Meal Plan Monday (On A Tuesday): Random Rambling

It’s late Tuesday evening and my boys don’t yet want to call it a night. Meanwhile, I’m in my jammies, already in bed because my body is craving rest and my mind is craving quiet. I know the next 4 or 5 days are going to be out of the ordinary and I’m taking advantage of the mundane moments while I can.

I put together a meal plan over the weekend and then put together a whole new one yesterday when the first one just wasn’t ticking all the boxes for me. There was a lot of prep involved in the very tasty options I selected the first time around and simplicity is the name of the game for us in order to not rely on takeout this week. I’m only here for a couple dinners, with busy, busy, busy days, and then the guys are doing the bachelor thing.

I’ve decided I enjoy simplicity. Quick and easy meals. Comfort food. Dinners that don’t require hours of prep but that also don’t come from a tinfoil tray in the freezer. Savoury soups. Fresh salads. A sandwich or stew or stirfry.

This evening’s menu called for sandwiches – fresh buns and a variety of deli meats, cheeses, veggies… but I wanted more. And by 4 pm my 12 year old was asking for dinner and he really wanted soup. We put together a quick and easy tortilla chicken soup. He filled up. I filled up. There’s plenty left for lunch and dinner tomorrow. Two meals out of the way although I’ll add a salad to my plate tomorrow night.

Thursday and Friday is up to the guys. They have a variety of choices. Breakfast for dinner, pasta, chicken and veggies. They’ll make do. Their meals may not end up as well-rounded as when I’m in charge, but I know they won’t be starving. Saturday, half of us are walking with The Coldest Night of the Year. Dinner should be provided after the walk. Sunday will be whatever piques my interest when I open the fridge.

Some weeks, fed and family time feels more important than what’s actually on the menu. Three out of four loved the soup tonight – it’s one of the meals that always tastes delicious even though I don’t follow a recipe and the seasonings and ingredients change each time. (Tonight the pot featured red beans, jalapenos, tomato, corn, and spinach.) A different three out of four enjoyed some sandwiches tonight. We all enjoyed eating. At home. In the comfort of each other’s company. And that’s what all this menu planning is about – a fed family grateful and fortunate to have enough to eat, even when it’s simple.

All the I Love Yous

Today I said I love you by letting you sleep in. We have things to do around the house, but I know you’ve been exhausted this week. It may be a slightly selfish I love you because this means I could sleep in as well.

Yesterday I said I love you by picking up your favourite fast food burger on my way home from work. You were home by yourself all day and I was sure you kept opening the fridge and the cupboards, but still managed to find nothing to eat. (There is fruit on the table… always!!!) When I show my love this way, I can only hope that you’ll still eat dinner (and you did.)

The other day I said I love you by sending a text reminding you how awesome you are before you headed into your first ever exam. I probably even used the words “I love you” in this one, but I never got a reply. I can only hope that you really, truly know your value and that beyond a shadow of doubt know you are loved, despite your grades (which I’m sure you rocked!)

Last week I said I love you when I folded your laundry. The three baskets of it that you let pile up just waiting for someone to fold. It’s one of those things you’re supposed to be responsible for now, but I didn’t mind taking the time to do this for you while you were at school.

Every day I say I love you. In the meals I cook – yes, even the ones you complain about. In the reminders to try your best. In the lectures about contributing to the society of our home. In the responsibilities given. In the trust exercised. In the chauffeuring. In the questions about your life that drive you crazy. In the call to wake you up each morning and the call again 10 minutes later because you haven’t made a sound yet. In the words “I Love You” when you’re frustrated with me or just passing you in the hall.

You don’t always hear “I love you”, but child, my I love yous are being shouted loud and clear or soft and quiet every single day and I’ll be sharing them until I’m no longer here to tell you. Never, ever doubt you are loved and know that I hear your I love yous too, even when they’re not spoken.

The Dream of Silence

This morning as the alarm went off, I had visions of a leisurely day ahead. I pictured myself resting in some comfy clothes, book in hand, between loads of laundry, cups of tea, and dishes. The dog would snuggle up to me, I’d turn the ringer off on my phone, I’d bask in the silence.

Then real life set in and my dreams were but a puff of smoke. One child yelling about how much he dislikes school and telling me I’m not his mother (a familiar 7 a.m. refrain.) The other boy slept in a little and woke up grumpy. The buses were late because of the cold and my hard won silence was more of a mad, rapid descent into pandemonium.

J. made it onto the bus, albeit late, bundled up head to toe. Once he made it out the door, I though we were in the clear. Kaleb made it out as well, without any posted delays. I erroneously prepared to indulge in my comforter again a short time before meeting the day.

