Tag Archives: schedule

Meal plan for a busy week

Where the magic happens. The normal view of my kitchen table on meal planning day.

Mr. W and I have taken to switching off weeks for cooking dinner. At first it seemed like it might be overwhelming, but it’s proved to be a brilliant plan. We might have to spend 7 days in a row cooking every single night, but the next 7 nights we get to be blissfully served dinner while the other cooks. By getting a full week off, we’re both eager to be more creative when it is our turn to cook. And we’ve both had fun experimenting with the meals to see what kids like and don’t like, and try out new recipes. Plus, it’s easier to plan on leftovers when you’re the one who’s cooking.

Another thing we’ve done for the past year is plan out our meals every week. Since our weekly cooking menus are Sunday to Saturday, we plan it on the Saturday before and then write out our shopping list from the items we need on the menu. I love that we never have to worry about what’s for dinner! And the kids refer to it constantly to know what we’ll be eating.

Unfortunately, sometimes our weeks land on a highly scheduled week. This is the case this week. It’s my turn to cook, and I have a very busy schedule ahead of me. But rather than ask Mr. W to take over my week of cooking (thus giving him two weeks in a row), this week I’m improvising the meal plan to fit our schedule.

Note: Many of these meals are not considered Paleo when eaten as a whole. I generally skip the parts that aren’t considered part of the plan, eat around them, or just implement the 80/20 rule and enjoy something not on the plan for once.

Meal Plan for June 3-9

Miso cod and miso salad with rice.

Sunday
(Adult softball from 5:30-6:30)
~ Miso Cod
~ Miso Salad
~ White rice
Miso hungry!  Sorry, forgot to warn you that there was a bad joke up ahead.  For this meal, the salad dressing will be made early and set aside. The cod will marinate while we’re gone and then broils for 10 minutes max. And the rice only takes 20 minutes or less in the slow cooker. We’ll be eating by 7pm. This meal was discovered last week in The Mom 100 Cookbook, and our family couldn’t eat it fast enough. I promise I’ll include a recipe post on this one soon so you can copy it.

Monday
(Taz’ baseball game till 7:30pm)
~ Shrimp Louie Salad
~ French Bread
I chose a light dinner for this night because the weather has been so warm. Warmer weather just calls for lighter fare, you know? I will make this meal the night before so that anyone who is at the house can just serve themselves, and the Taz and I will eat when we get home.

Tuesday
(Taz’ baseball game till 7:30pm, Mr. W’s church group till 8:30pm)
~ Baked Gnocchi/Roasted Eggplant/Mozzarella casserole
~ Cranberry/Pecan/Apple Salad
~ Leftover french bread
The recipe for the casserole came out of a cookbook called The Naptime Chef, my latest favorite recipe collection of easy gourmet meals for busy moms. I love this book! For this meal, I will prep it the night before, and then depend on my daughter to throw it the casserole in the oven at dinner time so that Mr. W and the older kids can eat before his meeting, and Taz and I can eat when we get home. Because I have french bread thieves in the house, I will hide the bread under a rock until it’s time to eat.

Wednesday
(Hair appt until 7pm)
~ Chicken Sausage & Tortellini Soup
~ Buttermilk biscuits
Hey, a girl has to get her hair did, right? Unfortunately this appointment was made before I knew just hoe hectic this week was. But no worries. I can make this meal easily on Tuesday night, and it will be ready for everyone just to heat up on their own when it’s dinnertime.

Thursday
(Meeting till 7pm)
~ Teriyaki chicken bowls
DQ’s cooking night! My daughter figured out that if she cooks, she doesn’t have to do any of the clean-up chores. As a result, she is now perusing my cookbooks every week and taking over one of the nights to cook us all a meal. It gives Mr. W and me a break in cooking, and she’s learning how to cook for a family of 5. This one is easy since it’s just stir fry simmered in teriyaki, and then set over rice from the rice cooker.

Friday
(Taz’ picture day for hip-hop)
~ Polenta/Marinara/Mozzarella
~ Grilled Prawns
~ Simple salad
This meal is really easy. I’ll be home by 6pm so very little prep is needed the day before. I get the polenta in a tube at Trader Joes and slice it into 1/2 inch pieces. I fry them in coconut oil on each side, then cover it with warmed marinara, sprinkling it with cheese. For the prawns, I will skewer them the night before, and then marinate them in olive oil, garlic, lemon, cayenne pepper, and a little kosher salt. These can be cooked on the grill, on the stove, or under the broiler. I’m using the broiler this time. For the salad, whatever veggies are left in the fridge from last Saturday’s shop will get thrown in.

