of nights, right? But after they ate, and I tucked them into bed, my eight-year-old daughter looked at me and said, “Mama, how come we didn’t sit together tonight? I didn’t get to tell you about my field trip.” Confused, I asked her why she didn’t tell me about it anyway. She said “Oh, I saved it for dinner talk.” After I got past the fact that she saves conversations, because she is a TALKER, it warmed my heart to know that she didn’t question why she had cereal for dinner, but why we didn’t sit together. I apologized and agreed to have “Fend for Yourself” night at the table like any other dinner. Just because our meals are different doesn’t mean the seating has to be different.
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My daughter started pre-K this year. Every day, I pack her lunch. I pack it for a number of reasons, but mostly, because I want to know what she is eating. Since the first day of school, she hasn’t touched her lunch. Seriously! Nothing eaten at all. It started on the first day of school. When I asked her why she didn’t eat, she said she couldn’t get her lunch box open, and she was too scared to ask for help. My heart was crushed. I was sad that her belly was hungry all day. I wasn’t even thinking it would be hard to open when I bought her the super cute lunch box that zipped on the side. After my cry fest, I decided to buy her a lunch box with a snazzy velcro opening. When she came home again with a full lunch box, I was puzzled. I called her teacher and asked if they could pay extra attention to my hungry baby. She assured me she would watch the best she could, but she doesn’t go to lunch with them. She also let me know they have snack time later in the day, and sometimes my daughter eats and sometimes she doesn’t.
Now we’re halfway through the school year and she still isn’t eating her lunch. She eats well for breakfast and dinner at home, and she gets upset when I ask about lunchtime. We’ve packed different things, her favorite things, and she still comes home with a full lunch box. I have even gone to peek in to see her at lunchtime, without her seeing me. She just sits there looking around. After worrying for some time, I spoke with a dietitian. She assured me that a healthy child will not starve themselves. She told me that parents are responsible for what to eat, when to eat and where to eat, while the child is responsible for how much to eat. I’ve decided to stop bringing it up. Who knows? Maybe she doesn’t like eating in front of people. All I can do is make sure food is available to her.
Christmas came early for our family — we are expecting baby no. 2 next summer! But, let me tell you, this “morning” sickness is putting a damper on my holiday eats! With my first kid, I was in my 20s, I had no morning sickness, felt great, worked full time and loved being pregnant. This time, in my 30s and in my second month, my energy is zapped by 2 p.m. I feel so tired, my body aches like it did when I was eight months along with my first, and I just want to eat (if I can keep it down). I know I’ve got to do something to focus on self-care if I’m going to make it another eight months.
Here is a list of things I’ve committed to doing for me, which in turn will make me a better wife, mom and employee:
- Drink all the water! Well, not all of it, but I need to be sure I’m getting 64 ounces every day. That’s the equivalent of four to five standard water bottles. If I have one at each meal, and sip on one between each meal I should be good.
- Sleep. Seriously, I need to sleep as much as I can and as often as I can. Power nap at lunch, lay down with my older child during their naptime, put myself to bed early, DVR that late night show and binge on the weekends.
- Take prenatal vitamins. They are huge and smell weird, but baby and I need them. The horse pill size is no excuse, they come in gummies too. Proof that we really never have to grow up.
- Move my body. Now is not the time to try powerlifting for the first time, but I don’t want to become a couch potato. I’m not what you’d call an athlete, but I hit the gym occasionally. Walking the park or treadmill, playing in the yard with my four-year-old, light yoga, or doing housework is perfectly normal and good for me, as long as my doctor says it’s okay.
- Choose healthier snacks. Cheese puffs are delicious, but bananas are nutritious.
- Book a prenatal massage. Yes, it is an expense I could go without, but we could nix our next date night or take my lunch to work all month to make up for it. Plus, the massage therapist will likely have some tips on areas to focus on for relaxation, and areas to avoid. I just made sure the massage therapist was certified in prenatal massage!
- Divvy up the housework with my partner. If your partner is like mine and thinks taking the trash out and occasionally washing his own clothes is doing his “fair share” then we have our work cut out for us on this one. My control-freak tendencies are partially to blame here, but I am going to have a sit down with him, make a list, check it twice and give him AT LEAST half of the domestic duties. If you don’t have a live-in partner, don’t fret. Do what you can, and let the non-essential stuff go for a while. What’s that saying? “Don’t mind the mess, we’re busy making memories!”
