Second Attempt – Sticking to a Meal Plan

My last couple of posts have been a bit of a public confession: I have a horrible time Sticking to a Meal Plan. Fast Food is my nemesis. I hate to cook. But I’m trying it again this week – I want to prove to myself that I can stick to a meal plan. We’re almost at the end of the week. Only one more meal to make, and like the Little Engine that Could, I’m chugging along telling myself “I think I can, I think I can.” But only time will tell. Here’s how it’s gone so far:

SundayHope’s End Stew was a success! Though it’s hard to mess that one up, unless I just don’t make it. I used cubed stew meat, baby carrots, and russet potatoes, and a new (as in new to us) wine that we found called Hope’s End. I’m not a connoisseur by any means, but I would use the wine again for stew, and not so much for accompaniment. It’s a smooth wine that goes down easy, but doesn’t have much bite to it, if that makes sense. But the stew was yummy and smelled great cooking!

Monday – I made my own version of Pan Seared Pork Chops, Checker’s Frozen Seasoned Fries, canned green beans, mushrooms sliced and fried in the pork chop pan with minced onion. After I’m done cooking all but two of the pork chops and the mushrooms, I then cooked two pork chops for my husband along with the sauerkraut. He is the ONLY one who likes sauerkraut, though my 13 year old son was willing to try the sauerkraut again, but said that Dad could have it all.

Tuesday – My daughter came home from school on Monday with a fever and sore throat, and by Tuesday morning, was in full-blown flu mode. She didn’t have much appetite. I only had enough Leftover Stew for 2 people, and I didn’t feel like going to the effort to boil more potatoes to stretch the stew into enough Hash for 4 people. So, my husband brought home fast food for my son and I, and I reheated the stew for my husband and daughter. I guess you could say I was only HALF successful that night.

Wednesday – I had Bible Study, and my husband had to pick up poster board for my son (that he forgot about until the last minute) on the way home from work, so I didn’t cross paths with my husband before I left for my meeting. Dinner was my emergency cans of Progresso Creamy Chicken Soup and Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. He was happy to reheat the leftovers and do the few dishes.

Thursday – Instead of Chicken and Soy Veggies, I opted for Chicken Fritz over mashed potatoes with canned green beans and cottage cheese. At this point, BOTH kids were sick with the flu, and they both asked for Chicken Fritz. In hindsight, Chicken and Soy Veggies would have been much more nutritious, but we did just have the Soy Veggies last week. Chicken Fritz should be made with leftover chicken, but I started from scratch with an uncooked chicken breast. A cooking hint: if you use leftover chicken for Chicken Fritz, make sure not to cook the chicken too long to avoid drying it out and ending up with Chicken Fritz Jerky.

So, Friday is the only day left, and Spaghetti and Ravioli is what I’ve got planned. I can do that, right? I’ll let you know tomorrow.

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Another Attempt at Sticking to A Meal Plan

If you’ve been following along this last week, I’ve been trying to stick to a meal plan for a whole week. As I mentioned in the first post, I can make a meal plan, I just have trouble sticking to it as The Results post showed. Fast Food is my nemesis. My relationship with food is a healthy one, relatively, but my relationship to cooking is like dating the wrong guy over and over again: someone is bound to get hurt and it’s not going to be pretty.

After a disappointing trial last week, I thought I’d give it another go. So, without further ado, here’s the plan:

Sunday: Red Wine Beef Stew or as I’ve renamed it Hope’s End Beef Stew after the wine that we used. The original recipe is from The Food Network, though I don’t use green beans as the recipe calls for since my family is not a fan, and I cut the recipe in half as it is a portion for about 10 servings. I only have 4 mouths to feed. With the time change, dinner was on the table a little late, but we made it. Day one? A success! And there are leftovers for later in the week.

Monday: Pan-Seared Pork Chops, Rally’s frozen seasoned French fries, green beans, sautéed mushrooms (for my daughter and I) and sauerkraut (for my husband).

Tuesday: Hash from the leftover stew. I’ve never made this exact recipe before, but it’s similar to the one I usually make, and didn’t include green peppers. I’ve also never added milk to the drippings before, so I may try it. It sounds sort of yummy.

