The Evils of Errands

Sweet Pea isn't the only one who felt like crying today!

Sweet Pea isn’t the only one who felt like crying today!

Screaming baby, whining toddler, and hungry mama: the perfect storm. Or so it felt during today’s attempt to quickly run errands.

Quickly? Oh, it is to laugh!

These days, no errand is complete without at least one trip to the bathroom. More than one store? That’s fine! My toddler will “need” to potty at all of them. Which may explain why a trip through three local businesses took over two-and-a-half hours.

Today’s final WC interlude involved reminding my daughter none-too-gently that we don’t smear our hands on the floors of public restrooms… and that, should we have the misfortune to ignore this rule, we should certainly wash up before touching our face, mouth, and eyes.

Alas, my reminders were in vain.

My cruel attempts to keep Sweet Pea from contracting the plague resulted in a stormy fit of weeping. Not to be outdone, Shark began an ear-piercing infant tantrum. The noise crescendoed after we buckled ourselves into the car and waited… and waited… and waited…

(Evidently the lady idling in her SUV behind us was waiting for a primo parking spot. Perhaps she sensed my death glare, because after four freaking minutes she finally moved on.)

And then we got going. But wait! What’s this? Road construction traffic, of course–because the day needed only this! Shark’s screaming reached a new octave. I grit my teeth and drove, thinking only to get home and escape my theoretically adorable children.

What I should have been doing was judging the speed of all that traffic more accurately. Because, yes, I got caught in the intersection by a red light camera.

So today’s little trip through the inner circles of Hell is going to be a gift that keeps on giving. After all, who doesn’t want a $124 ticket as a souvenir of suffering?

Sigh.

Weekly Meal Plan #20: Lots of Breakfast

Isn’t March a long month? My grocery budget certainly seems to think so. And yet there’s always a bright spot! We actually made the vegetarian meal already and it was ridiculously good. Also, my parents are having us over this week for crab sandwiches. (My mom is a fabulous cook and this is one of my favorites.)

Without further ado, our menu for the week. (Links when relevant!) FYI, the vegetarian meal is all kinds of excellent.

The Big Easytater tot casserole
Freezer/crockpotsplit pea soup
Pantry Challenge – pancakes and link sausage
Pizza/Pasta – Traci’s Mac ‘n Cheese
The Random – enchiladas from freezer (last of the food kind souls made us when Shark was born)
Vegetarianeggs in purgatory with Yukon Gold cinnamon rolls

Food for Thought Friday: Children’s Play

So… I figured I’d start a new feature on the blog. Welcome to “Food for Thought Friday!” My goal is to post a different conversation starter every week here.

Yeah, we’ll see how that goes.

First up is an article a friend shared with me. It’s by Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College. Click here to read “Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less.”

It’s a long article, but well worth the read. He argues that children need more play (NOT more school). If you don’t have time to read the original article, here’s a summary. These are some of Gray’s points:

  • All mammals (including humans) learn through play. When a species’ survival tasks are more complicated, their need for play increases. (Carnivores play more than herbivores, etc.)
  • The most important life skills cannot be taught in school. They must be learned and practiced through play. “These include the abilities to think creatively, to get along with other people and cooperate effectively, and to control their own impulses and emotions” (Gray).
  • Gray defines “play” as voluntary and, when possible, unsupervised… or, at the very least, isolated from intervention. Organized sports leagues do not count. Neither do play dates wherein parents are constantly watching and participating.
  • “Play” must be voluntary because the children involved must be free to quit. This gives all participants power. It also ensures that everyone who wants to play must work to keep the other players happy and engaged. (Here’s how play teaches social skills, fairness, and morality.)
  • Play helps children learn to control fear and anger. The kid who’s climbed trees and fought over the rules of a game will be better equipped to handle tense situations in “real life.”
  • When lab animals are deprived of opportunities to play, they cannot regulate their emotions. Gray states, “Some people object, on moral grounds, to experiments in which young animals are deprived of play. What a cruel thing to do. But consider this: over the past 50 to 60 years, we have been continuously decreasing the opportunities for our own children to play.”
  • Why have we, as a society, shifted away from free play for children? Gray cites several social factors: “the spread of parents’ fears, the rise of experts who are continuously warning us about dangers, the decline of cohesive neighbourhoods and the rise of a school-centric, or ‘schoolish’, take on child development – the view that children learn more from teachers and other adult directors than they do from one another.”

So… what are your thoughts on the article? On the subject of play in general? What are the best “teachers” for children? How should children be spending their time?

Weekly Meal Plan #19: $$$ Saver

What? Only $90 left in the month’s grocery budget? I blame this month’s Costco coupon packet! So many opportunities to buy bulk toiletries….

In other news, only two weeks left of maternity leave. Sigh.

The last thing I want to do right now is “waste” time cooking… and so I planned an admittedly starch-heavy (but very easy and cheap) menu for the week.

* * * * *

Pantry Challenge – minestrone soup and grilled cheese or BLTs

The Big Easy – pulling out a lasagna from the freezer (serving with a tossed salad)

Pizza/Pasta –  creamy cauliflower and basil “Alfredo” pasta

Crockpot/Freezer – Three Packet Slow Cooker Roast (with mashed potatoes and broccoli as sides)

Vegetarianrice and bean lunch wraps

The RandomCilantro Lime Chicken (pulling it from the freezer)

Weekly Meal Plan #18: Waste Not, Want Not

Internet, meet Shark! He's the reason for my hiatus.

Internet, meet Shark! He’s the reason for my hiatus.

