Tag Archives: coffee

For the love of coffee

I had my first cup of coffee when I was probably 13. It was loaded with cream, and had more sugar than should be consumed in a 24 hour period. But it gave me a powerful surge of energy.

And it was how I realized that I loved coffee.

I experimented with my coffee palate some over my teen years. That plain coffee turned to mochas – my grown-up version of a hot chocolate. And sometimes, just to be even more “mature”, I’d add a couple more shots of espresso and be bouncing off the walls by late morning. And then I discovered vanilla lattes, the already sweetened coffee drink that held the perfect amount of milk to foam ratio. And this became my signature drink in high school whenever I hit up the local coffee shop.

While I definitely loved those fancy coffee shop drinks, they didn’t hold a candle to the coffee I drank first thing in the morning when everyone except my dad was asleep. It wasn’t flavored with vanilla or chocolate. It wasn’t served in a paper cup with an accompanying croissant. It wasn’t fancy at all. But it was the moment that made it special. Together, Dad and I would pour a cup and sit over the newspaper, taking turns reading it. (It’s interesting, when I got older I envisioned my perfect man as someone I could share the newspaper and a cup of coffee with. And I believe it was these early morning rituals that cemented that desire in me – just another piece of proof about how much impact parents have on their kids.) This was at a time when my dad and I didn’t have much to talk about. I was a surly, headstrong teen who hated school and loved her tatted boyfriend. He was a nose-to-the-grindstone worker who was never private about his expectations for all his daughters, and when we were falling short. He hated my lifestyle and wished better things for me. I just wanted to do my own thing and have my dad accept that. We couldn’t see eye to eye. And many times we’d go days without speaking because neither of us were willing to give in. But whenever our bond was severed by some trivial matter (usually a defiance on my part), it was over one of these morning coffees that it would be resolved. It may have been because I wasn’t fully awake enough to come up with a sound rebuttal. Or perhaps it was because there was no one else around to see me let my guard down. But I think it was really because this had become our moment of the day when we actually connected and were able to be honest with each other. Somehow, things that we’d avoided saying were blurted all over the table, scooped into neat piles, and then categorized until we were able to put them away with ways to solve them. Most of the time, my tough exterior was riddled with tears – tiny droplets that started out angry, but eventually weakened to apologies and need for a bit of love. And my dad never failed to react appropriately with a bear hug and an “I love you”, and sometimes even an apology of his own.

It’s not uncommon to see teens today walking out of coffee shops with a cup of joe. It’s become the social drink of the ages as we find more and more coffee shops popping up everywhere. It’s argued that caffeine isn’t healthy for the younger generation, and I agree. Too much caffeine from coffee (and yes, sodas too) can get in the way of sleep and take away from water consumption. And the desired effect of coffee can lead to even more caffeine consumption through energy drinks or boosters with not only caffeine, but stimulants like guarana and taurine that can affect different people in different ways, can decrease attention spans, and lead to high blood pressure.  And large amounts of caffeine can be dangerous to kids with ADHD, diabetes, sleep issues and eating disorders.

But remembering my own childhood and what that cup of coffee meant to me in terms of connecting with my dad, I don’t stop my own daughter from reaching for the coffee pot every so often as we’re both waking up. My coffee nowadays is rid of all sugar, thanks to a metabolism that holds on to every calorie I consume, while my daughter’s is reminiscent of my past sugary teenage brew.

And I don’t stop her from drinking it.

For in that simple cup of warmth is a magical bonding ingredient, allowing for a connection to be bridged even as every other aspect of our relationship strains in her beginning years of teenage independence.  And even if she doesn’t say it, I know it means just as much to her now as it did to me way back when…and as much as it means to me now as I sit on the parent side of the breakfast table with a cup of coffee and a partially read newspaper.

5 steps to smooth mornings

Mornings are rough – especially in a household where everyone is going in separate directions.  That’s why it’s vital to create a routine for the morning.  Here are some tips on how to make the most of the mornings and still get out of the house on time.

#1. Start planning on the weekend.
Create a Sunday routine of prepping for the week to come.  Plan out a lunch menu for the week, chop up veggies for lunches and dinners, and pre-bag any snacks your kids or you will be brown-bagging to make for an easy grab-and-go.  Pick out your outfits for the week and make sure that everything is neatly pressed. 

#2. Include the night before in your morning prep.
Bag up any parts of the lunches that can be made the night before without getting soggy or gross.  Make sure all papers and folders are signed.  Have your child pick out their clothes and lay them out. 

#3. Wake up earlier.
Always feel like you’re rushing in the morning?  Consider waking up 30 minutes earlier.  Those extra 30 minutes create time to brew your coffee, put the dishes away, start making breakfast, and have a few moments of peace and quiet as you mentally prepare for the day.

#4. Same ol’ routine…
When every morning is the same, things are less likely to be forgotten. Here’s my personal routine:

6am – wake up, make coffee, feed cat, and start cooking breakfast (oatmeal for kids, eggs for me). Daughter is already up and taking shower.
6:30am – wake son up (he takes his shower the night before, as do I). Both kids dress and eat breakfast.  I go upstairs and finish getting ready (hair, make-up, clothes I picked out the night before).
6:45am – kids put their dishes away and make their lunches. 
7am – I’m done getting ready, put my lunch together (generally leftovers already boxed up and ready to pack).  Make sure kids have everything they need for the day – papers signed, gym clothes in bag, lunches packed, teeth brushed, shoes and socks on. 
7:20-7:30am – make sure lights and coffee pot are off and leave for school and work.

Your routine will look different, depending on how much your kids are able to do by themselves, and how much you have to do for them.  As it is, our routine actually has extra time factored in.  This gives the kids time to lag in the morning, as kids are prone to do.  I totally recommend giving yourself more time than you need, just in case milk spills, breakfast burns, someone has a bad hair day, or a kid oversleeps or prefers to lay on his floor for 30 minutes rather than getting ready. 

And don’t underestimate the power of bribery.  My son was a classic example of never being ready on time because he would lag way too much.  But being the video game junkie he is, I bribed him by allowing him to play video games in the morning only if he has everything ready for the day.  No joke, he now gets ready in 15 minutes flat so he can have 30 full minutes of mind-numbing play time.  If you have a kid who lags, consider rewarding promptness as part of their requirements for earning allowance, for extra TV time, or anything else that is going to encourage them to get off their butts and get ready.

However, even the most anal routine is still prone to hiccups and forgetfulness…. 

Last night I made egg salad for the kids’ lunches, and packed up a couple containers of leftovers for my own lunches.  I got ready in record time and even had time to run a fresh iron over my shirt for extra crispness.  My daughter’s freshly laundered gym clothes were in her bag, and both their lunches rocked.  I dropped each kid off at school early, and was early to work.  And it wasn’t till I was sitting down at my desk did I remember that my son’s homework folder, the one that I needed to go through every weekend and then sign before he returned it on Monday, still lay untouched in his backpack without my signature.

Oops.

And this leads me to step #5 (one that we still need to implement):

#5. Create a checklist of must-dos.
…and teach your child (and yourself) to check off each item as they’re done.  Best place to keep it?  By the door so you’re sure not to miss it.

What do you do to make mornings go smoother?