Lunchtime Made Easy

Making lunches is a lot of work.

Well, making lunches, breakfast, and dinner is a lot of work.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning snack, afternoon snack – so much time preparing food. And then there’s the clean up. My knees are developing arthritis from the amount of time I’m spending at the kitchen counter. I might invest in orthotic indoor shoes.

Let’s not even start in about the grocery budget.

So where does every parent go when they are looking for meal ideas for their family? Pinterest, of course. But what I found there was not time-saving lunch ideas. Nooooo. Instead I discovered a cornucopia of pins dedicated to sandwiches cut into fun shapes, fruit kabobs, and smiley faced vegetables. Um, I was looking to do less preparation. Who are these people?

As a public service, I decided to share my own great tips for Easy Lunches On A Budget. Here’s my first instalment.

Easy Mac and Cheese Your Kids Will Love.

1. Get two boxes, you don’t want to run short. Your kids are counting on you.

Two boxes lets them know you really care
Two boxes lets them know you really care

2. Prepare as directed. But why not go with 5% cream? It adds just that hint of decadence your family craves.photo 1

3. Serve. But not in those plastic bowls from IKEA. The real dishes, mom. Because nothing says “your worth it” like breakable dishware.

photo 4

4. Here’s a secret I debated about posting. But it’s too good not to share. Fresh-ground paper for a gourmet twist.

Just like grandpa used to make when he was left in charge.
Just like Grandpa used to make when he was left in charge.

Future Posts Coming Soon: Frozen Pizza – Not Just for Dinner, Bologna and You, and Sometimes Leftovers Are Your Friend.

36 Reasons I’m Late for Everything

Once upon a time I was a punctual person. Actually, I mostly still am. Okay, sometimes. Alright, alright, occasionally I arrive on time or even a smidge early. But it’s not my fault. No, really, it’s not.

I have thirty-six reasons to prove my innocence.

 

36 Reasons I’m Late for Everything

  1. Toddler needs help putting his coat on
  2. His sleeves are bunchy
  3. Decides he doesn’t need his coat
  4. He does need help taking it off
  5. Actually, a coat sounds like a good idea
  6. They’re bunchy again
  7. Zipper won’t go up
  8. Zipper is too high
  9. Too low
  10. Too high
  11. I didn’t let him do it himself
  12. He can’t do it himself
  13. Too low
  14. His socks feel “scrunchy”
  15. His shoes are too loose
  16. Too tight
  17. One is too loose, the other is still too tight
  18. I didn’t let him open the front door
  19. He needs to close it and open it again
  20. Twice
  21. Forgot his water bottle
  22. He doesn’t want to wait outside
  23. He can open the door himself, remember?
  24. He can’t open the door himself
  25. He’s doing the Potty Dance
  26. He denies needing to pee
  27. Still denying…
  28. Under threat of no gum again ever, agrees to use the potty
  29. I didn’t let him “see it” before flushing
  30. Needs to get the soap himself
  31. I didn’t let him open the door. Again.
  32. He can’t do it himself
  33. Actually, he doesn’t need a coat
  34. Forget that, he does
  35. WHAT IS WITH THE SLEEVES AND ALL THE BUNCHING?
  36. I’m the worst

    Accessories are preschooler kryptonite
    Accessories are preschooler kryptonite

Refrigerated Evil

I was multi-tasking like a pro. Serving lunch, putting away groceries, folding laundry, chopping up veggies for dinner – wait, what happened in the veggie drawer? The slime! The smell!

No problem, for this gal. I rolled up my sleeves, slid another grilled cheese sandwich to the hungry 3-year-old and deftly removed the produce drawers from the fridge.

“Mommy will be right back!” I sang as I carted the oozy vessels of soggy cucumbers and dried out broccoli to the compost bin.

I went to get the little guy a drink and noticed just how grimy the shelves at the bottom of the fridge were. NO PROBLEM! I carefully lifted them out and left them to soak in the laundry tub. Now to tackle the frames. This was turning into a much bigger project than I had anticipated, but I would not be deterred. By now it was nap time so I could really focus on removing all debris and questionable items from the fridge.

