Tag Archives: children

What I Learned from Meal Planning

I got this idea in my head that meal planning is a grown-up thing to do. I remember as a kid having a weekly (or monthly??) menu posted on the fridge, and then I think that for the most part we actually followed that menu.

I have said before (loudly and frequently!) that the hardest, most tiring part of being a parent is being in charge of someone else’s meals every single day, particularly when that person is a 2-year-old who primarily wants pappunoni pizza, watermelon, meenut butter and jim, or cake. So when meal planning, I tried really hard to take this opinionated little guy into account, and plan things that we could all actually eat together.

We did one week of following a meal plan, and here’s what I learned:

You can’t actually shop for the whole week at once.

This was my original grand plan. I had a gift card to Safeway and I went and stocked up on basics and necessities, and I was really proud when all I paid was $18 over the gift card amount. But the truth is, you can’t always buy produce on Sunday that’s for eating on Friday. We lost a couple things that way, and I had to do a second trip partway through the week.

I guess I should have known that. I’m aware of how quickly produce goes. But I got so caught up in the money-saving, time-saving, health-conscious extravaganza that I was taking on that I didn’t really think about all the logistics.

Cooking meals each night takes a lot of time.

It was really nice to have the pressure off at 5pm when the “What’s for dinner” conversations started happening. But, here’s the thing: Usually, B eats at 6pm and we just hang out with him, and then Drew and I eat after B goes to bed. So not only was one of us spending a bunch of time each night preparing a more elaborate meal than usual…but that time was happening between 5-6pm, prime play time.

Also, Drew and I probably forage for dinner 2 or 3 days a week. For example, last night he had eggs and chicken-apple sausage, and I had a sandwich. These took 10 minutes to prepare concurrently. So just in general, cooking a family meal every night added a lot of time to the in-the-kitchen schedule.

…But it is nice to have leftovers.

It was really nice to have interesting leftovers for all of us to take for lunch the next day. B gets a lot of repeat meals, so being able to throw something new in there was probably nice for him, and made me feel like I was being a good parent. Also, since I went on a big grocery shopping trip, I wanted to be able to parlay that into lunches so I didn’t have to spend money during the week.

There’s actually an element of “planning.”

I didn’t realize how to manage the details. I just threw things on different days, and tried to space out all the chicken. But now I know, if you have two meals that use basil, maybe put them closer together so your basil doesn’t completely wilt between them. Or, if you know Survivor is on on Wednesday nights, don’t plan something elaborate that you’re going to have to be either cooking or cleaning up while the show is starting. And give yourself an “egg sandwich” night in the middle of the week, as a break from all the “shepherd’s pie” nights.

Sometimes something comes up.

There’s a lot more life getting in the way than I realized. When planning, I had to work around such things as Easter, dinners out with friends, and other events. We ended up doing this on the least busy week possible, so that we could really give it the old college try, but there always seems to be something coming up.

We also have a slight disadvantage in that Drew doesn’t get home before 5pm, and I am usually at least half an hour behind him. When I think about my parents or my friends, many of whom are teachers, I realize that they have a major heads up over us in that they are home earlier in the day. One friend of mine posted a recipe on Facebook, saying that it was super easy because you could just stick it in the oven and come back 2 hours later. While I do appreciate the ease of that, and plan on taking advantage of it on a weekend, I just don’t have 2 hours’ worth of cooking time on a weeknight.

Overall

It’s really nice to just have a plan in place. And to have that plan include vegetables, which are already in the fridge and ready to be cooked. Without a plan, we have nearly nightly conversations that go, “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know, do you have any feelings?” “I don’t know, I just want you to pick something.” “Well, I don’t know…” So going a week without having that conversation was really nice.

Some nights, B would eat what we were eating and it was like this magical curtain of “we’re doing it right!” fell around us. Some nights he was not interested at all and we had to settle for “oh well, we tried.”

I tried to make another weekly schedule but then it just kind of fell through. Maybe next week we can get back on the wagon, because I think overall it was beneficial, albeit tiring.

Help me out with next week, and leave me a comment with your favorite plan-in-advance weeknight meal! (Bonus points if a toddler will eat it.)

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Filed under Children, Drew, Family, Food, Humor, Nonfiction

Tahoe Winter 2015

There have been a handful of things keeping me super busy lately. One of them is that last weekend, Drew and I took B to Tahoe for a winter extravaganza. We rented a house with the Jameses and Molly, and spent 3 nights there hanging out.