Hello, all! Long time, no recipe planning.

I assure you, we’ve been eating quite well in the Diamond household. In fact, I took January off from cooking after Shark arrived. (Thank you to all family and friends who kept us in shepherd’s pie and lasagna for a month. It was glorious to cut out all that cooking, cleaning, and shopping time!)

As for February, well… running my household took enough energy that I didn’t have any to spare for posting meal plans. But now I’m back! I’ve got a whole bunch of basil to use up, and I hate it when a recipe calls for part of an avocado and the rest goes bad. (I love me some avocado, but goodness that’s some temperamental produce!) With that in mind, our recipes for the upcoming week:

* * * * *

Pantry Challenge – Green Goddess grilled cheese sandwiches

The Big Easyminestrone soup and BLTAs (I’ve got to add that avocado!)

Pizza/Pasta - roasted garlic chicken pesto pizza (and here we’re using up the extra pesto from all that basil)

Crockpot/Freezer – Crock Pot Coq au Vin (with baked acorn squash as a side)

Vegetarianvegetarian tacos

The RandomCilantro Lime Chicken (I will make two batches, one for eating and one for freezing)

My Mission in Life (No, Really)

image created by Amy Rubin Flett. See credit at bottom of post for further information.

image created by Amy Rubin Flett. See credit at bottom of post for further information.

I realize it’s far too late to write a New Year’s Resolution post… which is fine, because I stink at keeping resolutions anyway. And this year, I wanted something a little grander in scope. It’s all well and good to promise myself that I’ll read to my daughter every day, or that I’ll work hard to lose my pregnancy weight. But none of that really matters (and I have a hard time making it work) unless I can answer the question “Why bother?”

So I spent the first few weeks of 2014 writing my personal mission statement:

I am a loving and ethical critical thinker, committed to a life of value. I approach each day with passion, intention, joy, kindness, and balance.

Originally, I thought I was going to write a mission statement just for motherhood. I researched examples and how-to guides, the most useful of which included  this workbook PDF and this handout. Going through the exercises made me realize that I did not want such a focused mission after all. I wanted a statement for who I am in general. Why? I believe my personality impacts who I am as a mother, a wife, a teacher, a writer, a friend… etc. My outlook doesn’t really change, no matter which of my many hats I am wearing. And I believe I’ll be more satisfied and effective in all of my roles if I approach them from the heart of my fundamental self.

My mission-writing process, step by step:

1) I brainstormed a list of positive qualities/values related to me. Some of these are integral characteristics of my personality already. Some of them are more of a stretch, but still qualities I’ve been consciously working on for multiple years. All of them are traits I think mesh well with my true self. (Humility and selflessness, while admirable, sadly did not appear on my list.)

2) I also brainstormed a list of my life roles. Then I prioritized them. I compared my two lists, using my most important roles to narrow my qualities/values down. I wanted 3-5 key words. It was surprisingly easy once I could ask myself, “Which of these traits can help me do my best job as a mother, wife, friend, and educator?”

3) I paused for a double-check. As being a good mom tops my list, I thought of the mothers in my own life I admire. Do they embody the 3-5 key words I picked off my trait list? (Yes!)

4) As a final (initial) step, I turned my trait list into an actual mission statement. I don’t have clear advice on how to do this. Everyone’s writing process differs. But I do have some thoughts on how you’ll know you’re done:

  • I believe strongly that a mission statement should be short. You should have it memorized. You should be able to share it with interested strangers during a brief elevator ride.
  • Because it’s short, your words need to pack a punch. You’re cramming an entire life philosophy into a sentence or two. Be intentional. The mission statement itself is brief, but you should be able to write pages elaborating how you’re going to embody it (and believe me, I plan to).
  • Notice the word “sentence” in my previous bullet point. I don’t know if it’s the writer or the English teacher in me… but either way, I’m convinced that mission statements should have subjects and verbs.

5) Now I’m going to live with my statement, revisiting and revising as necessary. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Image credit: Amy Rubin Flett’s inspired artistry is part of a card set, which can be purchased via Etsy.

Weekly Meal Plan #17: Twenty Questions

Exactly how much sugar, starch, and fat did I consume over the holidays? How can I recover from the sweet, sweet excess while also using up all these extra potatoes? And will I be having a baby today? These are just some of the burning questions I’m asking this week.

There’s some argument as to when Baby #2 is due–perhaps it was yesterday, or we’re looking at New Year’s Eve. Either way, I’m trying to plan for upcoming chaos. Were I a bit more organized, my freezer would already be stocked with amazing ready-to-go meals. Alas, I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to prepare for my 12-week departure from work. The home front has been sadly neglected. And my freezer is already pretty full of random meat cuts and spare bread. So I’ll be doing a reorganization and re-stock this week (unless, of course, I’m giving birth).

Also on the agenda: make a big Costco run this week and come back with chicken–lots of chicken. This is a necessary ingredient for the many crockpot dishes I plan to freeze.

Crockpot/Freezer: The day I put these all together, we’ll just have one of them. I plan to make Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans, World’s Best Chicken, and Garlic Lime Chicken (all recipes make a double batch, and they are all available–along with others–through this link). If I feel up to it, I might also make Honey and Dijon Mustard Chicken.

Smoothies for breakfast (a good way to start the day post-Christmas)

The Random #1: Salmon with Fennel, Bell Pepper, and Olives

The Random #2: Winter Detox Super-Foods Salad (perhaps with pork chops on the side)

Vegetarian: corn and cheese chowder

Pantry Challenge: potato pancakes with a green salad