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It’s Red Ribbon Week at school…”To encourage Smart Choices, Good Decisions, and Healthy Lifestyles.” I try. I mean I try. Making an effort to extend the classroom world into our world at home, I’m always keyed into the curriculum, trying to build the bridge between school and home through themed projects and dinner menus. Johnny Appleseed? Let’s make apple print art, pick apples, make apple sauce, have an apple taste test from a variety of five breeds, using our five senses. So, when we returned to school mid-week from our family vacation, I whipped out their school folders and formulated a plan. Healthy choices. I’d start by making a healthy wholesome meal.
Contrary to my idea of who I am, “Super Magical Mom,” with healthy meals a daily priority, I just can’t seem to make it happen. More often than not, my days are spent returning things, making phone calls to schedule appointments, securing a birthday party location (or should we go to Paris instead?), all scattered between trips to the library where I intend to write, and mostly do, but where I also end up in the children’s section, searching for more books and craft ideas to do with the kids when they race off the bus to tell me about their days over snack. At least I have snack down. The rule: it must be nutritious. Fruit, yogurt, cheese, nuts or veggie and turkey roll-ups.
So, Red Ribbon Week. Yesterday I popped up, got dressed, boots and blazer, magenta lipstick to make me look alive. A lot to do today.
Six pairs of jeans to return to Saks.
Another pair to Nordstrom.
A bathing suit and coverup to return to Victoria’s Secret.
Return books to library, due today!
Dentist appointment for Lucas to have sealants on his adult molars.
Buy thank you notes.
Write thank you notes to friends for all the birthday gift love.
Sign kids up for Cultural Arts, find checkbook (I do everything online), print forms.
Call birthday locations for pricing and availability.
Buy Abigail Halloween costume. Good Witch.
Plan healthy dinners for the next few nights, find recipes, print shopping list, go grocery shopping.
Find recipes for some kid-friendly casseroles for a friend who’s having surgery.
Buy groceries for said recipes.
Assemble said recipes.
Buy 2 drop cloths to sew together for Thanksgiving tablecloth (table is 125″ long)
Order more hair products, all out
Edit and Post Hair video for Stephanieklein.com
Make Haircut appointment at Devachon
Email the girls my miso cod recipe as promised
Add school PTA PR dates I signed up for to calendar
Send in ADP forms in (flex spending)
Write post about LAST Thanksgiving and how this Thanksgiving will be different.
Write post about Mr. Bikini.
Write post about my enormously embarrassing behavior.
Write post about the books I’m in love with this month and about all the things I’m learning.
Buy pink and blue index cards for kids (required by school, only I can’t find them anywhere but online, and if I’m going to buy them, I might as well order other stuff)
Finish putting away and sorting laundry that’s currently piled up on Lucas’s bed.
Change the art in their bed frames to be themed for fall/winter (while watching TV at night)
Plan a “Show Me a Story” project to do with the kids.
Double check that we have two boy-themed gifts to give from kids for this weekend’s birthday party, have kids write cards.
In my blazer, favorite cozy shirt and comfy new jeans, I slipped under the covers to warm up. It’s in the 30’s mid-morning, and I didn’t want to turn up the heat, since I’d be leaving any minute. With a severe stack of library books on my bedside table, and knowing that I’d be returning the book that was due, I decided to quickly run through them, choosing which of them I was ready to return. I skipped the Celebrations themed books (from Thanksgiving to Birthday parties to finger food books), passed on the Parenting themed books about Raising Boys and determining what type of learner your child is, calculating your child’s natural strengths, passed over the Art Project books, left the Writing and memoir books untouched, and began to skim the cookbooks for dinner and casserole ideas. Then, I posed the question of Facebook, asking friends what they planned to make for dinner tonight.