But the text messages started. “Mom, the bus isn’t here. It’s cold. Is there a delay?” This followed by him coming into the house asking the same questions. While I try to track the bus, I hear it from the recesses of my bedroom, driving past my driveway – child still in the house. No big deal. Just a little hiccup. I will drive him in. He’ll still be on time and no, child, you’re not missing school. It’s an organized study day before your exams.

Except, I forgot to plug in my car last night and it wouldn’t start. Now what? We plug it in for a short time and I get him to school just minutes after the bell rings. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. I’ve taken care of the immediate fires, but I’m frazzled and the bliss of silence needs to be fought for again. It’s fine – a great excuse for a chai latte and a muffin… and now that I’m out, I might as well do something with my day. Shopping, anyone?

My No-Resolution Resolution

We have been flung full-force into real life once again. I made no resolutions this year because I’m pretty darned perfect! (I kid, people. I kid.) I made no resolutions this year because I’m honest enough with myself to know that unless they involve books, I’m probably not going to keep them, and in all honestly, my bad book habits probably aren’t going to change either. (I’m talking about my piles of unread books from years ago, but can’t walk past a bookstore or book table habit.)

We started the new year sunkissed and refreshed. I had a few very brief day-dreamy moments where I considered the possibility that maybe life would slow down a little in 2020. (Hard no.) And yet, I’m already yearning for a slightly slower pace of life. I contemplate the far off reality of retirement with eager anticipation, but I’m in no rush to get there – just rushing in general.

Today on Facebook I read this beautiful post by The Life on Purpose Movement. It struck a chord. Then I commented “Goals.” right below it, and didn’t see the dichotomy of the image and my statement until later this afternoon to much amusement. Maybe it resonated so deeply because it’s such a deep seated need in so many of our lives.

This week we jumped back into life full swing. We’ve dealt with miscommunication, misspending, and mistakes. We’ve prepared to do lists, we’ve ticked off items, we’ve created (and veered from) meal plans. We’ve tried to balance family time, chauffeuring, volunteer commitments, friendships, household routine, and when we’re tired and frazzled and empty, our relationship and our alone time.

We’re no different than anyone else, but this frenetic, constant pace of life has left me empty. Not a soul-deep, heart shattering emptiness – but after giving (and biting my tongue and just listening) and living, even though our tanks started out so full, I’m running on fumes and it’s literally been a week. I need a moment to feel, to breathe, to find my feet again.

So, no, I haven’t made resolutions on a calendar – no weight goals, no lists, no accomplishments. Instead, I resolve to continue to strive to find a healthy balance. I continue to try to see more than a list of things to be done. I will continue to prioritize faith, family, and friendships. I will learn to speak up for myself (oh the value of “no” and “no, thank you!”) I will keep my ears open to listen to others and practice the pause before responding. (I’m sorry if I fail on this one and you get the sharp edge of my temper or my tongue.)

I will find grace to forgive myself in my mistakes. I will humbly apologize when I’ve messed up. I will grow. I will change. No doubt, I will generally stay the same, but hopefully improve each day by small interactions, little blessings, and finding quiet peace in cherished quiet moments.

So what’s my view for 2020? Here’s to a happier, healthier, still-the-same-at-heart me.

Living the Dream… On Drama Behind the Scenes

Today’s post is brought to you in total transparency. It’s so easy to see things that are Insta-worthy without seeing behind the scenes. A perfect snippet of someone else’s life is never the full story and while many people have it all together, I don’t think anyone has it all together all the time. Not me. Definitely not me. We’re a hot mess over here and I’m not even sure about the hot part.

Today was one of those days. I’ve written about them before. It started out with potential, but slowly went downhill. I quit running my errands because I thought life would be a bit smoother from the comfort of my home. Alone.

I had about 10 minutes. Then I heard rattling in the drawer under my oven (I keep nothing in this drawer anymore.) Child #2 came in off the bus. No big deal. Compromise over snacks and how many episodes of Bizaardvark he could watch. Told him to check the drawer before sitting his butt down on the couch.

We’ve caught a mouse… but he’s a feisty little guy and somehow only got his back leg trapped. I cried. (I hate mousetraps, but I hate mouse mess even more.) Little buddy decided to try and escape the drawer while dragging the trap and he is frantic and fast. I ended up bagging him and slipping him out of the trap out the back door. I have no hopes for him and now think I’m the worst kind of person. At least I didn’t poison him and the birds of prey too.

