Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cook of the Day

I've got food on my mind lately. For a few reasons. 1) I like to eat. 2) I like to cook. 3) I'm on a diet. 4) Fall is in the air (yay for the arrival of September! it was in the 60's this morning when I went out for a little bike ride) and fall sends me to my kitchen. 5) For some annoying reason my family wants to eat every few hours, EVERY DAY!

Whatever the reason, food became my topic for tomorrow's Motherhood Matters blog, in conjunction with our new power of the month for September: Organization. Women can't seem to get enough classes, tips and tricks labeled "how to organize . . ." but I really like the different focus we have at The Power of Moms. (Read more below.)

Speaking of food, we have fresh peaches coming out of our ears thanks to Burgess Orchards, so today I made the most delish smoothies from fresh, drippy peaches, frozen bananas, and milk. That's it. Then I swapped out the peaches for peanut butter. Also delish. Last but not least, you MUST try Bolthouse Farms green juice (or whatever brand of green juice you like) blended with greek honey yogurt. Just those two things. Oh, man!  

I read some mom blogs that are so profound and thoughtful, clearly trying to give their readers some good stuff to think about. I mostly blog as a way to de-stress and make myself (and hopefully others) laugh, and I do that by simply recording the daily happenings of my life. I feel like my posts for the Deseret News blog take all my thoughtful brain space, so by the time I get around to my personal blog I just want to look at my pictures and reflect on happy moments. I don't know why, but I don't end up spending too much time writing about the "deliberate mothering" kinds of things I'm constantly working on. Maybe because by the time I've worked it all out in my mind and tried to implement it in my family I'm tired and just want to . . . look at my pictures and reflect on happy moments! 

In any case, here's a sneak peek at what's coming up tomorrow on the Motherhood Matters blog at Deseret News. I really do what I've outlined below, Type A as it sounds, because it really makes me feel better about what I'm trying to do here as The Mom. That's something I've realized about myself lately. Proactively teaching my kids whatever it is I want them to learn brings my guilt/stress levels way down. When everyone is just running around willy nilly doing whatever they want and I'm in defeated mode I get depressed. (Does that make me a control freak? Probably.) I'm not talking about structuring every minute of their day, but it is important to me that they learn to put first things first as well as learn some life skills outside of academics and extracurricular activities. I think there are too many parents out there focusing too much on grades and extracurricular activities while neglecting to teach their kids the basic life skills needed just to survive once they're on their own! (Cooking being one of those skills.)

Now, if you read this before morning, don't go leaking it to the AP or anything, okay? (I'm laughing . . .) Which title do you think sweet Emily over at Deseret News will choose? I usually give her two titles and let her pick. Which one do you like? 

Managing Mealtime Madness 
Tips for Making the Dinner Hour Palatable
Ah, September! It’s one of my favorite months of the year. Not only does September mark the coming of autumn, but it also means back to school. And back to school means back to schedules and routines--a welcome relief for mothers after the crazy, lazy days of summer. At The Power of Moms, we think this is the perfect time of year to be thinking about getting re-organized or more organized, which is why we chose this month to focus on The Power of Organization.
You may have noticed there are already a gazillion other blogs and websites devoted to organization with mothers in mind. What do we have to add to the mix? Well, unlike the blogs and websites that focus primarily on organizing stuff, we like to focus on helping mothers organize their minds, their time, their families, their routines--anything that will help them feel more deliberate in their mothering.  

I, for one, am doing my darndest to get some good routines set in place at the start of this new school year so that everyone in my family will feel more on top of things, less stressed, and like our home is where we want to be at the end of the day. In my opinion, the dinner hour is the thing that really makes or breaks the after school atmosphere, so I’m really trying to nail down a successful routine that does double duty by including my kids in the process as well as decreasing my time spent in the kitchen. 