Saturday
(DQ with friends, Taz with his dad)
~ Sushi night!
We usually choose one day a week where little to no cooking is necessary. Most weeks we have leftovers. Sometimes we have breakfast for dinner. Since there’s just the three of us, we’ll be indulging in a little raw fish decadence. Yum!

What’s on your plate this week?

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Letting go of the reins

The first few weeks of summer vacation are admittedly hard in our family. It’s not because the school year is finished. Quite the contrary, actually. I welcome three whole months (or at least 2 of those months before the kids kill each other in boredom) free from projects, homework, bagged lunches, the daily scramble to find kid clothes that are both clean and rip-free… But at the same time, the change from a school schedule to lack of a structured schedule always throws me for a loop. And when we still have things going on (baseball, dentist appointments, and more), it’s a bit of a learning curve as we get settled into the new way of doing things.

Making things a little more complicated is the fact that we moved out of town, and much of our life (and my job) still exists in Santa Rosa. This week alone I have 4 days of baseball games and practices where I have to juggle running back and forth between towns to get everyone where they need to be. Today is one of those baseball days, and is also a day when I have to be two places at once. When situations like this arise, I have no choice but to ask for help. On this day, my saviors would be my wonderful mom and dad who have graciously offered (read: accepted only after I begged and pleaded repeatedly) to take the Taz for two days and help me out in my predicament.

Let me explain a little something for those of you just tuning in to this blog. When it comes to my kids and their schedule, I am a little OCD.  I have their whole schedule in a calendar on my phone, and check it repeatedly to ensure that I’m not missing anything. I orchestrate every single day so that I know to the minute when I should leave Point A to get to Point B, lists of everything vital that must be taken care of, and which route I need to take if I have multiple stops. And I let this schedule roll around in my brain all day long in an exhausting way of guaranteeing nothing goes wrong. I own the schedule. The schedule is my…baby.

And letting anyone in on the schedule, i.e. helping me out, is very difficult for me.

I hate asking for help. In these past years as a single mom with 98% custody of the kids, I have definitely learned that help is necessary in parenting. But that doesn’t make letting go of the reins any easier. Even worse is when I have to ask for help and it involves a scheduling situation. It’s one thing to ask my parents to watch the kids while they hang out at the house. It’s an entirely different ballpark to ask them to watch the kids, get the Taz to baseball by 5pm, and make sure he has the snacks we bought for the team that must be passed out at the end of the game.

I kid you not, I almost had a panic attack as I dropped the Taz off.

The ridiculous part is that my parents have done this before. My sisters and I were so loaded up with activities that sometimes it seemed my mom’s head was spinning. We had 4-H, ice skating, cheerleading, track, social events, community service, and a need to be at all of them at the same time. At the time, we loudly wondered why my mom was complaining about taking us places when she didn’t even have a job. Later on, I bit my tongue over and over when I had my own stint as a stay-at-home mom and realized it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world.

At any rate, my parents are more than capable of getting the Taz to his game. And I reminded myself of this as I wished my dad luck, giving him a few more instructions about that evening’s game. He insisted they’d be fine, with a chuckle. And I left before I could find another tidbit of advice to give on how to raise a kid – only to turn right back around and race in the house. The Taz was right where I left him, watching TV as I chatted about all his needs and scheduling requirements…where I left him without even saying goodbye even though I wouldn’t see him for two whole days.

Hey, just because I’m all whacko over the schedule doesn’t make me most attentive mom of the year….

The kids leave for their dad’s house next week for 10 whole days and I have no idea what I’m going to do with myself. Think I’m crazy now? You haven’t seen anything yet.

P.S.  Hey all you dads!  Don’t miss out on showing off your genetic good looks.  Enter the Father-Son Look-alike contest and you could win a $300 photo shoot!

Non-hectic school days

Day planners are a great organizational tool for parents and kids alike.

It’s baaaaack. That’s right folks, you can kiss your leisurely mornings goodbye (um, as if, right?). Forget about enjoying that cup of coffee in the morning while the kiddos sleep quietly. And don’t even think about actually taking the care you need to get yourself ready for the day. Summer’s over, and school is back in. And mornings are about to get a little more hectic.

I speak from experience here. I am the queen of hectic mornings – totally skilled now at running out the door with half my hair curled, a toothbrush in my mouth, and a piece of toast I have only half ingested while dragging two kids and their partially made lunches to the car so that we can make it to each of their schools and to my work on time.

Hey, I don’t wear this cape for nothing.

