Belated Meal Plan

We had a wonderful time with my in-laws, but like all good things it had to end, yesterday.  The house is a little quieter, family seems a little dearer and the holidays are closer.  I miss them … A LOT! But I have to get the family back into our routine, which for me means my daily workout, regular naps for the baby and a meal plan.  I’m keeping it easy this week.

Monday: Chicken and vodka sauce over spaghetti, freshly grated parmesan and sauteed spinach (I have a great recipe for vodka sauce, but for the sake of ease went with jarred last night.)

Tuesday: Avocado explosion salad

Wednesday: Italian slow cooked steak, asparagus and focaccia

Thursday: Chuckwagon Chili with cheese, sour cream and chips

Friday: Make your own pizza night and Caesar salad

Saturday: Grocery Shopping and a new plan

This Week’s Meals

We are expecting company on Wednesday.  I am super-excited about seeing my mother and father-in-law, but I didn’t want to be tied down to a plan so I’ve bought food to be flexible with but just planned meals through their first night.

Sunday: Braised Pork Loin in red wine and rosemary with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans oreganato
Monday: Grilled marinated steak with baked potatoes and caesar salad
Tuesday: Lemon skillet chicken with roasted asparagus and angel hair with pesto
Wednesday: Shrimp Victoria with rice and country greens

“First of all, we are making a compost”

I love the way my kids pick up on little words and phrases.  About a year ago, I was helping in kid’s church and enjoying playing with my then two year old daughter in the little kitchen.  She brought me breakfast and always wanting to hear what’s going on in her head I asked “What are we eating?’ To which she replied “Pancakes.  Apparently, I yuv (love) pancakes.”  Apparently was her word of choice for several months.

When Lucas was one, we got him his first set of Fisher Price Little People.  These were some of my favorite toys as a kid and I get really entertained watching the kids play with them.  The first building he got was the barn which plays Old Macdonald and I would sing and play alongside Lucas.  He began asking to play with yi-yos and it took us a short time to realize that he was saying “E-I-Os.”  The name stuck and Little People (and animals) are still E-I-Os in our house.

Bethany’s latest turn of phrase is “first of all” and it comes before anything she may be thinking about at the time.  Yesterday, I was nursing the baby and it got a little too quiet in the other room.  As soon as Nicholas was through, I went to discover what the kids were up to, but all I saw was a huge mess in my kitchen.  Now, the kids know that the kitchen is my space and that they are not to go in there without permission or an accompanying adult.  All I saw was wasted food and goop smeared on the counter and floor.  When I calmly (I was mild with them and later vented a bit on facebook) asked “What are you doing?”Bethany said “First of all, we are making a compost.”

I love PBS … if my kids are watching TV it is usually PBS, but right then I hated Curious George who had just learned how to make compost.  You’ll recall that I love coupons because it is a simple way I can contribute to our savings while staying home with our kids … I hate waste.  You will also remember that I do not like messes, few recovering perfectionists do.  I wish that I had thought to take a picture, but I was more concerned with cleaning the mess up before the baby awakened from the children pleading with me to save the “compost.”  I am out of peanut butter, ketchup, brown mustard, salad dressing, and some yogurt.  I have fewer tea bags and less ground coffee, but what I do have is one more memory to add to all those that pepper my kid’s childhood and my mommy-hood.  (I will be looking for coupons to replace the aforementioned products.)

I am so grateful for active children with wild imaginations.  It is a wonderful gift that my kids aren’t content playing video games or watching television.  On days when I am tired and feeling a little selfish, I wish I could just turn the t.v on and leave the room to take a nap.  Truth be told, the only naps I’ve taken since having babies were in the days when my mother-in-law stayed with us immediately following their births.  I have been a hands on parent and so my children are what I’ve trained them to be, but parenting this type of child requires a great amount of attention and little “me” time, or so I’ve thought for a long time.  True, I can’t leave my kids alone for too long or their imaginations will cause them to wander from obedience to making their thoughts come to life, but if I don’t take time for me, that is not their fault, nor my husband’s.

Every once in a while I will hear about what someone else has made of their life, and I don’t get jealous or remorseful, but the romantic in me kicks into high gear and I think “Gee, I’d love to be a nurse or an interior designer or a personal chef.”  What I realize when I pause to count my blessings is that my life is filled with variety, the kind that can throw a perfectionist planner into a tizzy, but none-the-less I will never feel like I do the exact same thing each day.  I do nurse sick children and my best friend, regularly.  I get to buy and place furniture, pictures and nic-nacs in my home.  I spend much of each day planning, preparing and serving food, on top of the many other things I am blessed to do.

As a new stay-at-home mom, I am learning that each day will mirror my own perspective.  If I am feeling like their world will fall apart without my constant involvement, then I will forgo my shower and further grooming, but will needlessly blame it on them.  I hope I’m raising children who will one day embrace their independence as capable beings and I trust I am always serving but never enabling laziness.  Sure if I take my shower and do my hair and make-up, I may find a painting of lotion and soap (that Bethany was very proud of by the way), a naked little boy with diaper cream war paint or a compost of food staples that will cost to replace, but I will feel better about myself and will be better able to care for them, because I have not been neglected.  Most of all, they will not feel resented for my lack of me time.