We got there first, and while we were unloading the car, an 18-year-old kid pulled up in an SUV and said, “Hey, you guys moving in?” “Yes,” we said. “Okay, good to know. I’m going to make a phone call.” Then he got back into his car, talked on the phone for a minute, and then drove away. We were a little baffled – and concerned – but before I could call the rentals manager, she pulled up behind our car. She was kind of freaking out, and said that the cleaners thought we were coming the next day so they hadn’t finished. So she ran inside and cleaned the bathroom sinks and the stovetop. So that was kind of weird.

It’s not very snowy in Tahoe right now, but we did have an ice patch of our very own in a shady spot of the yard.

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Actually, it was probably good that the roads were basically clear so the drive was quick and safe, and the boys could run around outside in every free 15 minutes to keep them from going crazy.

The first day we went into Tahoe City where there was a playground near the beach. We went to the water’s edge, where there was about 6 feet of ice, and taught the boys to throw rocks (um…not our brightest moment) to break the ice. B brought a rock home with him, which I keep forgetting about, but I’m pretty sure is still in the diaper bag.

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IMG_9040The second day, we went up to Mount Rose to find some snow – it was still pretty icy, but Drew could pull B around on the sled we brought him. We also saw one stupid teenage boy after another sled down a hill and very nearly go face-first into a tree. Literally. Also, a woman went down another hill on an inner tube, jumped a little hill, and was 2 seconds away from shooting out into the road – if her inner tube hadn’t suddenly popped. She was laughing. We were all worried that we were about to see someone – tree guys or inner tube girl – get really hurt.

Luckily no one did. And we slipped and slid around on the ice until it started to get too dark.

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On our drive back to the house, we realized that Mount Rose is in Nevada – B’s first trip out of state!

The only downside to the trip was a slight fever that the boys seemed to be passing back and forth. Neither was down for long, but we were dosing them both with Tylenol all weekend. On our third night, B was up literally every 45 minutes, actually crying. Not just whimpering. I’m pretty sure neither Drew nor I slept more than 2 hours altogether. It was one of the worst nights of my life, especially since we weren’t sure what the problem was. He wasn’t feverish all night – just upset.

Finally at 5am, after many times of being up, of shhhhing him, of asking what was wrong, Drew brought him into our bed and we both sat there going, “What’s wrong? What do you need?” He finally croaked out “Wawar!” Water?? I felt like such an idiot. Was he just dehydrated all night? Could we have solved this 8 hours ago?

I think we were all suffering from the altitude a little bit. My skin and my lips were so chapped – and I think we were all dehydrated. Luckily a couple days back at sea level and we’re all back to normal.

It was a classic case of “I had so much fun! And I’m SO GLAD to be home!”

(And fun fact: I just found out we’re getting our whole security deposit back – so that’s nice! I’m always a little nervous about that.)

 

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Disney Project 2014: A Look Back

disney retrospective

Well, once again, I have neglected to complete most of my new year’s resolutions for 2014. But that’s okay! Because one of the few we DID accomplish was Disney Project 2014.

A year is a long time. You can see in the pictures how much B has grown. And while I would say that 15-27 months old is maybe a little young to try this project (if you were thinking about tackling it yourself), there were movies he enjoyed. It’s all about familiarity, I think. This weekend, we had no “to-watch” Disney movie, so we watched Monsters University, because he’s semi-familiar with the characters. It was more fun than I remember watching Snow White was (a whole year ago).

My favorites remain (in chronological order):

Sleeping Beauty
Lady and the Tramp
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast
Frozen (I would never have said this 6 months ago. But it’s a part of me now.)

Least favorites from this year:

Saludos Amigos/The Three Caballeros
Dinosaur
Chicken Little
Bolt
Winnie the Pooh (2011)

Surprise! I actually like this:

Melody Time
Home on the Range
Meet the Robinsons

I’ve been trying to figure out what I learned from this experience. I could hold up the Disney protagonist values: honesty, loyalty, dedication, goodness. I could also point out that I think there is merit in the early Disney films, even if some of the things in them have since become politically incorrect, and I think we should not always judge things made in the 1940s under 2014 standards. Or maybe I could talk about the state of Disney princesses…from Snow White to Anna, a lot has changed about these women and their behavior and the roles they play in their own stories. (For that matter, a lot has changed about Disney princes, and their behavior, and their roles.)

I am so grateful to have the shared Disney childhood experience with Drew (even if we remember some movies with differing levels of fondness). I am also grateful to be passing on these movies and experiences to B. I can’t wait until he’s a little older and can point out plot holes we’ve missed and make jokes with us.

Thank you, Disney! Cheers, 2014! Now what to watch next?