Wednesday: Teriyaki Chicken and Soy Veggies. Now I know I just made this last week, but I still have two chicken breasts in the freezer that didn’t get used last week. Besides, everyone likes it and it’s the healthiest way I know to stretch a couple of chicken breasts to feed a family of four. Here’s a helpful hint (trust me, when it comes to cooking, I don’t have many): when you slice up your chicken breast to prepare to cook them, slice the breast laterally first (making two more thin breasts), then slice it up in long thing pieces for pan frying. I’ll do anything to save a buck.

Thursday: Spaghetti and Cheese Ravioli. Nothing fancy here, and no recipe. Just good old boiled spaghetti, packaged ravioli, and sauce from a jar. I’ll probably pick up a baguette on my way home from work to accompany the meal and make some side salads.

Friday: On Fridays, everyone generally heads off in different directions, so dinner is quick, and I usually fall into the fast food trap. But I’m prepared this week. I picked up a few cans of Progresso Creamy Chicken soup that was on special and I’ll make some drop biscuits on the side.

So, with a little luck, and hopefully a lot less chaos than last week, I’ll make it through this time.

Let me know if you try any of the recipes.

Sticking to a Meal Plan

Given the choice, I’d rather not cook at all. It doesn’t bring me joy (unless it’s brownies and I get to lick the bowl) in the way that I hear a lot of women describe. Feeding my family, for me, is just part of my job, like dusting or vacuuming or the laundry. It isn’t that I’m a horrible cook, I’m just not “into it.” I just don’t like to do it.

I can easily plan a week of meals thanks to Food Blogs and Recipe links. But sticking to the plan…ahhh, there’s the rub.

Fast food is my weakness. I know it isn’t good for us, any of us. And I hang my head in shame admitting how often I beg my husband to “just pick something up on the way home.” There are so many other things I’d rather be doing than preparing a meal for a family of four that will spend two minutes at the table after I’ve just spent at least 30 minutes in prep and cook time.

But our budget, and our health, is telling me that I MUST do it. So, I’m going to try, once again, to make it through the week without dipping into the “fast food cesspool of convenience.”

I thought that maybe if I announce the plan publicly, and then blog the results, that I’ll “peer pressure” myself into keeping to my plan. Maybe a little public accountability (or humiliation, whichever the case may be) is what I need.

So, without further ado, here’s the plan:

Sunday:               Minestrone Soup and bread

Monday:              Soy Veggies, steamed rice and teriyaki chicken (Chicken marinated in Kikoman’s Teryaki glaze)

Tuesday:              Spanish Chickpeas and Rice service with guacamole garnish and tortilla chips

Wednesday:        Rigatoni with Italian Chicken– this is a new recipe to me. We’ll see how the fam likes it.

Thursday:            Chicken Fritz over mashed potatoes with green beans

Friday:                 Pancakes (because you have to live a little)

That’s the plan. I may switch things around a bit, depending how the week goes with snow days, work, and the unexpected. But I’m going to try my best. I have to…because my family is depending on me.

Wish me luck! I’m going to need it.

How about you? Do you have trouble sticking to a meal plan?

The Problem with Being A “Fixer”

 

I never thought of myself as being “controlling.” I don’t “bully” people to get my way, I’m not abusive, I don’t have combative relationships. If anything, I run from conflict.

But I am a “Fixer.”

What is a “Fixer?” Well, if someone comes to me with an issue or a problem that’s plaguing them, my first instinct I to “fix them” or “fix it” for them.

The car is broken? I find a way to “fix it.” The doctor over-billed me again? I “fix it.” Kids need help with a personal situation, I’m the mom to ask. Husband wants a better paying job? Let me help you find one. Friend is buried in emotional turmoil? Let me help you find the right professional to call. I mean, if they’re asking for help and can’t see the forest for the trees, then they need someone to help them, and I’m that person, right? Not necessarily.

What’s the problem with being a “Fixer”? I mean, it’s just wanting to help, right? Well, there are a lot of problems with being a Fixer.

First and foremost, it’s emotionally exhausting! Taking on other people’s problems as your own only adds to your own laundry list of problems.

Secondly, not everyone WANTS their problem fixed. Not everyone wants to even recognize their problem (including the fixer). Sometimes, someone just needs you to listen.

Another problem with being a Fixer is assuming that you have the answer or are qualified to give one. I certainly don’t pretend to know everything, and I do research all the time to find solutions for my own problems. Why shouldn’t I do the same for you? Sometimes it just isn’t any of my business. Some problems are too big for someone else to fix. Some problems can’t be fixed at all.

