Category Archives: Adventures in Mommydom

Last-minute dinner solutions.

You guys, this pregnancy has been kicking my butt: something to do with it being my first time being pregnant in my 30s, combined with having to keep 3 kids alive–including a 2-year-old part-tornado, part-monkey, part-evil genius. At 23 weeks–the usually FUN! trimester–I’m already acutely feeling every single third-trimester ache and pain, and I’m spending most afternoons on the couch. Definitely not the speed I’m used to.

So dinner time has been interesting!

Most of the time, eating out actually makes me feel worse, so what’s a mom who’s solo for dinner time going to do? Simplify. Which, honestly, means a lot of pasta. My girls are kind of sick of pasta. But it’s easy, it’s versatile, and aside from the overuse it generally doesn’t elicit complaints from the under-5′ set. (I still can’t believe that my 7-year-old is already over 4 feet tall.) And I’m really not operating on enough cylinders to think far enough ahead to do the Crock Pot thing.

Rather than blog each recipe individually (I’m tired, remember? And my back is already hurting just sitting typing this… How many weeks do I have left?), I’m just going to make a roundup of the last-minute dinner saviors I’ve been using lately. Some are from my blog, and some are from others; all photos are property of their original publishers.

Peas and Pasta, from Weelicious

Meatless | Clean eating | Soy-free | Gluten-free option | Nut-free

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This has been a last-minute staple in our family for years. It is SO easy, SO fast, and uses ingredients I always have on hand, so when it’s 4:40 and I haven’t even thought of dinner, this is it. I use whole-wheat pasta to keep it clean and up the protein and fiber to make it more filling; you can use gluten-free pasta if needed. Also, because this is a very mild dish, easy on the seasonings and spices, it’s usually one of the first recipes I attempt when I’m coming out of morningsickness, and it’s a good one when a bout of nausea blindsides me again.

Creamy Garlic Alfredo, from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:

Meatless | Mostly Clean eating | Soy-free | Gluten-free option | Nut-free

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Again, super easy, super fast, and uses things I already have in my fridge. The only forethought required is softening the cream cheese a bit, though in a pinch I’ve just thrown it in cold. Again, I use whole-wheat pasta, but gluten-free would work.

Southwest Chicken Wraps:

Nut-free| Gluten-free option | Soy-free option | Clean-eating option

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For a break from pasta, here’s what we had tonight. These are great because I can cobble together leftover bits from other nights when I’m feeling well enough to make more of an effort for dinner (read: weekends, when my husband’s able to be home to wrangle girls) to make a hearty meal with very little effort. I always cook up extra rice and extra chicken to keep in the fridge, and the rest comes together quick. The best part is that I can stretch the filling recipe over two meals, and freeze half, so that on nights like tonight, all I had to do was pull it out in the afternoon to thaw on the counter, then grab the cheese, sour cream, and tortillas, and in less than 15 minutes dinner’s on.

Vegan Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta:

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Clean eating | Vegan | Gluten-free option

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(I really need to update that photo now that I have a Vitamix that actually makes the cashew sauce legitimately creamy.)

Anyway, here’s another really easy pasta option. As long as you’ve got the ingredients on hand, it comes together quick. The sauce literally cooks for maybe 5 minutes. So your dinner is done in the time that it takes to boil some water and cook some pasta. And my girls consistently down this one. I used to dial down the garlic and basil, but I don’t need to anymore.

Skinny Chicken Broccoli Alfredo:

Clean eating | Soy-free | Nut-free | Gluten-free option | Meatless option

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This one is really versatile. Lately I rarely add the step of turning the sauce green; I just leave it white. Sometimes I make it without chicken if I don’t have any cooked chicken on hand. Again, I make a habit of keeping all of the essential ingredients in my kitchen, so that I can make some variation of this protein-filled dish any time. The roux sounds intimidating, but even though there are a few steps to it, the sauce comes together really fast–again, just in the time it takes me to boil a pot of water and cook my pasta.

Creamy Chicken Taquitos:

Soy-free option | Clean eating option | Gluten-free option | Nut-free

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Another non-pasta option! This week I dusted this one off from a long time ago–when I was still firmly in my semi-homemade days. I think this is from when I was pregnant with my second kid. It’s been awhile. I bought a rotisserie chicken from the Costco that just opened a couple miles away (yay!!!!!), chopped it up, and whipped these up. They’re easy to freeze for later, so now I have another dinner waiting for me to just throw in the oven!