 

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Disney Project 2014: Wreck-It Ralph

Movie: Wreck-It Ralph

Release year: 2012

Neither Drew nor I had seen this one yet, but as we find (most) Disney movies delightful, and this one has a charming cast, I was excited to see it finally. And I wasn’t disappointed! It’s a clever story with lots of interesting details, about all the characters in arcade video games, and their lives outside the games. They all flow into and out of the “Game Central Station,” a surge protector that they’re all plugged into. There are some homeless game characters there, like Q*bert. Wreck-It Ralph is a “villain” character (but a totally nice guy), voiced by John C. Reilly, who sets out to become a hero, so that people will like him and want to hang out with him.

It’s full of little twists and turns that we both really enjoyed, and I thought the ending was good without being too cheesy. I’m officially a Wreck-It Ralph fan. =)

Alas, this is the best picture I could get, as B was especially active for this one.

IMG_8530Also, don’t stare too long at that duck, or it’ll freak you out.

 

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Disney Project 2014: Winnie the Pooh

Movie: Winnie the Pooh

Release year: 2011

That’s right. They did another one of these movies, because we need more Winnie the Pooh than just the “Many Adventures of” from 1977.

No we don’t! This one doesn’t have the same voices, and so everyone sounds a little off. The storyline is fine – Eeyore loses his tail, so they have a contest to see who can find a replacement – but then you find out at the end that OWL had the tail the whole time and was using it as a pull for his doorbell! What even is that?? That’s brutal and disgusting! Owl also tried to divert the blame from himself early on, by inventing a terrible monster called the Backson that comes and messes with you. Jeez, Owl. What’s your problem?!

At least it’s only an hour long? Sorry if you like Winnie and the gang – they’ve just never been my favorites. And this Winnie revamp is just unnecessary…

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Tigger here, Tigger there…

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Disney Project 2014: The Princess and the Frog

Movie: The Princess and the Frog

Release year: 2009

Yay, another good old-fashioned traditional-animation princess movie! I really like this one, even if the music isn’t my favorite. This is a great twist on the classic Grimm tale, “The Frog Prince.” The main character, Tiana, is upgraded from a bratty princess to a hardworking young woman in New Orleans. The prince in this case is the spoiled one, and maybe sorta deserves getting turned into a frog. The villain, Dr. Facilier, is super creepy, but even creepier are all the voodoo masks that represent his “friends on the other side” and end up taking revenge on him for a broken promise.

(Side note: Listen, everyone. Don’t mess around with dark magic. Just don’t do it. It never ends well. No voodoo, no ouija boards, no summoning spirits. It MIGHT just be silly, but it also might not be. Why risk it?)

According to the internet, the animators said they modeled the animation for this film along the lines of Lady and the Tramp, which they said is “so classically Disney.” Maybe that’s why I like it so much!

Even B liked it – at least he watched more of it than usual.

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Giving thanks, 2014 style

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ll be honest with you: this year has kind of sucked.

Every New Year we say “This is gonna be OUR year!” And sometimes we’re right: 2009 was a good year. As was 2012.

But 2014 was not kind to us. But the silver lining – because I always have to look for the silver lining – was that I spent much of this year being actively thankful for specific things in my life. Because I had this idea that, if I spent too much time dwelling on the negative things, God and karma and the universe would say something like, “Guess you don’t care about all this good stuff then.” And it would be taken away.

So I’ve thought a lot this year about the people in my life, the ways I’m blessed, and the things I’m grateful for. And there are plenty of them. At the top of almost every list are my husband and my son, two people I couldn’t live without. There are my parents, who are consistently supportive and loving and who make the 3-hour drive from Lakeport to Pacifica over and over and over, just to hang out with us. Drew’s parents treat me like one of their own and I have literally ZERO crazy “in-laws” stories (and I know that other women out there have some crazy in-laws). There are my friends: the real-life ones who have put up with me for years, and my online mommy friends, all of whom are invaluable. I have a job I love, with people I love. I get to live by the ocean in a neighborhood and an apartment that I really, really like. (There’s even ample street parking.)

And on top of all of that, this year I’m also thankful that 2014 is almost over. Rather than ringing in this New Year by saying “I can’t BELIEVE it’s already 2015!” I’ll be saying, “Thank God. Now, bring on a fresh start.”

Just to make sure I don’t end on a downer, here are some really specific things I’m thankful for at this exact moment: My kid is napping, and he apparently knows who Elmo is, which surprised both Drew and me this morning. I made a German chocolate pecan pie for dessert tonight and while it looks a little, um, “homemade,” the filling part tastes good. We’re actually going to finish our Disney Project this year, which was a grand undertaking, and I’m proud of that. It’s a really pretty day right now…but I hear it’s going to rain all weekend, which would be really nice.

See? Still an optimist. Happy Thanksgiving.

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