Things settle down. Cue the drama surrounding chores and homework. No more negotiations. Child 1 comes in off the bus and stirs the pot. Okay, then… it’s going to be one of those nights. Cue the raised voice reminding both brothers to leave each other alone and do. their. things. without causing a hassle.

Child 2 decides that instead of chores, he needs to use the bathroom. Fair enough – except he always seems to need to use the bathroom ONLY when he should be doing something else. It’s remarkable how his 12-year-old body rhythms work with hardly an interruption to TV or other screen time.

While in the bathroom, he got bored. Bored! So does he finish and go about his (other) business like any child who isn’t interested in driving his mama to near-meltdown status? NO. He starts playing with the spring-like doorstop near the baseboard (with his stinky toes, I’m assuming.) He’s pushing my buttons. He’s irking his brother. For the love of pizza, please just use the toilet quietly, wash your hands, and GET. TO. WORK.

Silence. Sweet blessed silence. Followed by a frantic, “Mom, you’re not going to be happy.” (Hate to break it to you, kid. Mom’s already unhappy.) What did my darling delight of a child do? Not use too much toilet paper. Oh no, he did better than that.

He managed to get the doorstop IN THE TOILET with his turds. Thank goodness he didn’t flush. That would have done a number on our pipes… Mom to the rescue with fury on her face (“Why didn’t you listen and stop when you were told to???”) Trusty tongs in hand and problem solved. Apparently, he has grounded himself for a month… plus the dishwasher was unloaded in record time and he’s now doing his homework quietly. Does that count as a victory?

So parents, when you’re feeling like you don’t quite measure up and life isn’t always picture perfect, at least your almost-teenager didn’t make you stick your hands in the toilet today. Dad says he’s not sure whether he’s angry or proud. Mom thinks we have more than one pest problem. We’re living the dream, right here.

I Stood Outside

I stood outside our township offices today. I was wrapped in my winter dress coat. It has a beautiful shawl collar which stupidly gapes across my neck and upper chest allowing snowflakes to settle in. I wore a warm pair of dress pants with my office flats. Without socks. It snowed. The temperature was -2°C. By the time I returned to the car, my toes hurt from cold. In my office, I’ve turned on the little heater under my desk. My toes are slowly thawing.

I stood outside our township offices today. I smiled in pride at the lines of elementary students from a local school standing alongside me. I gave a nod of my head when a young lady who is a part of our local fire department walked by in her dress uniform. I worried when a frail old man walked across the slippery sidewalk, wreath in his hands. I wiped away a tear when I heard the same family name called three times. I stood in silence as those around me stood in silence too.

I stood outside our township offices today. I stood with legions of others across Canada, putting aside our own discomforts and priorities to honour those who have served, who have sacrificed, who have given their very lives for a better world. I stood with hope that we can learn from past mistakes. I thought of those who marched, who lived in trenches, who found themselves tortured, imprisoned, illness and injury. I stood with gratitude, deep in my heart, that we stand a country, a nation, strong and free.

I stood outside our township offices today. I stood for freedom. I stood for honour. I stood to remember. I stood for those who can no longer stand for themselves. I stood outside our township offices today in front of a cenotaph, names of those loved and lost, but not forgotten. I stood outside our township offices today to remember… lest we forget.

Follow In Your Mother’s Footsteps… or Not

Today was Take Our Kids to Work Day in Ontario – an initiative of The Learning Partnership. Long story short, it’s meant to provide Grade 9 students with the opportunity to see future careers in action.

Now, you may not know this, but this mama is not college educated. My career is self-employment providing administrative and clerical services, with our local church being my major contract. My job is not glorious, not much of a glamorous career. I’m not complaining about it, but it’s not very exciting in the whole “let someone shadow you” realm of opportunity.

My kid elected to come to the office with me this morning instead of with his father who runs digital printing presses and creates artwork. I’m not sure what he was thinking.

Besides being unable to connect to the internet, our day was rather uneventful. He created a logo for a program and a subsequent Facebook page. I walked him through the steps of our Sunday readiness checklist. He helped me design a flyer and tickets for a Christmas program and restocked the pews with Connect Cards and pens. He assisted the youth pastor in setting up for the after school drop in program. He stole my swivel chair.

By lunchtime he was spinning in circles. I’m quite certain that all we determined is that he won’t have a career doing any sort of grunt office work. In his words, “(My) job is pretty boring. All (I) do is answer email all day.” Pretty much, kid. Pretty much.

More Than A Meal

The local youth drop in at our church for students in grades 6-12 started again last week after breaking for the summer. Alongside all the activities available for the students, we provide an afternoon snack and a hot meal that we all sit down to eat together.