- Ask for help. And then actually accept it! Did I mention I’m a control freak? People always offer to help AFTER baby, but the business of growing this fetus is exhausting. If I get behind, I get stressed. Stress isn’t good for anybody in my house or my womb. I have to ask for help, and not feel guilty about it.
Being a mom is like being a real-life superhero, but when you feel like life is tugging on your cape – take some time and take care of YOU. You can’t serve from an empty bowl.
As the weather gets colder, I am tempted to hibernate. The 5:45 am alarm that tries to rip me from my warm bed is an annoyance, and the last thing I want to do is go out into the cold to go to the gym. On these cold winter mornings, I have two voices in my head. One says, “you will be glad you went once you get there,” while the other says, “turn off the alarm and go back to sleep – you deserve it.” The struggle is real!
Most mornings I do get up, I do go to the gym and I am glad I went. Once I get my blood flowing, I am not cold anymore, and it always makes me feel better. I deserve the gift of health that comes from being active, more than I deserve an extra 30 minutes of sleep. My children deserve a mom who can keep up with demands of a busy family. And since it gets dark so early in the winter, maybe the whole family can go to bed 30 minutes earlier. That way I can benefit from the activity and the extra sleep.
If you asked me a year ago what we were having for dinner, I would have told you takeout. We are a family of four, and I didn’t learn to cook until about seven months ago. My husband worked nights for six years, and he was the only cook in the house. We only ate at home together once a week, when he cooked. Family mealtime was not important, and consuming healthy food was not a priority. It wasn’t until I was talking to coworker that I realized the benefits of family mealtime. She and others would offer me easy recipes, but I kept putting it off because the thought of cooking intimidated me. I didn’t know the basics of cooking, like what kind of pan to use to make certain meals, how to cut vegetables or prepare meat. This isn’t something I could admit to even my closest coworkers because I was embarrassed. But the more I learned about the benefits of family mealtime, the more I wanted to learn how to cook just so we could all sit together. I also felt ashamed because I wasn’t able to teach my daughters how to cook.
My husband got offered a daytime position earlier this year. That was my cue to finally learn to cook. A close family friend offered to teach me. She said the first thing to learn is how to shop for groceries. She took me grocery shopping and we went back to her house. She had me take pictures of the ingredients along with the cookware and utensils to use. She even taught me how to cut potatoes. I didn’t know cooking could be so fun. I began looking up my own recipes on Pinterest. I bought the pots and pans I needed, and learned to cut potatoes with the correct knife, not the steak knife I always used to cut vegetables in the past. I got more comfortable in my kitchen, and it boosted my confidence in being a mom.
So now, if you ask me what my family is having for dinner, I can tell you my menu for the entire week. If you ask my kids what we’re having for dinner, they will answer, “Whatever mama puts on the table.” My family of four sits down to eat six nights a week. And, now I feel like an amazing mom. Not only because I make their dinner, but because I know my kids are benefitting from a lot more than just the food.
I cried all the way home on my 30-minute commute yesterday afternoon. I wasn’t crying because something bad had happened at work or because I had lost a friend or family member. I was crying because we were about to trade in the mini-van I had been driving for seven years.
I realize most people won’t understand the attachment, but it isn’t really an attachment to the van, but to all of the family memories we created in the van. We had so many amazing family vacations. We drove to South Carolina so my kids could play at the beach and build sand castles. My kids learned about history first-hand when we drove to Washington D.C. to tour the capital and see the monuments. We made the long, boring trek across Arizona to view the wonder of the Grand Canyon.
Last night, I packed up those memories with my belongings to be moved to my new van. Tomorrow, my family will begin making new memories. They will be different, but still amazing.
One of my favorite memories with my children was cooking together. Our cooking journey began with our local library children’s program, which included the book Stone Soup. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, you can find it at: www.dltk-teach.com/fables/stonesoup.