I was merciless. An almost empty bottle of ranch dressing – gone! You, too shrimp sauce from 2009. Don’t look at me that way, yeast in a jar, we both know I won’t be baking any bread from scratch.

I’m almost done and then I can watch Veronica Mars while I eat some Oreos start organizing photo books.

This gross, but weirdly satisfying job was wrapping up nicely – all that was left was to replace the various components.

And then, in a flash, my productivity slammed to a halt.

As I pulled open the door to return the bins to their sparkling clean home, the entire fridge door came off in my hand.

It’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to an out-of-body experience. I stood there, gaping at this big, white door that had acquired magical abilities. Or it was demon-possessed.

It’s okay, it’s okay. Let’s just prop it up to keep the cool air in. Then figure out the next step. 

Have you ever tried to lift a fridge door that is full of jars? Trust me, it’s heavy. I leaned it against one leg and carefully took out all the 179 condiments from its shelves (Pilates, guys, it works). Next, I had to rig something up to keep the cool side cool and the hot side hot. I was very motivated since cheese was on sale and it’s possible I had bought approximately eight bars.

Fridge triage
Fridge triage

Things were looking up. Now it was time to figure out what was going on, so I turned to my good friend, Mr. Google. “Why did my fridge door fall off in my hand?” generates a surprising number of helpful answers. I concluded that none of the necessary procedures could be accomplished by one person, so once the boys were in bed that night, Bearded Husband and I fixed the fridge. It took a couple of attempts, possessed refrigerators doors are very temperamental when it comes to things like “alignment”, but we did it.

Stay tuned next week for “The Time 1/3 cup of Butter Exploded in the Microwave” and “Once I Dropped a Pork Roast on the Oven Door.”

The Van of Enlightenment

It’s taken me just under ten years but I have figured it out.

Cracked the code.

Uncovered the secret.

Distilled the formula.

Want to know what your son is thinking? Interested in his school life? Curious about his peer dynamics? Or just wondering what he really thinks about that girl Paige in his class? (she’s the worst, by the way).

Here’s the answer. And it’s foolproof.

Drive the van.

That’s it.

Load up the van with him and a bunch of his friends and drive them somewhere. The destination doesn’t matter, but try for something fifteen minutes away, minimum.

And drive. Just drive. Don’t pepper them with questions, don’t insert yourself into the conversation and do not make eye contact. Pretend you are on a safari observing animals in their natural habitat (but don’t take notes, because they will see that and wonder why you pulled over. Same goes for whispering recordings into your phone).

The information you will gather by listening in (it’s not eavesdropping if they forget you can hear them) is astounding. Here’s a recent sampling, in case you doubt my methods:

Josh thinks he’s so great at soccer, but really, he isn’t.

Someone needs to tell Julia to settle down – everyone knows she’s loud just to get attention.

Adam claims he got to level K in math drills, but he totally didn’t. Liar.

Ryan is so mean that they’d like to take a power washer to him and wouldn’t even feel bad about it.

There are also some epiphanies which give you a peek into alternative parenting choices. For instance, one boy piped up with incredulity, “Wait, you can ride your bike on the street? Such freedom.”

You might be tempted to jump in and ask some follow up questions, but play it cool. Stay in the shadows. That time will come later.

It can be challenging to listen and not reply, but it’s worth it. You might want to chime in that maybe Julia feels insecure and is looking for a safe circle to be herself. Squash the urge to point out that maybe life is hard for Ryan and that’s why he acts out. Perhaps Josh doesn’t feel good about himself so he shows off the skill he is most proud of.

There will be opportunities for those conversations, but for now, just listen.

Drive the van.

 

Watermelon Wasteland

Once there was a tired mom who groggily dragged herself downstairs. All poor mom wanted was a cup of coffee. She could almost taste it.

The elixir of life
The elixir of life

But instead of a hot cup of joe, this mom was greeted by devastation.

A giant watermelon that was awaiting consumption decided nighttime would be the right time to give up all hope. This depressed watermelon sprung a leak and all its insides had oozed out onto the table.