That was my whole day, right there. Poor time management? Why did this take so long for me? If you give me a cookbook, I’ve decided, it’s like handing me a box full of photos that need to be sorted for an album. I won’t quickly sort. I’ll begin that way, but then I’ll hold one photo in my hand, stirring up the memory, soon lost in thought about another time, a smile spreading across an otherwise quiet face. I get lost in the details, soon scouring the cookbooks I own permanently, forgetting about the library returns altogether. I did manage to call one birthday place, and I successfully surveyed our kitchen for necessary ingredients before jotting down the shopping list for the decided week’s menu:
Mirin-glazed Salmon with Scallions, rice, and a medley of Asian vegetables
Ziti Cauliflower Saffron Pine Nut Casserole
White Bean and Turkey Chilli with Spinach
Shrimp and Noodles with vegetables primavera
Wheat Belly Creamy Coconut Milk Chicken Thighs, Rice Medley, Fresh Broccoli
Greek Lemon Meatball Soup
To make life easier going forward, I updated my Evernote app to include a new Notebook titled WEEKNIGHT DINNERS, adding a note for each of these go-to meals, each including all the necessary fresh ingredients, along with the recipe in its contents. So, for example, the note reads:
AVGOLEMONO SOUP WITH RICE MEATBALLS
(FRESH: Parsley, Dill, Lemons, Chopped Onion, 1 lb. Ground Beef, 2 eggs, Beef Broth)
So, in the future, if I find myself at the store, unsure of what I need exactly, I can pull the note up on my phone, and quickly glance at the necessary fresh ingredients needed (I never have beef broth in the house for some reason)
Long distracted post short, know what happened once the kids came home? I made them popcorn for a snack (no nuts, no turkey, no veggies, no string cheese in the house), then zipped with them over to the library, where I returned books, sat with them for an hour supervising homework (we had to catch up on days missed), then reading them books, having them read to me. I run into another mom, we catch up briefly, talking about the possibility of Abigail joining her daughter and some others for gymnastics after school– which is where her daughter is now. I’ve just noticed, as I talk to her, that the left side of my body is stained. It looks like water, but it’s not wet. Could it have been butter from the popcorn bag? “I must have rubbed up on something on my kitchen counter,”I tell her, trying to explain what looks like a nipple leak. “Because I’m not breastfeeding anymore.”
“I would hope not,” she says, then we both laugh. I’m thankful that she’s one of the moms I really like.
Her older daughter asks her what breastfeeding is. I feel a quick uncomfortable jolt of guilt, like someone who introduces the idea of death to a child whose parents have avoided the topic. Abigail tells the fifth grader that it’s what mamas do to nourish their babies. “Animal Planet,” I say to her mom. But in truth, that’s not how my kids know about breastfeeding. I just tell them that’s what breasts are for on most mommies, having explained it to them in detail, particularly the hard time I had shoving each of them in a football hold as I breastfed them at the same time.
WTF IS HAPPENING?! My blazer lapel is stained, too, as if my breast had some explosive oil leak.
My phone rings. It’s Phil, calling from the road. He’s just finished the grocery shopping, as I had to email him the list I’d made but never executed. No dinner has been made.
“So, what’s the plan for dinner?”
“I can pick something up,” I say.
“I just spent $175 on food,” he says.
“Mara’s homemade?” I offer, speaking of a Cajan restaurant nearby.
“I was thinking more like Burger Shwing,” he says.
And there it was. Burger King shame, after all that. As for the oil boob situation, I can only offer this. Cross WASH ALL BRAS ON THE DELICATE CYCLE off any to-do list. Because as it turns out, the bra I was wearing, however gently cleaned in Wool-lite, somehow had a Victoria’s Secret insert, some thin slip of silicone or oil, that decided to slowly leak through my bra, through my favorite shirt, and all the way through my gorgeous camel blazer, all of them now ruined. Do I add, “Take blazer and top to dry cleaner to see if they can repair” to my to-do list?
Phil gave me grief over the laundry, still piled on Lucas’s bed. “You didn’t leave the house all day, and you couldn’t manage to put the laundry away?”
“Nope, I couldn’t. Why don’t you look at it as, ‘Hey, at least she did most of the work, sorting, turning things right side out.’?”
“Uh, huh.” He says.
He puts away the laundry as I read the kids their bedtime story for another half hour.
This morning, it’s now 9:45 AM, Thursday (the kids left at 8:02 AM, so it has taken me almost 2 hours just to write this post). I’m wearing slippers and haven’t washed my face. The breakfast mess is cleaned. The dishwasher dishes need to be put away. I have just finished writing this post, and now I will assemble the meatballs. I’ve warned Phil already that I will not be doing any cleaning today, that I have to prioritize better, that my writing should come before the task of cleaning out the fridge of weeks-old pasta leftovers. “Why can’t you just take five minutes to do it?” he’d said before he left.
“Because it doesn’t take me five minutes.” It takes him five minutes, not me, for whatever reason. I’m not as efficient. I know my strengths. Me? I would end up prepping all the veggies, so they don’t end up going bad. I could make a half day, at least, out of reorganizing a fridge, cutting strawberries… freezing the over-ripe bananas on the counter… “Then just set a timer for five minutes,” he says, “And whatever gets done in those five minutes is what gets done.” This seems very reasonable. I tell him I can do that, and I can. Not sure it will make a dent (remember, we left for Florida in a hurry, so the fridge is full of new groceries and expired items). “Don’t be defeatist,” he says.
Tonight there will be salmon and broccoli, but sometimes the healthy choices we make have nothing to do with food. They have everything to do with how we prioritize, for our own sanity. And sometimes, yes, that means Burger King and the accompanying shame I feel, yet tell myself not to feel.