Anatomy of a working mom’s evening

rain

4:15 – Learns little league is cancelled due to rain. Relishes the thought of an evening with no activity. Decides she can probably make those Vietnamese noodle salads for dinner after all.

4:30 – Receives text that younger son is leaving for a friend’s house and will return at 6:30.

4:45 – Finds out son will be bringing a friend home with him at 6:30; mentally adds one more for dinner.

5:00 – Packs up items to work at home the following day to avoid another rainy, congested commute.

5:15 – Leaves work. Raining. Spends 35 minutes in stop and go traffic.

5:50 – Stops at grocery store to buy remaining items needed for Vietnamese noodle salads. Ends up spending $88 on…well, who knows.

6:10 – Loads groceries in the rain. Splashed by passing car.

6:20 – Arrives home; pours a glass of wine.

6:30 – Starts to boil water for rice noodles; chops vegetables; chops leftover chicken and stretches it from 4 servings to 5.

6:45 – Puts egg rolls in oven. Wonders why younger son and friend are not yet home.

7:00 – Tracks down younger son and finds out he needs a ride. Drains rice noodles and hopes for the best. Instructs older son to listen for the timer, flip the egg rolls, then reset the timer for 15 minutes. Asks him to repeat instructions.

7:15 – Picks up younger son and friend, in the rain.

7:30 – Arrives home to find rice noodles in glutinous heap and egg rolls removed from oven in complete disregard of the instructions. Older son deflects blame, says, “(Daughter) told me to take them out of the oven.”

7:45 – Throws glutinous heap in the trash, egg rolls back in oven, and cooks second package of rice noodles.

8:00 – Constructs salads individually to account for children’s dislikes. There are many.

8:09 – Serve salads; sends guest’s salad flying when teenage daughter pulls out a chair and hits her in the elbow.

8:10 – Scoops salad up off table and makes daughter switch with guest. Rubs bruised elbow.

8:11 – Thinks about pouring another glass of wine and decides against it.

8:20 – Kids finish eating.

8:30 – Still in work clothes, starts dishes with kids milling around uselessly. Starts to get a little irritated. Sends them off to various rooms to pick up the afternoon’s detritus.

8:45 – Friend heads for home. Kids scatter.

9:00 – Realizes that folders needed to work at home the next day are sitting on desk at the office. Balances heading into the office after all with trying to reconstruct needed information. Opts for reconstructing needed information.

9:30 – Gets kids to bed. Throws wet laundry in the dryer. Starts another load. Cleans cat box. Wishes she’d changed out of work clothes before cleaning cat box.

10:00 – Thinks about turning on the TV but too tired. Opts for turning in. After all, tomorrow’s another day in a paradise.

10:15 – Switches second load of laundry and sets up the morning’s coffee.

10:45 – Hits the pillow with this thought of gratitude, “At least I didn’t have to sit through baseball in the rain like we did on Monday.”

Z is for Zzzzzz

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It seems reasonable that coming on the heels of my last post I would be thinking, talking and writing about sleep.

Oh, blessed sleep.

But I’m not going to talk about my own need for sleep tonight. I’m going to talk about kids’ need for sleep. My kids “check in” their phones at night – they must be in the kitchen where I can easily find them. But based on the constant buzzing those phones emit throughout the late evening hours, there are a lot of kids who barely sleep at all.

Here’s a typical text string to my 12-year-old son (coming two hours after he’s hit the hay – and from a girl).

Hi.

Hello, are u there?

Where r u?

Why don’t u answer?

Now I’m depressed.

Where r u!! Pick up please!!

I can’t sleep, where r u?

And it goes on. Good grief, girl. Get some self-esteem. And by the way, you can’t sleep because you’re GLUED TO YOUR PHONE.

My kids were good sleepers as young kids, and we’ve kept that discipline in their tweens and teens. My teens catch a very early bus and it’s a challenge to get to the bus stop even for the well-rested.

And something good has come from all that firm insistence that they go to bed at a decent time – they like (and protect) their sleep. They’re up later on the weekends, but weekdays they all turn in at a reasonable hour. Makes for easier mornings (and evenings) when your kids love to sleep.

So one of the best tips I can give you, as your kids grow, is demonstrate the value of a good night’s sleep – for yourself, and for them.

Good night, everyone…it’s time to put the A to Z Challenge to bed. Thanks for reading.

Read the series at A is for About

Y is for Yawn

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That’s it – I’m tapped out. With two days to go in the A to Z Challenge I’ve hit the wall.