The carnage was not limited to the table. One of the mom’s sons had created pottery with air-dry clay. The fish and bowl were the first victims, reduced to soggy bits of sadness.

Next in line was the chair and wall. Although watermelons are mostly water, there is a high sugar component. Sticky watermelon intestine juice removal is not a simple task. And it stinks.

Clean up was swift and efficient, despite lack of help.
Clean up was swift and efficient, despite lack of help.

Poor mom was heckled with unnecessary observations from her offspring about the “grossness” and the condition of the pottery. But no one offered to hold the garbage bag for her. Weird.

The final victim of this culinary savagery was mom’s sanity. Because coffee.

Production has already begun on the sequel, “Mango Mayhem”.

Just give it one more day
Just give it one more day

Nope, I Just Dancing

Into the van, boys. We are going to Target!

Little, do you need to pee first?

No, I just dancing to music. It’s in my head.

Really? 

Yeah, I dance. See?

Never trust a preschooler with a reputation for peeing his pants. Even if he did use the facilities only ten minutes earlier. Against my better judgement, I didn’t force the issue and we took off to Mom Mecca: Target.

As we pulled into the parking lot, Little says in a tiny voice, “I wet.”

So many feelings! I was irritated that he peed his pants when he is capable of staying dry. I was peeved at myself for being irritated because I don’t tend to get upset with toilet training mishaps. I felt bad for his older brother who had brought his Lightning McQueen, velcro-closure wallet with him to buy a toy.

After checking the diaper bag and discovering no spare clothes (now I had to add Bearded Husband to my list of irritants) I had a plan of action.

Well, we’re going to buy you a pair shorts and you’ll wear those. AND YOU WILL LIKE THEM.

Now it was time for the big brother to jump into older and wiser sibling mode:

Little, you are going to have to wear whatever we buy, that’s what happens when you pee your pants.

Now, Little, when you pee your pants, Mommy isn’t angry, but you won’t be getting a toy.

Little, will get a toy because she didn’t have to spend money buying me new shorts because my shorts are dry. I never pee myself.

You know, you peed your pants.photo-51

Our shopping trip was mostly uneventful after that. The boys got into a slight altercation in the sock aisle, but it was nothing a threat issued through clenched teeth couldn’t diffuse.

We chatted and giggled while we finished up our shopping. As we wheeled towards the till, my youngest piped up:

Mommy? I get a toy?

No, Little, I spent that money on new shorts since you peed your pants.

I so sorry. Please? You buy me a toy? I not always pee my pants anymore.

It might take me a while and several seasons of preschool life, but eventually I learn: Never trust an almost 3-year-old. Especially one who has perfected using his cuteness for evil.

Don’t feel bad for him, though. He did get to ride home in a “big boy booster” instead of his car seat. Oh, that’s because – wait, did I mention this already? He peed his pants.

———

Unfortunate shopping experience? Share. Bodily functions involved? Even better.

Cautionary Tales

Don’t jump on the bed. Remember Aaron across the street who broke his arm doing that?

If you race up the front steps, you might puncture your knee just like Daddy did that time. We spent hours in Urgent Care that day. With a newborn.

Donkey-kicking your brother is a bad idea. Just ask Auntie – she broke her arm when she was flung across the basement when we were kids. I may or may not have been involved in that.

Sliding down the stairs on your belly will end badly. Did I ever tell you about the time Uncle Rob got carpet burn doing that?

Don’t ride your bike with your eyes closed. Just trust me on that – I have first hand experience.

Do I really need to remind you why you shouldn’t run around naked?

Chasing your brothers around the bedrooms – guys, I had to call our nurse neighbour last time you did that.

Go ahead and name a questionable activity and I can give you a real life cautionary tale outlining the dangers.

Care to lean really far on the kitchen table while standing on your chair? I recently witnessed a son scrape his belly doing that. I thought he had broken a rib or done some serious internal damage.

Feel like putting some coins in your mouth? My cousin once swallowed a dollar’s worth of quarters and had to go to the hospital.

