Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving with kids

I have great memories of many a delicious Thanksgiving holiday meal. Some with family and some with friends. There is something about the smell of a turkey and that special meal that I just love. As a kid the meal magically appeared on the dining room table and I just saw a drumstick, mashed potatoes, creamed onions, and gravy all with my name on it. I didn't think much about what went into preparing the meal- as a kid I didn't have to.

Now, as a mother of 3 I have a totally different perspective; or I should say three different perspectives. There is mine, my husband's, and that of my kids.

For me- I aim to recreate the Thanksgivings I remember. Delicious meals, fun times, and wine flowing. (My dad always said the only wine to have on Thanksgiving was a Zinfandel as it is the only wine native to America.) This means cleaning, cooking, decorating, more cleaning and the final preparations of cooking. With time and planning ahead it's all possible and that's where my head is today- scheduling. In the meantime there is also making time for school celebrations for each of my older children. Speaking of- I need to make a pasta salad.

For my husband it's planning the beverages (wine and beer) and helping set up the house and straighten things up. He's not as much of a traditionalist when it comes to the wine so that's usually a fun job for him.

For my kids- it's all of these things. They want the Thanksgiving decorations (we really don't have any but I think they think we should), the Feast, and friends and family to be with. Each morning they ask me how many days until Thanksgiving. I think in my 7 years of being a mother this is the most excited I have ever seen them. Jokingly I said to a friend yesterday that I hope it turns out to be all they are hoping for. Truthfully, I do hope it is as wonderful a holiday as they want it to be.

Isn't this what it's all about? Even with the stress, I see that look in my kids eyes of wonder and excitement and would just hate to disappoint. We're creating traditions here! I think that for the first few years I was surprised at the amount of work. Now, I embrace it just as much as I look forward to seeing turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy all over my 10 month old's face as he has his first Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I banned tv duning the week

In general, my goal is to avoid as many things that can turn into bad habits as possible. This isn't because I'm "WonderMom." It's because I'm too lazy to undo bad habits. It just feels like more work and right now I have all that I can handle.

In this vein, when my daughter was an infant I didn't watch tv around her and I didn't have her watching tv either. She was 11 months old when she saw her first Baby Einsteins video. The reason for this was that I didn't want her to turn into a tv junkie. And she hasn't. But I really don't think that's why. I think it's just her personality.

Enter my older son. He was born 23 months after my daughter and created a whole different dynamic in our home (as most second children do). By then, my daughter was very attached to Barney and that was great because it kept her busy while I tended to the baby or took a shower. Getting ready in the morning as my kids got older became more difficult with a 3 year old and a toddler both running around. This is when things changed with the tv. I soon learned that my son is the one with the potential for tv addiction- isn't hat just the way? Prepping for the wrong child.

Anyway- the result is that at almost every free moment before school, after school, and immediately upon waking on a weekend morning he's looking for the tv. Until recently this hasn't been too much of a problem. We keep the shows the kids watch limited to "good tv" and avoid anything violent or that we deem inappropriate. The challenge is that now it's a distraction to my daughter when she's trying to do homework, an annoyance to me because I can only hear the theme song to "Word Girl" so many times before it's too much for me, and finally it has become more a source of background noise rather than entertainment and therefore useless as far as I'm concerned. Truth be told- I also just got tired of him always asking to watch something.

So, while I have been unsuccessful in avoiding this bad habit all together- I felt the only recourse was to remove it from our lives. I told one mom about this and she asked, "But doesn't that make your life more difficult?" I said, "Not really. Truth is- my kids play really well together and use their imaginations in made up games. They'll just have to do more of that now."
The television can be a great babysitter but it also becomes a crutch for parents. Trust me, I'm not replacing tv with flashcards led by me- I'm just encouraging more independent play among my kids. Like I said- I've got plenty to do.

I just started this last week. The first day was difficult on my son. The second better. By the third, he was used to the change and looking forward to watching tv on the weekend; and even then he didn't watch as much as he had a week before.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I remember when dinner was easy

We'd go out four nights, I'd cook for two night, and one night was easily a liquid dinner. With kids that's all changed. Now it's cooking 6 nights and trying to plan ahead. Shopping, prepping, defrosting food so it's ready some time before 9pm. Who knew making dinner would be this intense?
It took me 3 kids and 7 years to really figure out the dinner thing. I spent months cooking with a child in one arm and a wooden spoon in the other when my oldest child was a baby. I ended up with serious pain in my left wrist which I'm sure was carpal tunnel syndrome. I knew no other way. It was stressful enough having a baby and having to cook at the same time. Planning ahead was not even a thought.
It all sounds so cliche- like something my mother would say: "Just plan ahead- that's what I always did." Like many other things I needed to figure it out for myself. With 3 kids there is no option other than to either hire a cook, order out every night, or find a way. I can't afford a cook and ordering out gets old after a while so I had no choice but to find a way.

So- here's my way. 1) Plan ahead. 2) Keep meals in the freezer (especially things like spaghetti sauce and some soups). 3) Have soup and sandwich night.
I plan ahead by trying to remember to take out a frozen meat to roast a day early and putting it in the fridge as well as considering the timing of a certain day. For example- if there's a really busy day coming up- that means crock pot dinner made at 10am.
If the day turned out in a way I did not expect- spaghetti sauce is coming out of the freezer.
If things are really crazy and there is no time for anything else- it's soup and sandwich night- or maybe chicken fingers......

The reality is that my family needs to be fed and without someone here to do it for me the job is mine. Most nights it can be handled. However- by Friday night I'm done and that's pizza night! No dilemma there.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


My mother always said the only thing more difficult than being married was being a parent. Or maybe it was the other way around. Either way, both are a lot more difficult than I thought. Maybe my parents made it look easy. Maybe I was clueless as to all they did for each other, for the family, and for us.

I had a great childhood with great memories and stories we retell during family gatherings and holidays. That must have been why I embraced the ideas of marriage and children so readily. How hard could it be? I had no idea what I was in for. In fact, I haven’t met anyone yet who knew what we were in for when someone said, “Hey, let’s make a baby!”