If dinner time has become a chore or a panic-inducing time at your house, I hope that some of these ideas help you a little. Even as tired, gross, unmotivated, or sore as I might feel, I’m so grateful that I have so many options in my back pocket to pull out to keep my family–and myself and my growing baby–fed and healthy. Now, I’m not going to lie: the other night we had oatmeal. And we do hit the Chick-fil-A drive-through or order pizza or Thai takeout not infrequently. But I’ve noticed, more acutely this pregnancy than ever, that even though it takes effort I just feel better after a home-cooked meal. Even if it is just pasta with some kind of sauce on it.

I do have a few new recipes to post, hopefully soon. In the meantime, I’m going to spend some more quality gestating time on my couch.

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Picky Eater Survival Guide.

Don’t forget–you have until Wednesday to enter to win a free custom headband from Guavaloo!

When I was a new mom, I swore I would never be a short-order cook who made something different for every family member. I’d make one delicious, nutritious meal after another, & my whole family would love it. I was blessed with a toddler who at least tried anything, & I thought I was well on my way to being the next Catherine McCord.

Then that toddler turned into a 4-year-old. Apparently 4-year-olds think all food* is poison. And I got another toddler who learned at a shockingly tender age what a hunger strike is.

*Except pizza, pancakes, PB&J, hot dogs, & spaghetti.

Boy did my standards change! When my little one was losing weight (I wish I knew her secret! Oh wait, it was not eating.), I had mountains of kid-sized bowls of barely touched food in my sink–anything to get her to eat something. One night I may or may not have fed her peanut butter by the spoonful. Not my proudest moment.

peanut butterMealtime is still a battle sometimes, but now that we’re out of the woods I feel like I can share some of the tricks I used to survive (& help my kids survive!) without resorting to Goldfish & frozen chicken nuggets.

Stay out of the Snack Spiral. I can’t tell you the number of parents I’ve heard say, “Oh, Junior lived off of Goldfish crackers & juice at that age.” Why do you think he wouldn’t eat anything else? Because he was filling up at snacktime on just that! If you’re worried about your child’s eating, start by cutting back on snacks & not letting your kids graze. Trust me, kids are a lot more adventurous when they’re allowed to get hungry before a meal! They won’t starve if they’re limited to 3 meals & 2 small, scheduled, seated snacks a day.
I take this one step further & make a rule of not offering “snack foods” (crackers, fruit leather, etc.) at dinner time, & don’t use it as a crutch if they haven’t eaten enough “real food” at a meal.

Meet your kids in the middle. I still steadfastly refuse to be a short-order cook, so the whole family eats our fair share of “kid foods” (healthed up a little). For instance, on our menu every week is at least one of the following: homemade pizza (lots lower in calories than delivery, especially with part-skim mozzarella), spaghetti & meatballs, & “brinner” (you’ve seen a few of my healthy pancake recipes on the blog already). I enjoy these meals too, & if nothing else, I know that I at least have a couple dinners a week when I’m not fighting them.
If you can’t stand the few things they will eat (like if they’ll only eat fish sticks), then designate that for a date night or a night when you & your spouse order something in for yourselves. My 4-year-old loves when the babysitter comes because she knows that’s when she gets Annie’s mac & cheese. One word of warning about this second tactic though: don’t do it every week. The more the family eats the same meal, the more unified you’ll be & the easier it’ll be to convince your kids to eat what’s in front of them, because that’s what the whole family’s eating. As tempting as it is to feed the kids nuggets every other night & then treat yourselves to sushi after they’re in bed, that could backfire on you when they dig in their heels & whine, “But YOU don’t eat ___ when YOU don’t want to!”

Make like a fancy restaurant–try courses. Have something on the menu that they WILL eat at every meal so you know they’re not starving. But don’t bring it out right away. My girls are fruit-itarians–they would subsist entirely on grapes & strawberries if I let them. So I leave the fruit in the fridge. When they’ve eaten enough protein & veggies to balance it–my 4-year-old always asks “How many numbers?” (meaning how many bites) as soon as she gets her plate–THEN I bring out the fruit “course” & let them go to town, fully prepared for them to not touch what else is on their plate for the rest of the night.