I recently joined a study at church where we are working through the book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. What an eye-opener! I wasn’t even aware I had boundary issues. I mean, that’s something you have with a mom that won’t stay out of your business, or for people who don’t know how to say “no.” Trust me, I have no problem saying “no” to people. And I’ve learned to “handle” my mom in recent years. How was I to know that I was the person with the boundary issues?! LOL

I think, as a Mom, it’s an easy trap to fall into. We generally run the household: we decide on the weekly menu, we make sure homework is done, we make sure people get up in time for school in the morning, we watch the clock like a hawk some days because if we don’t, no one else will! The responsibility falls on our shoulders. If we don’t help our kids “succeed,” then we’ve set them up for failure, right? And who wants to be THAT mom?! Who wants to be the mom that didn’t have her act together to give her child every opportunity possible to be the best they can be?

Who wants to be the mom that doesn’t dry the tears, give the hugs, fix the hurts, celebrate the joys?

Who wants to be the mom that FAILS HER KIDS?! Not me! And probably not you either.

I can’t speak for your situation, but for me, being the “fixer” hasn’t made my kid a straight-A student. It hasn’t made them the happiest kid in their class. It hasn’t kept conflict out of the house or their lives.

True, there’s a point in their lives when they rely completely and totally on us for everything. But we have to learn to let go of the rope a little at a time…to set boundaries. Otherwise, we end up hating ourselves for every time they fail, asking what we did wrong when they do the exact opposite of what we taught them.

In actuality, they’re pushing back is a completely natural response. It’s what they are supposed to do when they get to their teen years. They don’t WANT us to fix ANYTHING for them at all. And if that’s the role you’ve set for yourself, “The Fixer,” then what are you supposed to do? What is your role? I ask myself these questions on a daily basis.

So, as my kids go through their teen years, and I reach my 50s, we’re both learning to redefine our roles, to set up NEW boundaries…not walls. Boundaries are made to go through with permission, not shut out completely. And I’m not going to lie to you…it’s a very hard thing to balance. It’s a tightrope that is constantly moving. But I’m learning. And I pray…A LOT.

So being the “Fixer” is not all it’s cracked up to be. You don’t have to “fix” them to still be their hero. You don’t have to “fix” things to still love them. “Fixing them” won’t “fix” anything. It’s an illusion, something we’ve built up in our minds as our role as “Mom.” But it’s not true.

Now as situations arise, I try to pause and ask myself if they need a “fixer” or a “Mom” because the two are not synonymous. I’m finding that they need a “Mom” more often than they need a “Fixer.”

How about you? Are you a “Fixer?” Do you have to stop yourself from “fixing” everything? Please tell me that I’ not alone. LOL

A Letter to My Kids – My Fear

In this life, you will face a lot of decisions. Some of them will be easy, others will be hard. Some will affect you immediately, others not so much. You won’t see the results, or the consequences, of some decisions for a long time. Those are the ones I worry about the most.

Your life’s journey will be, at times, like walking through a marketplace with vendors screaming for your attention. Tempting you with their offers that you can’t refuse. There will be snake oil salesmen and tricksters looking for unsuspecting victims. You need to watch out for those people the most.

There will be times in your life when you will feel like a square peg in a round hole, trying your hardest to fit somewhere. That’s when you will be most vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to seek wise counsel in those moments from people you trust. And I don’t mean people you meet on the internet.

When you are without confidence and haven’t figured out who you are, there will be people that will be looking for you, waiting for you to seek them out, and that’s when they’ll strike. Some call it grooming, and I don’t necessarily mean in a sexual way. They will be looking to form an emotional connection with you, one that you haven’t found from your peers. But that connection will be trivial at best. They will see you coming, they will sense your insecurities, your vulnerabilities, and they’ll use them to get what they want from you.

I know you don’t believe me and think I’m being over-protective and even over-reactive. But it can happen in an instant and take a lifetime to heal. These people will cross your boundaries and push you further than you are comfortable with and won’t care what harm they do.

I will always be there for you, even if I have to watch from afar. I may not agree with some of your decisions, but it doesn’t change my love for you.

The best thing you can do is arm yourself, first with God, but also with confidence. People who want to cross boundaries hate confidence. It undermines everything they try to do. It means you don’t “need” them. Confidence will put a road block in front of every trick they have.

