Archive for December, 2008

Cooking for Kids

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

For the past few years, my husband has slowly but surely been taking over the cooking in our household. This has been a godsend for me. I used to love cooking, but when the kids were small, the endless noodles and chicken nuggets wore me out. We used to have dinner parties a lot and I loved preparing interesting food, yet even that fell by the wayside as cooking lost its charm for me.

But…

Every time we sit down for a meal, Kevin goes on and on and on about how great and fresh and cheap his home-cooked food is. And yes, he’s right, it is great and fresh and cheap, but this constant self praise ends up making me feel bad.

Was my cooking really so poor, unfresh and expensive for the past 15 years? Didn’t I slave away when the kids were babes trying to get them to eat their vegetables–broiling and sauteeing and steaming desperately?

Thinking about this made me realize once again how invisible much of the daily work we do for our kids is. We try so hard to be good mothers and so rarely get praised for our efforts.

So what can we do about this? What do I do? Thank God I have my writing and my career, which makes me feel invested and passionate and gives me a sense of self. I don’t take the implied criticism too hard as a result.

I also remind myself to really be grateful for the help I get. Not everyone’s husband is making chicken parmigiana or pulled pork after a long days work! I can take a little excess in the self congratulation department if it means I don’t have to think up yet another meal.

Holiday Madness

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Who out there can believe the holidays are literally AROUND THE CORNER? Why is it every year around this time days just speed up? November comes, and then BANG, Christmas is here.

So what do we do this year now that all we’re hearing is bad news about the economy? I mean, really? It’s so depressing I have to turn the radio off when I’m driving–I just can’t take more disaster. The kids are geared up for presents, and I’m feeling like Scrooge. How can we make this period fun without breaking the bank?

Here are the top three things I’m doing to try to keep a grip on life right now, while still having a good time with my family (and getting my daily work done!):

1. Making Gifts: This requires planning and can be stressful, but it teaches them so much. Money doesn’t buy everything; something made with love is worth more than something bought and then quickly discarded; effort is valuable and appreciated. Some ideas I have tried that have been really successful and fun are:

  • Homemade books: this can be really fun for the children, and a great keepsake for grandparents and godparents. The kids type up a story–sometimes even the older ones need a little direction here–and insert clip art or pictures from the internet. They make a nice cover and staple it all together. Simple, but cute.
  • Cooking: what child doesn’t like baking? Banana bread, cookies, cakes. It’s a nice way to spend time with the children, too. Usually when they cook I get stressed because the kitchen is such a mess. But when we do it for the holidays, I relax into it and have fun.
  • Notecards: This requires a great piece of artwork and the ability to scan or photocopy, and some thick paper. Scan or copy your child’s picture onto the bottom of half a piece of paper. When you fold the paper in half, presto: a card! Give it along with some envelopes, wrapped in a simple ribbon.
  • Calendars: print out all the months from your Outlook calendar on the computer. You can add special dates if you want. Then have the children, even older ones, draw a picture for each month which you mount on a sturdy piece of paper and attach to the calendar. Here a hole-punch is helpful, and some thin ribbon to bind the two sides together.

2. Celebrate early, often and in small ways. Really, celebrating the holidays is all about the rituals. This year, we’ve been careful to do all those family rituals–we celebrate advent every Sunday in December and St. Nikolaus on Dec 6, for example. This way the kids are in the holiday spirit, but it’s not all about the drama of the big gifts.

3. Do Potluck: We always have a lot of people at our house over the holiday period and we love it that way. But all the cooking and providing of food is pretty manic. This year we’re doing potluck and bring a bottle, and we think people will actually like it. It makes them feel more part of the celebration, and it really takes the pressure off us.

Things I am Grateful For…

Friday, December 5th, 2008

…in scary times:

  1. the health of my family
  2. that I love my husband so much, and am in love with him too
  3. my middle daughter, who works so hard and is so empathetic and charming
  4. my youngest daughter, who is magnetic and adorable and a joy
  5. my son, who–although he’s a teen with serious motivation issues–remains sweet and quirky, handsome and hilarious
  6. my comfortable, eclectic house, with its bright orange, yellow, turquoise and red rooms and its big windows
  7. my work, which fills me with joy each day
  8. my friends, both close and far away, with whom I can be myself
  9. my co-author, who is dedicated and talented and driven
  10. my agent, who I trust and respect, and is a fantastic businesswoman
  11. that my husband has a job and is good at it
  12. that my parents are healthy and independent
  13. that my brother found an incredible woman with whom to share his life
  14. fuji apples
  15. vodka
  16. cotton sheets
  17. movies
  18. travel (not as much as I’d like, but still…)
  19. The New York Times
  20. Editors who love good books