Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What's The Point Of All This Fun?

I have the honor to be a stay at home parent. Whenever and wherever I can, I make sure people understand what a complete blessing this occupation is. Daily are the gifts that make every single sacrifice and hardship worth it, ten times over.

But oh, not for the faint of heart are the struggles that tag along (sometimes daily); unwanted passengers, freeloading along for the ride. Some are serious. Like the magic act that stretches a single income delicately (like a spider's web) across all areas of domestic domain; one penny spent out of place and the entire web collapses.

Others are more light (thankfully), but (always) completely annoying. Like the daily woe of meal planning. Sure, every parent out there faces this dilemma. We've all got to eat. People are funny that way. It doesn't matter how crunched for time, hurried, or late we are, dinner in some shape or form must present itself on the table. Lunches must be tossed into bags or boxes and readied to be scuttled off to school. Even breakfast must appear, sugar coated and happy every morning.
But the catch for me, and the stay at home parent is, I'm home all day (according to society at large), and doing "Nothing" of any "Real" consequence. Three square meals shouldn't make no never mind to me at all, given my apparent life of pure leisure. Right?

Let me tell you this; the moment that idea becomes reality will be a truly beautiful thing indeed. I await it eagerly. Please let me know when it arrives.

In the meantime, I toil away smack dab in the middle of domestic bliss, often coming up devoid of ideas or the willpower to make "Yet Another Dinner". So I like to get creative with meal planning, meeting the dual requirements of Economical and Easy On Me.

One favorite we've come to enjoy is the Scatter Picnic. A blanket is set up in another room, outside the normal eating area. We've held these in hallways, doorways, and upstairs. Scatter Picnic food can be best described as "Clean Out The Fridge" or "Empty The Freezer" cuisine, made more fun by the change in venue. And perhaps the occasional frozen pizza.

Last night we plopped our Scatter Picnic blanket down in front of the fireplace in the living room. I reheated leftovers and baked an array of breaded "not good for you" delights: mozzarella sticks, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, egg rolls and onion rings. To up the health quotient, I added applesauce to the spread.

We sat together around the blanket, our little family of 4, chatting and sharing ideas and thoughts back and forth. At one point, Dan and I were talking about how nice it was to just sit and talk together as a family. How much fun it was.

Ashlyn looked up from her cheese stick and said, "But what is the point of all this fun?"

Uncertain as how to answer, I said, "So we can get to know you better. While you still like us. And will sit still long enough to talk to us."

She pondered this, glaring deep into the oozing depth of the cheese stick she'd been peeling. (She only eats the cheese part of a cheese stick.) "Oh. Okay. That is a good purpose."

We passed the rest of dinner happily. We cleaned up. We went on our way with the evening. Another dinner down: easy on me, easy on the budget.

And apparently, according the Ashlyn, with the added bonus of having great purpose.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

This Year. A promise to myself.

It's official. Christmas is on it's way---

                   which also means the Angry People are out.  In full force.

Today I found myself at Target. As I was checking out after my leisurely (half hour) stroll through the entire store to buy a pack of cold cuts, I saw the first Angry Person in front of me. She was yelling at the cashier for giving her the wrong change. Apparently the cashier had dropped a dime and couldn't find it. The transaction was over, so she couldn't pull another dime out of the register. The customer was angry for being short by that dime. She yelled. She called the manager over. He was confused. (In all fairness, this was a lot of noise over a dime). He took the time to listen to her. (We all listened, as she was explaining it quite loudly and with anger.)
He took a dime out of his pocket and handed it to her. She stared at him.

"You think this makes it right?" she demanded.
"It makes up for the dropped dime," he explained, "and the amount of change you'd be short."
Unsatisfied, the customer looked at him narrowly, "SHE dropped it. Not me." She went on a tangent about how adding and subtracting isn't hard, holding money should be easy, and she should be given back more than a dime for her considerable trouble in losing the first one.