And this year? It’s about to get a whole lot more hectic in my house. One of my kids is attending a school in the district near my house. The other is all the way across town. Guess which one starts first? Of course it’s the one that’s far away. So we will be leaving our house 20 minutes earlier than usual to drive one kid to school, and then back to my side of town to drop off the other. And then it’s back into town to go to work. And then you throw three evening soccer practices a week into the mix…

Obviously there has to be some organization here, or we are liable to never be anywhere on time, or eat dinner for the entire soccer season. And because I’ve done this before, I’ve found several things that work to make the school year a little less hectic.

1. Have a checklist handy for busy mornings. Find yourself reminding your kid to do the same old thing over and over? Go get dressed. Eat breakfast. Brush your teeth. Comb your hair. Get your stuff together and by the door. It gets old, doesn’t it? Write down what you expect them to do and then put them in charge of their own morning progress by letting them cross things off as they finish them. This way they know what they need to do, and you know it’s been done. Mom tip: Go out and buy yourself a dry erase board. It will be the best investment, I promise you.

2. Create an after school routine. Instill a habit in your kid to get their homework out of their bag and start working on it immediately after school. Before TV can be watched, friends can be played with, or any fun can be had, their homework must be done and all important papers must be signed. And then make sure they put the papers back in their backpack and placed by the door for the next morning. There is nothing that impedes the morning process more than going over notes the teacher has sent home 5 minutes before you have to leave for school. Trust me. I know.  Mom tip:  Day planners for kids are a great tool.  If your child’s teacher doesn’t already do this, purchase a simple one for them to keep track of reports due and homework expected, as well as any other important dates the need to be aware of.

3. Prepare for the next day. Have the kids lay their school clothes out the night before they go to bed. Make most of the lunches the night before, planning out the rest that can be made in the morning so that there’s no guesswork. Talk over what will be going on in school the next day. Any tests? Are there some big projects coming up? Keep the communication open regarding school assignments so that it is on their brain, and to also let them know that you care about the work they are being assigned to do. Mom tip: On the lunch note, is your kid tired of sandwiches? Utilize leftovers. They make fun and interesting lunches when your kid is ready to stray from the norm, and are super easy to pack up in a container the night before.

4. Let the kids in on the events of the week. Keep a calendar with every activity written on it clearly. And go over the next day’s activities with your kids. Have sports going on? Make sure their uniform is easy to find (best if kept in the same place ALWAYS). Expecting a playdate? Go over who will be picking the kids up or who is coming home with them. Have plans of your own that the kids are going to need to tag along on? Fill them in. Kids thrive on simplicity, and knowing what is expected of them without any curveballs thrown their way simplifies their lives and leaves them much less stressed than dealing with the unexpected. (P.S. Remember that dry erase board in tip #1? They work great as a calendar too – especially when you can color code each kids’ activities, etc. Um…did I just totally give away some of my anal tendencies?)

5. Plan out meals in advance. Create a weekly menu and stick to it as best as possible. This will also help you to create your shopping list for the week since you will already know what you plan on making. And don’t eschew leftovers. Make your meals big enough so that the next night’s meal is already taken care of. Even if you doctor up the meal the next night so that it isn’t exactly the same, it’s still a heck of a lot quicker than cooking a meal from start to finish, and healthier than ordering take-out. Mom tip: Become best friends with your Crock Pot. Seriously folks, this has got to be the best invention ever. You can pretty much cook anything in a slow cooker. And there is nothing like coming home to a house that already holds the heavenly smell of a home-cooked meal ready to be eaten.

By the way, did you know that by being organized you are doing so much more than just getting out of the house on time? You are instilling good habits in your kid so that when they are on their own, they will know what works to be successful and on top of it. That, in my opinion, is so much more important than getting out of the house with my teeth already brushed.

Do you have tips on how to get away from the hectic, stressful, fast-paced mornings during the school year? What’s your secret?

Getting Back into the School Routine

It’s the time of year when kids cringe and parents jump for joy. Gone are the days of going to bed late and waking up around noon. No more video games for 4 hours straight, knocking on friends’ doors all day long to see if they can play, and seeing if it actually is possible that pajamas will stick to their skin if they wear them for a week without changing. It’s when your child, who has been looking at you for months through shaggy uncombed locks, suddenly looks like a shiny new kid with a haircut and unwrinkled clothing, a new backpack slung over their shoulder…and a scowl on their face.

I can’t promise you that the scowl will disappear completely. But I can guarantee that, in most cases, it does get better. And, with the help of some local moms and teachers, I have compiled a list of some definite DO’s to help get your child on track in the transition from the lazy days of summer to the busy days of school.