So, be the square peg in a round hole. You don’t have to fit in. You don’t have to conform. Some of the smartest people are known for not conforming. Embrace your “weirdness.” Because even when you think you are the only “weird” one out there, you’ll soon realize that we are ALL weird in some way. That’s what makes us human. That’s what makes us beautiful.

When you feel the worst, listen to Christina Aguilera’s song “You Are Beautiful” until you believe it to be true.

My Kids Think I’m an Idiot

Originally posted 11/17/2015

My kids think I’m an idiot…maybe I’ll keep it that way.

I don’t mean in an intellectual way, but in a social way. When I first realized my kids thought of me that way, my feelings were hurt, and admittedly, depending on the day, I still feel a little tinge of hurt when  my daughter says “You don’t understand how things are now days” or “things are different now than when you were my age.” Wow…have I really hit THAT age?

And she’s right…things were different 30 years ago. But not as different as SHE thinks they were. We just got into trouble in different ways “back then.” True, we didn’t have the internet that put the world at our fingertips like they do now. Our trouble wasn’t usually on a global scale.

But trouble always managed to find us, just like it will find her.

There are moments of “Mom cool-ness,” like when we’re shopping in Hot Topic and I know the band playing in the background (Bauhaus) and she catches me singing along, to which I’m met with a look of shock and, “YOU know THIS?” I just smile, and nod. Like I said…she thinks I’m an idiot, like I never had a life before I was a mom.

So if they think I’m an idiot when it comes to not knowing what they’re doing when I’m not around, maybe letting them think that way is not such a bad idea after all.

The bottom line is this: what she DOESN’T think I know, I don’t mind keeping from her. But what I DO know will save her a whole lot of grief some day. She just doesn’t always need to know that I know…ya know?

When You Don’t Fit in the Box

Have you ever felt different than everyone else? Guess what? Everyone has felt that way at some point in their lives.

I’ve talked before about the area where we’re living. It’s super competitive. Which is good when you’re talking about having good schools. Our schools don’t just want our kids to strive for excellence. Sometimes it feels like they demand it…even if you don’t fit into the Excellence Box as defined by their terms.

Our school districts encourage…nah, that’s not the right word…they PUSH for excellence in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. And there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s quite admirable.

Except for one thing: NOT EVERYONE FITS IN THE “STEM” BOX.

I have at least one child that fits that description.

She would rather get a root canal than sit through a math class. Okay, that might be an exaggeration. But she hates math with a passion. She’s a “creative” down to the depths of her soul. She can tolerate science because it’s kind of fun and creative in its own way. And technology, so long as she’s using her computer to create some elaborate artwork, then, yeah…she’s in. But engineering and mathematics…forget it.

Almost every day I get an email from the school district about some new opportunity for a STEM camp or Advanced Placement Exam or Advantaged Student Experience (whatever that is). But rarely does something come across my email for “Regular Kids.” You know, the ones who fall through the cracks because they don’t fit in with the AP kids and don’t fit in with the Athletes. They don’t fit in “the Box.”

We used to send our kids to school to prepare them for life…ALL parts of life. To teach them to be well-rounded, to expose them to culture and history (and some reading and writing), and to teach them how to work together in a controlled environment. Oh, and to have some fun along the way. Now it seems, we’re sending them to school to prepare them for “a Job.” But that’s what College is for. There’s plenty of time for that.

I can’t tell you how many high school kids are depressed or experiencing crazy amounts of anxiety. Oh, and I get emails about classes to help your teen manage those emotions too.

Look, I’m not saying that striving to be the best you can be is a bad thing. I’m just saying that maybe we’ve become a little too one-sided. Maybe we need to lighten up a little bit. Maybe we need to not panic so much when our kindergartner gets held back a year because they aren’t ready to move forward just yet. That’s okay. Everyone is different.

I’m also not knocking the kids that are excelling in STEM. More power too you! Good job! I sometimes wish I had those skills, or even that interest. But I’ll tell you that the adults that have their Master’s Degree and the ones that barely made it out of high school both buy their groceries from the same store. Their basic needs are the same.

I’m just saying that there are a lot of different paths to get to the same goal…being a healthy, fulfilled, responsible, contributing member of society.

Maybe we should consider that ONE BOX does not fit ALL.

Because at the end of the day, all we want is for our kids to be happy and our educators not to be exhausted.

And if your kid is one of those that doesn’t fit into the Box, relax. They just haven’t found the right Box yet.

I’m raising Average Kids and I couldn’t be more proud.