Don’t be boring. Change up how you’re serving things. When my toddler went on her hunger strike shortly after turning 1 & wound up losing over a pound, I was in a panic. The day she stopped eating her favorite food in the world, strawberries, I was in tears. What was wrong??? The next night I saw her reaching for my strawberries instead of hers. Do you know what the problem was? She had decided I was cutting them too small! Instead of the teeny-bite-sized pieces I’d been giving her, she wanted a whole quarter of a strawberry. It was as simple as that, & she was back to eating strawberries. Do you know how the hunger strike ended once & for all? I handed her a fork. Seriously. She didn’t even use it at the beginning, but knowing she COULD have the control somehow fixed her not eating.raisins
So in short, if they stop eating something they’d eaten before, try changing what you call it or how you serve it. For example, your child might decide he wants his “night-vision carrot sticks” (because of the beta carotene) with dip, or her “dinosaur trees” (that’s what we call broccoli) raw instead of cooked, or she prefers short pasta to spaghetti, or… she’ll only eat raisins out of the box.

Let them help. Recruit your “kitchen helpers” to be your sous chefs: let them choose the fruits & veggies at the store & then wash them or add them to the pot. The more involved they are, the more excited they’ll be about trying something new.

Be sneaky. When all else fails, sneak the good stuff into their food. Veggie puree in the spaghetti sauce, whole-wheat flour in the baked goods, Greek yogurt in the pancakes–all of these go a long way to helping maintain the balance in your little one’s diet until he decides to get more adventurous.

Best of luck with your picky eaters! Do you have any other tricks & tips for surviving?

Linked up at Nifty Thrifty Sunday and Crystal & Co.

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The Munchkin’s Best Birthday Yet.

I have a confession to make: I didn’t make a single thing for this birthday party.

And it was AWESOME.

And I don’t regret it one bit.

Way back in February The Munchkin told me she wanted a mermaid party. “Not a ‘Little Mermaid’ party, a mermaid party.” I love this girl! She makes up her mind & sticks to it. With all this prep time, I had grand designs for customized printable invitations, themed food, etc., but the reality of a newborn, & family in town for said newborn’s baby blessing (isn’t she cute?), set in really quickly. Still, it took awhile to get past the mom guilt brought on by picture-perfect Pinterest parties. Do I love my child less because I bought my (still cute) decorations from Oriental Trading Company, hand-wrote fill-in-the-blank invitations, & ordered a — gasp! — supermarket cake?

Absolutely not! I realized that in past years I had poured so much of myself into these events that, not only was I so stressed out I was stressing everyone else out, but I was seeking validation from other people instead of my Munchkin. This year my only pre-party panic moment was about whether we should pay a hefty deposit to move the outdoor party inside because of Tropical Storm Debby. Thanks to a lot of prayer (& even, in a weak moment, an email to the FOX 13 morning meteorologist), we kept the party at the splash park just like she wanted, & we all got to actually enjoy it.

So I’m writing this to let my fellow “just moms” out there that you don’t need to order custom everything from Etsy or specialty bake shops or whatever. You don’t need to impress the grownups there. Sometimes a splash park, a Publix cake, & some party hats with stickers on them are all you need to make a birthday girl’s day.

That’s what’s important!

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Taking a sick day.

Today I’m taking care of a sick Munchkin.

But I’ll be back Wednesday having (hopefully) conquered my irrational fear of pie!

(Making, not eating.)

(DEFINITELY not eating.)

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Preparing your child for a move. (Part 2 of 2: Settling in.)

We’ve been here a week now & only have a few (granted, giant) boxes left to unpack! Hooray! It feels a lot better than where we were 3 weeks ago. Or even a week & a half ago:

Yikes!

Now that we really are settling in, I thought now would be a good time to post part 2 of my “preparing your child for a move” series. Part 1, before the move, is right here.

The Munchkin playing in the boxes before the move... Recognize the beer boxes I talked about in the last post?