The first, and most important, is to set a bedtime and stick with it. Caren McLerran, a kindergarten teacher at R. L. Stevens Elementary, suggests that routine is vital when it comes to bedtime. “Begin early enough to get ready and have a settle down time to read a story. It should be consistent every school night. Children thrive on routine.”

On that note, reading to your elementary kids is an extremely vital part of a kids’ development. I admit it, I have gotten out of practice when it comes to reading to my kids now that they are at an age where they can read by themselves. Problem is, kids don’t always read on their own time. But there are reasons why kids need to be read to. It helps them to be able to hear more carefully the emotions involved in reading so that they can read the same way on their own. And Caren gave a point that I had never thought of, to use reading as an opportunity to “discuss the story and ask them to make predictions. Talk about the plot, the characters, the setting, and the problem and resolution. Ask what they liked or disliked and why. It’s important to stretch those summer-mode attention spans and re-spark those higher order thinking skills.”

Timeliness is another important factor, and it sets the tone for the day. It’s those extra few moments spent at home that can determine whether your child will be there on time, or if they will have to get a tardy slip. And being tardy not only reflects on your child’s school performance, it is incredibly disruptive to the class. The teacher must catch the tardy student up to speed while the rest of the class must wait. Santa Rosa mom, Kari Cagle, came up with a simple solution. She has her daughter, Kassidy, “put her outfit out the night before and pack up her backpack and homework the night before as well.” You can even go one step further and have the kids plan out their lunches, and pack as much as they can the night before. This way they aren’t wasting time standing in front of the refrigerator trying to decide what to eat. It also helps to have a lunch meal plan for the week, easily accessible on the refrigerator so that there is no guesswork involved.

Ask any teacher what their number one hope for every student is, and organization will be at the top of the list. Kari told me, “One thing we always do is restock her home supplies as well as her school supplies. It’s always a good idea to get them excited about homework. New fun things like new pens, pencils, color pencils, crayons, erasers and other supplies seems to get my girl in the mood to do homework. There’s nothing like breaking in a new crayon!” Another important tip is to “make up a homework kit,” Caren McLerran offered. “Have all of the pencils, erasers, crayons, scissors, glue, paper and folders that they will need for the year. Get a container to put the supplies in and figure out a quiet spot that will be designated as the “homework spot”. This way when they actually start getting homework they’ll be ready to hit the ground running. Homework should be done early and not right before bed when our brains are sleepy.”

High school teacher, Jessica Dennis, gave a different view, “Since I’m a high school teacher, it’s a little different, I suppose, because we treat students like mini-adults. You know, school is their “job” so once summer is over, they’re back on the clock, so to speak, and we simply expect them to start being responsible. Organization is obviously important, so it’s vital to have all the school supplies ready to go early on….but with high schoolers, they need to do it themselves, so parents shouldn’t dictate an organization system, but rather work with kids to develop one that works for them individually. Not all students can have immaculate binders, and not all kids can use a daily planner.”

In my family, the one item we cannot do without is our dry erase calendar. Listed on that calendar is every single thing we are doing each month. The kids know where we need to be at any given time, and that takes the surprise out of it. It helps them to prepare for the day, and to know what’s going on for tomorrow. If they have soccer practice the next day, they know that they are going to need a clean uniform and will have to locate their gear. If they have a book report or a project due, it is listed on the calendar so they can be aware of the date every day, and work towards being done by the due date.

Perhaps one of the most important tips is YOUR involvement in your child’s school life. Parents, even junior high and high school parents, need to keep involved at the school. It is important to meet and keep in contact with your child’s teachers, go to the PTA meetings, and attend Open House and Back to School night. To better understand your child’s workload, check your student’s planner and homework lists every night, and look at their homework. There will come a time when the work they are doing will surpass even your knowledge, but you can at least be familiar with what they are expected to learn. “The advice I’d have for my parents is to be excited for school to start, and to share that excitement with the kids,” Jessica Dennis said. “Talk about what this year is going to hold, and discuss ways your kids can get involved in the school community, whether through sports or clubs or other activities. A student who is “plugged in” will always be more successful than one who feels like they’re just going through the motions.”

It’s not like school is a kid’s favorite place to be. And no wonder when they have to break free from waking up in the afternoon and beating their high score on Guitar Hero. But with a little prompting and a lot of organization, school won’t be faced with feelings of dread. And this school year could be your child’s best year ever.

(See a version of this article in today’s Sonoma Living section of the Press Democrat)

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Have more tips on getting back into the school routine?  Share them here, or on the forums at SantaRosaMom.com.