Those of us uncomfortable enough to be near to this spectacle just stared. Silently suspended in unified disbelief.

The lady left. The manager left. Suspended reality reactivated once more. It was my turn to check out. (Finally.)
Only, now it was the cashier's turn to be Angry.

"Can you believe her?" she asked me.
"Um...." I began, reluctant to comment without knowing the lady in question or her situation. "This time of year can be stressful......"
 (Please just ring me out).
"Whatever. I don't do the change--the register does."
(Well, if we're going to put a fine point on it, the register calculates the change but it takes the hands of a human to dole it out. Just saying.)

She mumbled through my time with her, tossing my items in a bag, and handing me a receipt with a gruff, "Whatever" by way of departing greeting.

Meanwhile the lady in the lane next to me felt the 2-people-ahead-of-her line was too much. She shoved her full cart forward (blocking the lane) and left.

"This is ridiculous!" she declared, storming out. 2 people ahead of her. Just two. Each of whom had a small handful of items.

What the smack, people? Come on.

Look, I know this can be a stressful time of year. November comes and suddenly, we're all certain we're in a hurry. And that no one else is. And they're all out to get us. 

I know.

But wouldn't it be great if this year we all just calmed down a bit? Tamed that inner rage that tells us we cannot be patient when something doesn't go our way? Take a deep breath when we have to wait in line at a store? Smile and treat others with respect instead of spilling our own frustrations out on them?

Wouldn't that just be dandy?

Believe me, I'm not judging anyone, not even these three Angry People. I have enough inner grumbles going on of my own when I go into stores this time of year. We all do.

But this year I'm going to try to put silver linings on it. All of it. The crowds, the busy-ness, the rudeness--I can't control any of that. I can, however, control me.

I will wait with patience.
I will smile with grace.
I will slow down with peace.
I will open my eyes and really see others--
with respect
with kindness
with consideration.
(And I will repeat this mantra as necessary until it happens).
This year.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pancake Shortcut.

As I get older, I think I'm becoming more lazy in certain things about our daily routine.
It just seems so much easier to take little shortcuts here and there to make the day smoother, and make me feel less incredibly stressed out.
Breakfast, in particular, has become a daily challenge at our address. My normally non-picky girls have taken it upon themselves to make this our trickiest meal of the day. They will not eat cereal (too crunchy); or oatmeal (weird texture); no toast for them (too much like cardboard); or scrambled eggs (though I haven't a clue why). The perennial fav is PopTarts and pancakes. Sometimes I make pancakes or waffles the night before and just reheat them in the morning. This is a fine solution...when I remember to do it. Most of the time I'm scrambling in the morning, desperately debating with them what will be for breakfast, and handing out toaster pastries in an act of too-tired-to-fight submission.

But now I have a new shortcut. And this one is great. Genius, really.

Did you know you can pour pancake batter into a pan and bake it all at once? (If you already know that then you are superior to me, who has only recently discovered this nifty little trick). It works with any batter, homemade or made from a mix. You simply pour the batter into the pan and bake it at 350 for about 10 minutes. It. Is. Awesome. (And now I know what's for breakfast).

                       Spray a 10 1/2 x 15 (Jelly Roll) pan with non stick spray.

             Pour the batter on in and spread. Doesn't matter what type of batter you use. I used a "regular sized" recipe; it made 12-14 pancakes. Larger batches may need a larger pan.

 You can make different types of pancakes in the same pan! Yay! I made    one side chocolate chip and the other side blueberry-lemon. Yum.

 Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. The pancake won't brown as much as it might when you cook on a griddle, but our family isn't offended by it.

You can cut the pancake into nifty little dipping sticks, or (and this is genius too), you can use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. It's completely up to you.

This is the only way I make pancakes now. It's quick and easy. And keeps me away from the griddle cooking endless batches  of cakes. If you want to make a larger batch of pancakes, use more batter and a larger 1/2 sheet pan.