Think it’s fun to stick your leg through the spindles on the stairwell? A kindergarten student once got her knee stuck in the bars at the playground. It took a whole team of us and a bottle of Palmolive to get her out.

Want to pour yourself a nice, tall glass of milk after a sleep over at your friend’s house? Sit back and let me tell you about Gary.

Gary* spent the night at his good friend, Kevin’s house. He woke up, and as any young kid does, he headed down to find himself some breakfast. Several members of Kevin’s family were gathered around the kitchen table enjoying a selection of cold cereal.

Milk in the bag = not recycled.
If only there was a way to make this milk stretch a bit further

Gary surveyed the options and made his choice (probably Corn Flakes, Gary wasn’t much of a risk-taker). He topped it off with a splash of milk and dug in. Partway through his most important meal of the day, Gary realized he was thirsty so he poured himself a refreshing glass of milk. He took a swig and thought, “Hmmm, tastes kind of sweet.” Ate some cereal, took another sip, “Yes,” he thought, “Their milk tastes like they put sugar in it.”

Being the polite young man that he was, Gary finished up his cereal without mentioning the sugar-infused milk. As he brought his bowl to the sink, Kevin asked him, “did you drink that whole glass of milk?”

As Gary turned to answer his former best friend, he saw the remaining family members pour the leftover milk from their cereal bowls into the glass pitcher on the table. The very same pitcher Gary had chugged from.

My son, never, ever, drink the sweet milk.

This is perfectly good milk. DON'T WASTE IT.
This is perfectly good milk. DON’T WASTE IT.

___________

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent and easily duped.

This post is dedicated to the real “Gary” and to frugal parents everywhere.

Your turn, best cost-saving idea you’ve got. Go.

Releasing Your Inner Toddler

Toddlers are smart.

They can bring a top negotiator to their knees with stubborn persistence alone. They can hold adults hostage merely by refusing to pee on the potty. They can bring a grown woman to tears by simply insisting that their socks feel “funny”.

Recently I decided to test some of their better known tactics out for myself. After all, despite repeated redirection, our toddler keeps trying. There must be some sort of payoff.

Our Little regularly flops to the floor in a sad heap if he’s been told not to dip his cheese in his juice cup. When he insists he can put his boot on himself and you comply by backing off, he’ll toss himself to the ground because you listened to him.

What if grown-ups handled their frustration that way?

My internet connection went down before I could update my status.
My internet connection went down before I could update my status.
No one folded the laundry for me.
No one folded the laundry for me.
Someone forgot to flush the toilet. Again.
Someone forgot to flush the toilet. Again.
He would't stop playing with the light switch.
He wouldn’t stop playing with the light switch.
4YO left the bathroom light on.
4YO left the bathroom light on.
My coffee cooled off before I could finish it.
My coffee cooled off before I could finish it.

Our toddler has many super powers – check out his other tactics here.

—————-

Your turn – what frustrates you most? Have you tried the toddler approach yet? It doesn’t solve anything, but surprisingly does make you feel better.

I Made it Myself

Our staff decided to celebrate the last day of school with an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest. As unbelievable as it might sound, I do not own one. When I asked around, my friend suggested an idea from Pinterest. I’m not very handy with sewing or stitching, but I can hold my own with a glue gun. So I eagerly gathered up my supplies, popped in a movie for the boys and got started on what was sure to be the winning sweater.

photo 1

Things were going relatively well, but I considered other options. The glue gunning was replaced with my stapler – made sense.

I soon discovered that I couldn’t accomplish this on my own. The clear choice was to use the four-year-old as my stand in. It would have worked better if he had stood still.

Staples, a glue gun, and a four year old. There was no way this sweater would be anything less than spectacular.

The big day was approaching when disaster struck in the form of the stomach flu. At the time of publishing, four out of six family members had been hit. This meant I could not participate in the contest! Or did it?

Turns out, you can wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater anywhere, any time. It’s true. IT IS.

I now present to you: The Ugly Christmas Sweater Pinterest Fail – Home Edition.