It is Wednesday. So far this week our family schedule has included:

  • 1 lacrosse game
  • 3 lacrosse practices
  • 2 baseball games
  • 2 baseball practices
  • 2 dance classes
  • 2 dance team practices
  • 1 haircut
  • Two band concerts
  • 1 batting practice
  • 3 workouts
  • 1 field crew shift
  • And last, but by no means least, 1 trip to urgent care (which believe me, is a blog post in and of itself)

We didn’t get to all this stuff. But we got to most of it. Oh, and work. I went to work.

But the real kicker is the announcement from my 11-year-old, as he headed off to bed (late) this evening, that he volunteered to bring corn bread to school tomorrow for his challenge reading class.

So after only a little fussing, I made corn bread. Why, you ask, would a challenge reading class require corn bread? I really couldn’t say. And why, you ask, would I bow to such an unreasonable request? Because I was too tired to resist, of course. I am dog tired.

So I’m headed to bed, without a tip for working parents other than this:

You see that list above? Yeah, don’t do that.

Tomorrow….Z is for Zzzzzzz

Read the series at A is for About

X is for Xtra

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Cheap, I know, but I’ve left out one of my favorite tips and I need to find a spot for it. So the spot is here. It’s a tip for the easiest, fastest, most gratifying dinner ever.

Are you ready?

It starts with a slow cooker, a pork roast and a cup or two of leftover coffee. Really. If you’re wondering how I discovered this amazing combo, it’s easy. One day, I just threw  the leftover coffee over the pork as a marinade because it happened to be sitting there. This was a true stroke of spontaneous genius.

To finish the meal, set the slow cooker on low as you leave for work, and shred the pork when you return. Done.

Of course, you’ll probably want to throw a few additional items over that pork, so here are three tested ideas:

  1. Sprinkle the pork with a TBSP of cocoa, and pour over it half a jar of whatever salsa you have in the refrigerator.
  2. Rub the the pork with garlic and ginger – powdered if you must, but fresh is better. Pour in 1/4 cup soy sauce (I like mine low salt) and a TBSP of something sweet – maple syrup, agave syrup, brown sugar, honey – whatever you want.
  3. Pour a good dose of your favorite BBQ sauce in. It really requires nothing more if you’re using the coffee.

Depending on the mood, we eat the pork on buns, toast, baked potatoes, noodles, tortillas…The best part – it makes a ton so it’s good for doubling up as tonight’s dinner-after-the-baseball-game will attest: leftover pulled pork on corn tortillas with sour cream, avocado slices, cilantro, salsa, and a little shredded cheese.

The meal practically makes itself. And you don’t have to throw out OR drink that last cup of coffee.

Read the series at A is for About

W is for What Was I Thinking

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The A to Z Challenge is drawing to a close and I am darn near out of ideas. It doesn’t help that the end of the challenge corresponds to those ridiculous letters that so few people use – X, Y and Z. Go ahead, defend them if you must. I will not be convinced.

I was so psyched out by the terrible trio that I forgot poor old W, which is not a bad letter. It’s serviceable in its way. So I’m just going to wing out a few tips that include a W. Sorry, it’s the best I can do:

  • When you fold the wash, sort it as you fold according to the room it goes in. This takes a lot of space, but a fraction of the time to put it all away.
  • When you can, dust with a slightly wet wipe to keep all that crap from floating around in the air.
  • Whistle while you work. Sorry, lame.
  • When you have a dozen half-drunk water bottles around, use them to water your plants. It very slightly reduces the guilt of putting all that plastic in the waste stream.
  • When you pull weeds, pull all  weeds of the same type until they are gone – a particularly helpful tip if you have a clueless kid or two weeding with you. P.S. Start with the tallest weed.
  • When you’re asked to bring a snack or dessert to a kids’ party, bring cubed up watermelon. It’s cheap, it’s fast to prepare, it’s hydrating, and it will be gone in minutes. Seriously, you cannot bring enough of the stuff.
  • If you’re stuck waiting during kids’ sports practice, go for a walk. I do this all summer when my kids are at  lacrosse practice and it’s a wonderful way to end the day.

That is all. I’m going to go off to meditate on X, Y and Z.

Read the series at A is for About

V is for Vitamins (especially D)

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Every working parent (OK, every parent) dreads the SICK DAY(S) that throw you off your schedule. At best, you’re juggling work calls from home while heating up some soothing chicken broth. At worst, you spend the whole day doing laundry while covered in unmentionable substances.