You’ve probably heard that “studies show” regular family dinner has a positive effect on everything from children’s grades to their level of delinquency. I just know that I like to have a time to sit down together as a family and be nourished both physically and emotionally--but not go crazy in the process. It’s rarely calm and controlled, never clean or quiet, but so far my plan is doing what I hoped it would. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.  
  1. Delegate menu planning. Not only does this take the pressure off you, the mom, but it also ensures your family is going to like what’s on their plate. I did this last week with my three older children and husband, and in about 30 seconds they had each picked a meal and planned the entire week's menu: Chicken legs with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, spaghetti pie, hawaiian haystacks, and a favorite shrimp and pasta dish we simply call “shrimp pasta”. (I know, original.) Sounds like a pretty good week, right?
  2. Shop once. Now that I had a complete menu for the week (there will be leftovers for sure, and probably a pizza night over the weekend), I could go to the store just once and get everything I needed. Nothing throws your after school routine off like a last minute trip to the grocery store for some sour cream. Avoid it at all costs!
  3. Make dinner in the morning. Yeah, I’m serious. Maybe not the whole thing (unless it’s an easy casserole or a crock pot dinner, then go for it!) but at least think about what meat you need to take out of the freezer, or what veggies you can chop up while you’re in the kitchen preparing breakfast anyway. Doing just a few steps like this early in the day will really take the edge off when that bewitching hour rolls around and everyone is "starving".
  4. Dedicate a specific time for dinner. This is a tough one if you’ve got lots of after school activities going on, but it is so worth it. Treat the dinner hour like any other appointment instead of thinking you’ll just “squeeze it in”. If you’ve got so many after school activities that you can’t “squeeze in” family dinner at least 3 nights during the school week, you might want to think about cutting some things out. Setting a specific time for dinner (even if it has to change from day to day depending on those after school activities) will make it an automatic priority. Post a schedule if needed so that your family will know when they can depend on a good (or good enough) meal to be ready. There are two added benefits to doing this: it will get you moving when you're not feeling super motivated to make dinner, and it provides legitimate ammo when your kids start raiding the cupboards around 5:00. I am constantly shooing my kids out of the snack cupboard with a reminder that dinner will be ready “soon”. It’s easier for them to take if they know I’m serious. 
  5. Assign a “Cook of the Day”. I don’t know which of my Power of Moms friends I stole this from, but it’s a gem. There are so many reasons to do this. 1) One-on-one time with your child. 2) They learn to cook over the years in a relaxed and natural atmosphere. 3) You get that second set of hands you most definitely need. 4) The “cook of the day” can be an advocate for the dinner on the table when other children start to complain. 5) You feel like a rock star of a mother. Need more reasons? Last night my 7-year-old was the cook, so of course we made the meal she chose (chicken legs, etc.). You may not believe this, but even at seven-years-old she was a huge help to me! She husked more than half the corn, and rolled half the chicken legs as well. I could tell she was relishing being mommy’s little helper, having that one-on-one time together, and feeling proud of herself for doing such grown up work. I’ve noticed the same response from my older children (10 and 13), they just show it differently.
  6. Assign dinner jobs. At our house, everyone has one thing to do to get the table ready for dinner (place mats and napkins, flatware, drinks, and condiments), someone volunteers to be the “waiter” or “waitress” since I like to to serve up by the stove and take dished up plates to the table, and then there are clean up jobs as well (clearing the table, wiping the table and chairs, sweeping under the table, and of course, dishes). In theory, no one leaves the kitchen until it’s completely clean. We’re still working on that, because sometimes (as every mother knows) it's easier (and quieter) to do it myself. 
There you have it! I hope this is of worth to some mother out there wondering how she’ll make it through one more night of mealtime mayhem. Keep in mind that like all good organizational systems, the hardest part will be getting started. Of course there will be days (maybe even weeks) when it will be difficult to maintain your dinnertime plan, but once you have a system in place it will be that much easier to get back on track. Bon Appetit!

Have your kids seen the Kid History youtube videos? Kate and I are up way too late laughing ourselves to tears as we watch the latest one. (This is what Mormon families do for fun in Utah . . . I mean the making of the videos. It's a Mormon family.) 

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