This is what it was supposed to look like:

Easy, right?
Easy, right?

I was quite pleased with my version and it’s versatility.

I'll be pinning this later, don't worry.
I’ll be pinning this later, don’t worry.
Pouring coffee in my Ugly Christmas Sweater
Pouring coffee in my Ugly Christmas Sweater
You can drink in it, too! Cheers!
You can drink in it, too! Cheers!
Might not know what to make for lunch, but I know what I'll be wearing.
Might not know what to make for lunch, but I know what I’ll be wearing.
Laundry can be Holly Jolly - see?
Laundry can be Holly Jolly – see?
Cleaning up vomit can be merry, if you dress for it.
Cleaning up vomit can be merry, if you dress for it.
Oh what fun it is to read in my Ugly Christmas Sweater.
Oh what fun it is to read in my Ugly Christmas Sweater.
The jingle bells fell off so it was easy to be sneaky.
The jingle bells fell off so it was easy to be sneaky.
I shared the Christmas cheer all over the house.
I shared the Christmas cheer all over the house.
Look at me - colouring in my Ugly Christmas Sweater.
Look at me – colouring in my Ugly Christmas Sweater
Pro Tip: change out of sweater before trying to eat PB trees in secret.
Pro Tip: change out of sweater before trying to eat PB trees in secret.

What’s the best thing you ever made? 

The Mark of Stupidity

Enough time has finally passed that I can share this experience. It’s taken about thirty years, but I’m over it.

Mostly.

I think.

I was home sick (or sick-ish, it’s possible I embellished the severity of my symptoms as a child). I was camped out on the couch in the family room and in between cups of tea and reruns of “Facts of Life” I came across this popper toy I had gotten from some machine somewhere at some point. Those details are fuzzy and irrelevant. I also can’t recall why I had it at that particular moment. What I do remember is inverting it on the table beside me and watching it fly high in the air. That was fun for a few minutes. Then I discovered that if I just pushed it, it had suction cup-like properties. I could stick it on my hand, my foot, and, hey, why not try the old forehead.

I put a popper on my forehead.

 

This was not labelled with all the appropriate warnings
This was not labelled with all the appropriate warnings

Twice.

This poorly planned experiment was followed by a nap. I was awakened a short time later by one of my sisters shaking me and frantically asking, “what happened to you?! Are you okay? Look at your head!”

I stumbled up and over to the main floor washroom to discover two overlapping circles on my forehead. Like two loonie-sized hickeys. Right in the middle of my forehead.

Unfortunately, I was nearing the end of my stay at home and there was no way my mom was going to let me wait it out for the few days it would take for the marks to fade. Thus began, Operation Cover Up.

Mom, my sisters, and I tried various make-up and hairstyling techniques, but at best we muted the red. There was no way those circles would be hidden. It was the eighties, so I had big bangs, but even those couldn’t cover the damage I’d inflicted. And so we launched the second part of the operation – Cover Story.

It’s not easy to create a plausible back story to explain why you have two perfectly round bruises on your forehead, but I did it:

“I was heading downstairs and at the same time my sister rushed up and opened the basement door and slammed it open and I whacked my head on the door.”

Completely believable.

Airtight alibi.

I rehearsed this story several times, making sure to include just the right amount of detail. I added a smidge of righteous indignation at my sister’s thoughtless door-opening with a hint of surprise that it would leave such perfectly circular injuries. It was a glorious cover story. I almost started to believe it myself.

The following evening I was at church for our girls’ group. I told my story and everyone bought it. I was home free. I was going to get out of this disaster a little wiser, but with my reputation intact. THESE FOREHEAD HICKEYS WOULD NOT DEFINE ME.

We were waiting for our rides home when my friend turned to me and said, “yeah, your sister told us. You stuck a popper on your head. Twice. There was no door. See you tomorrow.”

The real lesson here is: you can have the best cover story for why you have a hickey Venn Diagram of Stupidity on your forehead, but it’s only as strong as your weakest link. Or sister with the biggest mouth.

———-

Your turn. Dumbest injury you’ve had. Share.