Here some ideas about how to help your kids adjust to your new home & neighborhood:

  • When you & your stuff first get to your new place, let your child help unpack & decide where something should go in her room. This can give her a sense of control when things are crazy.
  • Set your kids’ rooms up (the furniture, at least) right away. Especially if you’ve been driving a few days, it’ll feel good to be reunited with your stuff. Plus, sleeping in a new, big, empty room is creepy.
  • Try to get pictures back up on the walls again as soon as possible to make it start feeling like home.
  • As you unpack, talk about what’s better about your new place: “There are so many shelves in your new room for all of your toys!” etc. (The Munchkin’s new room is so cavernous we need two nightlights just to see at night! Whereas ours is barely big enough for our bed & dressers. How is that fair?)
  • Even though things are hectic, try to get involved in your new community as quickly as possible to make new friends. Congregations in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as wards, are organized geographically. So as soon as we knew our new address, we were able to find out which ward we would belong to! If you’re not LDS, find a church or temple to attend. Involve your children in lessons, Gymboree, or after-school groups to meet the other parents & help your kids make friends.
  • Speaking of making friends, teach your child how to introduce herself to new people.
  • Just like before you moved, try to take a little while off from unpacking to give your children attention. Take an hour or two to drive around your new town. Find a new neighborhood pizza place to call “yours” (we just found ours!). Locate the library & get a library card. Go play on the playground nearby!
  • Once you get more settled in, if you feel up to it, hold a housewarming party & invite people from your new community!
  • Even with all the craziness, try to stick to naptime & bedtime routines as much as you can. With everything else changing, it’s helpful to have a familiar routine to hold onto.
  • Understand that certain milestones like potty training & sleeping through the night may regress or suffer setbacks for a little while during this transition. Your kids might start acting out a little more than usual (ours sure did) too. It’s normal.
  • Lastly & most importantly, emphasize that no matter where you live, your family will be together, & that’s what matters!

works for me wednesday at we are that family

 

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Top 10 things I’m going to miss about NYC.

I’m late posting today. I also happen to be in Maryland at the moment, on what is quite possibly the slowest Internet connection ever. The movers asked to come a day early (yesterday), & decided at 1pm today that they’d be delivering our stuff in Florida on Saturday, so we left at 4:40pm, just as rush hour traffic was starting to pick up. Fortunately, we made good time, & The Munchkin only got to bed… 2 hours late. Yikes.

Everything happened so fast I honestly haven’t had much time yet to wax sentimental about my favorite city in the world. But I thought I’d post a few of the many things I’ll miss about New York, in no particular order, & that you shouldn’t miss if you come visit.

1.) This view:

2.) The food. Great Italian everywhere, great bakeries everywhere. We’ve been told that “the water’s not right” in Florida for either of those things. Hearing that made me die a little inside. Here are just a few of our favorites: burgers, chocolate, pasta, & pancakes.

3.) Magnolia. Belongs in a class of its own.

4.) Snow! Not limited to NYC, obviously, but I love it in spite of the fact that it often makes walking in the city pretty gross. It’s still fun, & so magical to watch it start falling amid all the lights of the city.

5.) Holidays. Especially Christmas at Macy’s.  From fireworks on the 4th of July to the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving, to Easter Egg hunts in the park, the city just knows how to celebrate everything with style & gusto.

6.) There is always free stuff to do! We used the events calendars at Mommy Poppins & Parents Connect (I’m going to be using that second one after our move too; they have dozens of cities on there) to find fun new things to do for free just about every single week! We also love ALL the playgrounds EVERYWHERE! No matter where we went or what we did, there was almost always a great park nearby! (No picture, thanks to Slowest Internet Ever…)

7.) Public transit. Yes, taking the car is often more convenient, especially with more than 1 Munchkin, but it just isn’t as FUN! Trains, subways, ferries (we avoid the buses because we hate traffic) — what’s not to love if you’re a kid? (Also no picture, thanks to Slowest Internet Ever.)

8.) Broadway. We got to go on dates to Mamma Mia! & How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Daniel Radcliffe & John Larroquette. We also saw Phantom & Wicked when we were here on our honeymoon 5 years ago. I’ve been in (well, under — I was in the pit orchestra) lots of musicals, & there is nothing like Broadway!

9.) The “dinosaur bones museum.” This is one of The Munchkin’s favorite places in the world. We got to visit one last time with one of her playgroup friends while the movers were here yesterday. (Slowest Internet Ever won’t let me upload the photo though, so here’s an old one.) We hope she likes the aquarium in Tampa almost as much!

