You know those days - FamilyEducation

You know those days

October 24,2008

I couldn't get a column up yesterday because it was, frankly, One of Those Days. You know those ones, where you fully intend to get x, y, and z done, but maybe only z gets done, or x and y, but not all three, and certainly not in the order you wanted. One thing I didn't really realize about parenting when I was a younger, more naive parent, is how much mental energy it takes. When you are the parent of a young baby, or even a toddler, you find it physically exhausting. I used to think it was mentally exhausting as well, but I really didn't know what mental exhaustion was back then. I think you have to parent older kids to really experience that. When the kids were babies, I didn't work quite as full-time as I do now, nor did I juggle quite as much. Somehow, as you get older, you take on more--and your kids take on more, too, like a snowball that starts out small and then grows bigger and bigger as it rolls along through life, gathering up all kinds of odds and ends along the way.

Anyway, I didn't have the mental space to write anything for Thursday. I could have written something, but it would have contained every single work-related, child-related, life-related thought in my head and looked like this:

Parent teacher conference insurance claims math grade party menus insurance claims BOOK ORDERS! IEP goals parent teacher conference students the price of groceries grading book orders PARENT-TEACHER conference PARENT conferences neurology appointment Halloween shopping book orders costumes insurance claims TEACHER grading appointment insurance book orders math grading IEP goals meeting must get home...

Some days you just let the obligations propel you along, shifting into autopilot wherever you go. Then you arrive at the other end, tired and a little dazed, and realize that somehow you made it to the end, you're home, you can put on those slippers and comfy pants and eat some dinner except, oh wait!--there's nothing for dinner. Even though I had meal-planned at the beginning of the week, all the meal-planning in the world is no help if you had a last-minute long meeting to attend and you are in one car stuck in traffic at 5:40 p.m. and your husband and kids are in the other car stuck in traffic at 5:40 p.m. two lights behind you, and you all arrive at home tired and grouchy and hungry at 6:00 p.m.

What do you do on night's like that? I'm not good at producing food under pressure because, frankly, after days like Thursday I want someone to present ME with a hot, three-course gourmet meal, complete with a hefty glass of wine. I still love my crock pot, but to have something hot, ready, and waiting for you at the end of a long day, you need the time in the morning to get the ingredients ready--I hadn't bargained for that when I bought it.

When we have days like Thursday and it's just me and the kids, we have our standby favorite: breakfast for dinner. Heaping bowls of cereal, cut-up fruit, and "milkshakes" (soymilk with Ovaltine). Oatmeal for dinner is kind of nice, too, especially if you sprinkle nuts on top for some protein, and drizzle honey over them for an added sweetener, and serve it all with hot chocolate. Scott refuses to have anything to do with cereal for dinner, so if we're all  home it's usually "clean the fridge out" night, or fusion food night, and beans are often on the menu, along with Chinese tofu, which cooks up in five seconds flat, for the kids. You can do a lot with a can of black beans, and some tortillas, and those instant packets of rice--the ones that are pre-cooked and in those neat little vacuum-packed bags, work great, too. We happened to have leftover beans in the fridge from tortillas the night before, and if you bake the tortillas on an oven sheet for a few minutes they harden and turn crisp--perfect for build-your-own-tostada night. You can really put anything on a tostada: beans, corn, lettuce, shredded veggies like carrots and raw zucchini, peppers, and even, as we did once, broccoli slaw. We've found that if you cover it all up with sour cream and lots of hot sauce, you won't really know what's on your tostada, and usually the flavors all blend just fine. T. likes her tostada with lettuce and corn only, and L. won't touch a tostada with a ten-foot pole, but for the rest of us tostada night is the perfect no-frills meal for One of Those Days.

What are your favorite One of Those Days meals that you whip out on nights like that?

If next week isn't One of Those Weeks, I'll probably be baking and planning all week long in preparation for T.'s Halloween party at school, and our own family one on the weekend--so stay tuned for creepy cookies that look like fingers, Halloween whoopie pies, and roasted pumpkin gratin.

I'll give you a sneak preview. I made the finger cookies last year and they look like this:

Happy weekend, everyone.