Today was my day to cook. Today was also a little bit of a mess. I worked. I had a doctor’s appointment. I had to get labs done. I spent a lot of time in the car. I shopped for a few needed items for dinner.

By 3 pm (my crash time lately) I was done. I was hot. (I’m always hot.) I was tired. My feet hurt. My tummy hurt. I was a bit cranky. But I was present.

As 18 teenage boys started to trickle into the community room after school, things get loud. They laugh at the most obnoxious “jokes.” They’re a little smelly.

However, as I prepared and served and tidied up after dinner, I heard things. I heard comments on how good things smelled. I heard concerns about post-secondary choices. I heard questions directed towards me like “Did you have a good summer?” and “Do you think I grew?” I heard pleases, and thank yous, and groans about feeling full. I even heard a belch.

I didn’t have any heart-to-heart, deep meaningful conversations. However, I realised that these teenage boys trust me (us) enough to keep showing up. They are comfortable and make themselves at home. They are polite despite they’re obnoxiousness. They laugh with us (and at us.) They share tidbits and glimpses of what’s important to them. They make us a family each Wednesday night – with different members of the family around the table each week.

If making spaghetti and garlic bread is all that it takes to show we care, if some video games, a hot meal, and some hours from our day build bridges, if our listening skills in the little things lead to bigger discussions in the future, then sign me up. I’d rather my actions speak louder than words and show we love than merely just saying we do. My acts of service – your acts of service – make dinner more than a meal.

Apple-Pear-Sauce and Pleasant Memories

Anyone else love fall? There’s something about it that just makes me happy. Spring is delightful, but fall is the season of my heart. I think a lot of this has to do with comfort food, and most of my comfort foods are perfect for the cooler nights and seem to feature fall harvest produce.

Growing up, as far back as I can remember, my Beppe (grandma) has canned for her family. I can never decide whether her green beans are my favourite or her applesauce. They’re both delicious and evoke those warm childhood memories that a bite of comfort food often kindles.

Some of my relatives have taken the initiative to become more self-sufficient in a home-steading type of way and have taken her wisdom and put up jars of produce for their families as well. I think there must be a special kind of satisfaction in that. Alas, other than some small-scale canning I did years ago when the boys were toddlers, I have not been as successful in stockpiling for the winter months. I have been known to freeze my rhubarb, though. It’s a start.

Despite my lack of garden this year, we’ve been blessed with fresh produce. People literally leave portions of their harvest on my desk or outside my office door, and it makes me feel so cared for and appreciated! We’ve enjoyed carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, and more recently garlic, pears, and apples. I’m pretty sure food is one of my love languages.

My pile of pears and apples, while valued, weren’t at their perfect prime. A few were good for snacking, but the rest required peeling and some heavy paring to make them suitable for use.

So what’s a girl to do? Dig deep into her happy food memories and whip up a batch of apple-pear-sauce. Not traditional, but with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and dash of brown sugar, it oozes comfort food charm (not to mention, my house smells amazing!)

While not Beppe’s recipe at all (and one day I’ll ask for her applesauce recipe, among others) it still brought a smile to my face, warmth to my belly, and pleasant memories to mind. It’s a perfect tatste of fall and happiness in a bite. In my books, that’s cooking done right!

Our Ride Together

Today, I am grateful for the love of an incredible man. Fifteen years ago we were joined in holy matrimony (but the wedding did not go to plan. Yes, I’m still bothered.) Putting that aside, it was an amazing day – beautiful blue sky, surrounded by friends and family, overwhelmed with our love for each other.

Through the years, it’s not been all sunshine and cotton candy. (Why didn’t we have a cotton candy machine at our wedding?) We’ve had our ups and downs… but we’ve held onto each other the entire way.

We’ve had our share of arguments. We rode a roller coaster of emotions through two high risk pregnancies. We were blessed with two amazing boys. We’ve lived on a tight budget. We’ve had to stretch dollars. We face each day when it comes to my own health. We’ve lost family members. We’ve held new ones. We’ve travelled. We’ve stayed home on many a Friday night content with our own company, falling asleep on the couch while a movie plays across the room.

I’ve been tempted to wear ear plugs to bed (he snores so bad.) I’m sure he’s been tempted to put a heating pad under my sheets. (My feet are always cold.) We’ve held it together through hospital visits. We’ve lost it in the comfort of each other’s arms. We’re both a little squishier than the day we met.

Roller coasters – emotionally, physically, and even at the amusement park – he’s the man I want riding beside me every mile of the journey.

Happy anniversary, Kev!

It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been us… it’s always been love. I’m still crazy about you!