10.) Obviously we’re going to miss the people the absolute most. We’ve made a lot of friends here. This is the first time The Munchkin has been old enough to make any real friendships; she says all her friends’ names almost every day, & she looks forward to church every week so she can see them all at Nursery. We also love how personal the city (& its surrounding environs) can be. Even though it seems big, loud, & scary at first glance, once you really get in there, it’s just such a personable place! We loved walking into the diner or bodega (small market) near our apartment & having the waitresses & checkstand girls greet The Munchkin by name. We loved being greeted by the security guard at the front desk every time we enter or leave the building, & The Munchkin loved getting a cookie at the Italian bakery when we went to get our weekly pizza dough. What a friendly place!

New York really is my favorite city. I love Hoboken too. If you are planning a visit, email me! (See my “About” page for the address.) I’ll send you my guide to “doing” NYC on the cheap with kids & then live vicariously through you as you enjoy the city!

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Preparing your child for a move. (Part 1 of 2: Before you leave.)

We’re moving. In a week & a half. Yikes!

Since that’s what’s on my mind right now, & since lots of people move during the summer, I thought I’d offer a few tips for helping your kids adjust to moving to a new place. Today I’m posting on how to prepare for the move itself; later I’ll post on how to settle in.

  • Show your kids photos of your new home & new town. Help them find reasons to be excited about the new place. The Munchkin is especially excited to be near the beach.
  • If you are packing yourself, START EARLY. Last year, with a husband taking law school finals, I started packing two months in advance while The Munchkin napped. There’s only so much you can pack that far ahead of time (you’re using everything else too frequently), but it really helps as you get down to the wire. It also helps your 10-month-old skip crawling in favor of cruising, because there are handholds everywhere!
  • Also if you are packing yourself, don’t pay for boxes! I had hoarded diapers.com boxes for months. Any time you get a package, collapse the box right away & stash it in a closet. Another great resource for free packing boxes is liquor stores; just go in & ask for some of their beer boxes. They’re the perfect size & durability for books & other heavy things. The people helping you move in might look at you a little funny though…
  • If your firm is paying for movers, PRAISE HEAVEN. The end.
  • Try to keep pictures up on the walls as long as possible. Even if there are boxes everywhere, having these familiar touches will help keep home feeling like home right up until you move.
  • Moving is a time-consuming process. Even if you’re not having to pack everything yourself, there are still things like getting a place to live, arranging for utilities on both ends, forwarding mail, etc. Kids can feel neglected; take a few minutes every day to just listen to them & give them your undivided attention. Even better, let them choose something special to do to take some time away from moving. This brings me to…
  • Have a “bucket list” of one thing each family member wants to do in your old town before you leave. This will help everyone feel valued (see above) & let all of you “say goodbye.” The Munchkin really wanted to go on the “mewwy-woun.” We’re also planning final visits to Magnolia & Shake Shack.
  • If you have time, throw a goodbye party with friends! Or let a friend throw one for you! That way everyone can say goodbye at once.
  • Speaking of friends, explain to your kids that they won’t get to see their friends all the time anymore. Let them know it’s okay to be sad & miss them, but encourage them by saying that they’ll be able to make new friends in your new town.
  • Explain the moving process to young kids: “A man will pack up your toys & clothes & put them in a big truck (bonus points for showing them the truck if they love trucks) & drive it to our new house! We’re going to drive separately in the car, & our things will meet us there!” {We just had a Family Home Evening about moving, where we talked about Nephi’s family in the Book of Mormon & how they moved to a new place too, & they packed up all of their things as well (see 1 Nephi 18:5-6). After we explained the process, we did the activity below.}
  • Parents magazine just had an article about helping kids adjust to moving, & one thing I thought was a great idea was to let your child decorate her own “treasure box” with stickers to put her favorite things inside. Then take it with you in the car so she isn’t separated from it. Here’s The Munchkin’s treasure box; the first thing she did was put in the 3-inch plastic Woody & Jessie dolls that go with her everywhere lately.
  • MAKE SURE THE LOVEY DOESN’T GET PACKED. IT GOES IN THE CAR. THE END.
  • Lastly, take a minute to say goodbye to your old house. (This was another Parents idea.) During your last meal there, likely on paper plates in your empty house, let each family member say his or her favorite memory of living there. Get your kids excited about making new memories!

Any other tips for moving with kids?

works for me wednesday at we are that family

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