After hearing the story, the boys and I found a stone, washed it thoroughly, put it in a pot of water to boil and began looking through the refrigerator for things we could add. We found some slightly limp celery, a few handfuls of dry baby carrots and some mushrooms. All were roughly chopped (with supervision) and added to the pot. Next, we chopped and peeled potatoes found in the pantry, and added to the pot. The boys had so much fun washing, chopping, and adding new things! I don’t recall what our final concoction included, but we combined it with some whole grain crackers, slices of cheese, and had a feast!
This year, during the cold days of winter, consider sharing the Stone Soup fable with your children, and embrace its motto: By working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.
Evenings are always super busy. Most week nights, my three kids and I don’t hit the front door until 6 p.m. Then, it’s immediately on to getting supper ready. When I first went back to work full time, I really broke myself from trying to make homemade dinners like we were all used to. I figured out pretty quickly those kinds of meals were unreasonable on a week day.
So, my solution was to either cook ahead of time on the weekend or settle for jars of spaghetti sauce and bagged stir-fry during the week. I ask each kid to pick two meals they want me to cook or have ready during the week. Then, that child and I will either cook them together on Sunday, or prep everything so we can have it on hand and ready to make. Most of the time this means the kids sit on the counter and talk or read a story to me and occasionally measure ingredients or read instructions. And sometimes, spaghetti sauce from a jar is just right. I can have supper ready in 20 minutes and we can all sit at the table and visit.
We talk about work, school, why we substitute black beans for brown beans in our Dorito casserole or whole grain spaghetti for enriched white pasta, why the dog is weird, and all things electric (my son has a fascination with electricity). Our phones, TV, and other screens are put down or turned off, and we are present in the moment. I learn a lot about my kids during these dinners, but mostly that they are really fun people with whom I enjoy spending time.
Why is it so much easier to cry in the shower? I guess it’s because nobody can tell that you are crying. Seclusion with your emotions. When I was planning on breastfeeding my baby before she was born, I was going to “try” to breastfeed for a year. Little did I know my little girl would love to nurse and go even longer. Nobody ever talked to me about breastfeeding longer than a year. My emotions would soon be turned from I hope I can do this, to when and how do you stop. My emotional attachment has a big role in this, making me want to keep going even longer. Something that has become a part of our everyday life multiple times a day has become a very gradual change for us in the weaning process. I don’t think my heart could take a sudden change of that caliber. So when my almost-2-year-old wants to nurse one part of me says, “Let’s do this” and the other part of me says “Really? You just play.” The whirlwind of emotions usually leads to me giving in. I know, distract her, change the routine, but of course this is easier said than done. In a way it’s like mourning the loss of breastfeeding because I know this wonderful thing will come to an end. I never would have thought in a million years this experience would have been so wonderful. That the most simple thing I could offer my baby would come from me alone and impact me and my baby the way that it has. Until the last day of nursing I will simply take it one day at a time.
Fall is such a fun time of the year! The weather is cooler, the leaves are brilliantly colored and the holidays are on their way. Thanksgiving in our family means time with family, food, fun, and games. It’s one of the few times each year we are able to visit with our extended family, so we do our best to make many great memories.
In the kitchen, the adults busily prepare the meal amidst laughter and good-natured teasing while the children run around with cousins and try to stay out of trouble. When 1 p.m. pm arrives, we all gather around the table, or multiple tables, to eat. Someone, usually my dad, prays over the meal. It gives us all a moment to pause and realize that no matter what we have faced throughout the year, and we are truly grateful to be together this day to count our blessings.
Our food is not always the traditional turkey and dressing, but it’s special nonetheless. I love that we eat food we do not normally get to eat. This gives us all — especially my kids — a chance to try something new and different. We often discover a new ingredient or recipe I can incorporate into our own family meals during the week. It also gives us a chance to discover new things about our family members as the conversation flows around the room. Some of my favorite moments have come from the memories, jokes, and funny stories shared around the Thanksgiving table.
When dinner is finished and the food is put away, it’s game time! Sometimes we play cards or board games. If it’s warm enough outside, we play kickball or volleyball. Everyone gets involved, and there are bound to be hilarious moments and lots of laughter. No matter what games we play, it gives us an opportunity to forget the cares of life and just be kids again for one day. When the day is done, we are filled with good food and wonderful new memories.
What traditions will you keep, or maybe begin, with your family this year?