I want to do great things and be amazing for my family, but I can’t be someone I am not.  I love clothes (I wish I could fit into my favorites right now), so staying in my postpartum jammies all day will just depress me.  For me, experimenting with make-up is fun.  While the ponytail can be a godsend, it often encourages me in my own laziness … taking ten minutes to dry my hair with a round brush can have a positive effect on my day.  It is easier to count my blessings when I am not giving in to feeling bad about myself because I haven’t taken the time to eat healthily, get ready for the day, exercise, or have much needed quiet time. 

Even as I write this, Bethany is prancing through the living room, blanket around her waist and another on her head, pretending to get married.  How can I help but smile?  My princess is dreaming.  Sure she can’t fold the blankets, so it is one more thing for me to clean up, but having taken 30 minutes to get myself ready for the day has enabled me to not think of her dream as taking away a couple more minutes of me time.  Instead, I am engaging her in the moment.  “What a beautiful bride you are Beth,” and hoping that before the blanket becomes a real dress and the other a veil, that I embrace her imagination now.  She will only be my little girl for a short while … I know it will pass all too quickly. 

So I will smile and redirect when Lucas is using Matt’s belt to hang from the beams in the laundry room as Indiana Jones.  I will stop what I’m doing to dance when Bethany wants to “get murried.”  With pleasure will I laugh when Nicholas thinks it is the coolest thing that he can pump his legs hard enough to make his seat bang on the kitchen floor.  What higher calling, greater job or better entertainment could I be given than that which involves loving my sweet-pea, princess or precious monkey?

I am not the woman I was, nor the one I will be

I am realizing every day that I am in a season of becoming.  We really all spend most of our lives becoming, but for someone who likes to check things off her list and see tangible accomplishment, the becoming is daunting. I am hopeful that I never settle for less than I was intended to be, just so I can achieve something. 

Confession: I was walking to the school to pick up my little boy yesterday.  It was a nice crisp Fall afternoon, the kind that are rare in Southern California.  I had the baby and my three year old bundled up, several umbrellas in case it happened to rain and a nice homemade latte in my travel mug.  Enjoyable? Yes.  About three minutes into my walk, I got a call from the school.  Oh no, I thought, Lucas is either hurt or in trouble.  It turns out, he was neither, but I had completely forgotten that school gets out an hour early on Tuesdays.  In one moment, all my confidence in motherhood, loving, and care-taking in general evaporated.  I became the crummiest of mothers.  I forgot my son at school.  Forget that I was on my way, and that it is only the second week of early dismissal.  Throw aside the fact that my thyroid has been off, which just makes me off.  Completely devoid of any good excuse, I was paralyzed with the realization that my journey of becoming is still in its earliest stages.  

I am still embarrassed, shaken, downright frustrated with myself.  I had gotten so wrapped up in my other responsibilities that I forgot one of my greatest.  How relieved am I that my son did not seem the least bit traumatized by this incident?  How humbled I am that children are often more full of grace than we are as adults.  I doubt, twenty-four hours after the fact, that he has even given it a second thought, and yet here I am still fussing at myself over this most horrifying moment of motherhood.

Today of course is a new day, full of new possibilities and little victories and its own mistakes.  I am inspired by its newness.  I am searching for revived passion, throwing unwarranted responsibility to the wind.  Whoever said that if you made a meal plan you have to stick to it?  What dictated that the house has to be spotless?  Who cares if the laundry is put away or the mopped floors stay clean for more than an hour?  See I live in a box whose walls I constructed.  I’m breaking down its confines.  Will I mess up again?  Definitely.  I’m a human, but will I mess up because I’m trying to be responsible?  I hope never again.   

I always imagined myself being over-the-top successful in a career.  I never got around to the career I foresaw.  I never dreamed that my days would be filled with wiping countless bottoms, magically erasing sharpie from walls and furniture, preparing meals, picking up dirty roos (what my kids call underware) and rolling in and out of bed with often nary a thought of my own fulfillment.  It is easy to get discouraged when days pass and that’s all I’ve noticed myself doing.   Doubtless, if I focus on all that, rather than the boo boos I’ve kissed, hearts I’ve reassured, lullabies I’ve sung, hugs given, or love imparted I will be downtrodden.  

More than ill equipped I am to raise three children and be a good wife, but it is the task I’ve been given.  I want to find pleasure in all things so that I don’t come to die and find that all my epitaph says is “She tried to keep her house clean.”  I owe more grace and life to myself and to my family than that.  In this new day, in this season, it is my one responsibility to breathe love, grace, and life into my husband and children.  All else is secondary.  My house may always look lived in, but I will fill my days with loving irrationally.