While we eat a reasonably nutritious diet, there are a few vitamin supplements I encourage my kids to take on a regular basis. And I’ve got to tell you, sick days are a rarity at our house. Each of my kids takes an age-appropriate multi-vitamin, and these two additional supplements I insist on:

  • Vitamin D because we live in a northern climate where something like 120% of the population is vitamin D deficient. While only my daughter has actually been tested (and found to be D-ficient) I have the whole family take it as an immune- and energy- booster.)
  • Acidophilus, for digestive (well, intestinal) health. No details, please, but this is a good one – and was recommended to me for teens battling acne, too.

What are the go-to supplements at your house? Am I missing anything?

Read the series at A is for About

U is for Underwear

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I learned this trick from a resourceful college roommate – if you have 30 pairs of underwear, you need only do your laundry once a month.

Well, I don’t take it quite that far, but having a good two week’s worth in the drawer can make life a lot easier. After all, if a kid is looking for a pair of jeans to wear to school, you can always respond, “Take one out of the dirty laundry.” But you’d have to be pretty desperate to do the same thing if they’re hunting for clean underwear.

I stock up on socks for the same reason. I think the socks in our house would disintegrate if they had to endure two consecutive days of wear. We generate some pretty disheartening laundry at our place. I’ve often compared it to toxic waste.

(And one more laundry-reducing trick, for the more devious among you – you know those towels that get thrown in the wash after one use? Pull ’em out, let them dry, fold them, and return them to the bathroom. No one will ever know the difference.)

Read the series at A is for About

T is for To-Go (and 300)

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It’s the bane of every sports parent – the 6:00 game/practice/class that makes it virtually impossible to feed people on a normal schedule. At those times, the lure of the golden arches and its equally unhealthy brethren can loom pretty large.

Well, I decided to compromise on those nights where a family meal is not in the cards. Yes, we eat in the car. But we eat what I was going to serve them anyway.

Granted, this is not my preferred way to deliver the evening meal. But there are nights I just have to admit that I cannot feed my family in one room, at the table, and still get where we have to go.

On these nights, I send my kids to the car where they buckle up, and then I hand them a plate full of food to eat on the way.

It’s not beautiful, but some nights it’s the best I can do. And at least I’m not super-sizing anything.

(Oh, and the 300? Turns out this is my 300th post. Sounds impressive until I realize how long I’ve been blogging and do the math.)

Tomorrow…U is for Underwear

Read the series at A is for About

S is for Stash (of Cash)

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Well, it’s not a lot of cash. It’s just enough to keep me from ending up in a pickle.

Mornings at our house are often a mad dash. Although I’m usually careful to gather my things the night before, I live in almost unreasonable fear that I will leave the house some morning without my wallet. And that I won’t realize it until the end of the day when, once again in a mad rush, I will find I’m unable to exit the  parking garage at work.

Well, everyone has some paranoia or other. This is mine. To combat it, I tuck a twenty dollar bill in a safe location, where it will not be pilfered by my children, for just such an emergency.

It’s not much, but I’ll take my peace of mind where I can get it.

Tomorrow…T is for To-Go (no, not that kind of to-go)

Read the series at A is for About

R is for Routine

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A disclaimer – building a routine is not one of my strong points. That is why, as the #AtoZChallenge has gone on, my posts seem to be getting later and later in the day.

But that does not mean I can’t promote the concept of routine. It makes life a lot easier, if you can establish (and keep to) one.

Here are some of the routines I routinely start, abandon, start and abandon again:

  • Work out on Sundays and go to the grocery store on the way home. There is nothing that makes you feel as virtuous as starting the week with some exercise out of the way, and a full refrigerator.
  • Cook for 2-3 nights at a time. It really isn’t much more effort to cook 3 meals than it is to cook one, especially if you can double up.
  • Wash all the laundry on Saturday, and fold it all on Sunday. (If you are a regular reader, you’ll know why I have trouble with this one.)
  • Go through all the kids’ clothing twice a year, once for each of the two seasons in Minnesota (winter and road construction) and pull out the items that no longer fit. Actually, I’m pretty good about keeping to this one. It helps to have room to put the laundry away.
  • Turn the mattress 1/4 turn on each of the following: winter solstice, vernal equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox. Good about this one, too, mostly because my husband is a stickler for this one. (It’s his only routine. He changes the oil in the cars on the same schedule.)
  • Write and prep all my A to Z posts on Sunday and schedule them for publication. Yep, not doing this right now.

Tomorrow…S is for…well, I don’t know yet, I’m off my routine. Any ideas?

Read the series at A is for About