Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Keep It Simple, Stupid
I really don't believe in mealtime being fight time. I like to imagine that we all sit down together, smile, pass dishes, laugh and talk about our day. I imagine it being just like it is on TV in those crescent roll commercials. That is not the scene in our house. The first problem is that we don't have a dining room table where we sit down and eat together. Well, we have a table but it is currently (and temporarily, I hope) out of commission. We have a dining room area. A nice one in fact. But it's a little over taken with... stuff. If you visit my friend Amy at 4th Frog, you know she recently spent 4 hours cleaning out a closet and she bravely shared the before and after pics. Take her before pic, make it at least 3x worse, expand the area to cover a dining room and you've got my situation. Jeff's working on it. A little bit at a time. The second problem... my daughter has hit her first picky stage. I refuse to battle over food. We have simple rules. We serve dinner. You can choose to eat it. If you eat it all, you get dessert. If you choose not to eat it all, no dessert. If you don't like what is served, you can choose food from the snack bin instead. This also means no dessert. The rules are known. And the rules are questioned and fought and complained about. Because Teagan has now become... picky. Or is she? We are working parents. We don't have a lot of time in the evenings. Cooking meals is a challenge. We fell hard into the bad habit of carry out, meals out, pick it up, drive through... Last week, I decided I'd had enough. Time to plan a menu, make a list, grocery shop. And I did. I spent 2 1/2 hours preparing dinner Sunday. Maple glazed stuffed pork loin. Cheesy green bean casserole. It was good and tasty and I put a lot of effort into it. Jeff was very nice about it. The kids ate the meat. Tonight, a mexican layer bake. Ground beef, corn, salsa, cheese, tortillas. All layered together and baked. Yum, right? Not in this house. Both kids refused to even touch it. And I about lost it. I know that's unreasonable. I know that making a change from lots of restaurant food to home cooked meals isn't going to be easy. My stomach was in knots. I took a time out. I went and laid down for a few minutes, took a couple of Tums. And I hatched a plan. I emerged from the bedroom and grabbed paper and pen. And I sat down with Teagan and asked her what it is she likes to eat. Here's the list. Muffins, chicken, chicken nuggets, water, apple juice, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, celery with ranch, peas, plain green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, baked potato, fish sticks, fish (baked tilapia or salmon), pretzels, cheese, bacon, sausage, eggs (scrambled or fried), bread- but no crust, plain rice, chicken fried rice (with egg, peas, corn), kiwi, avocado (she doesn't really like avocado- she won't eat it when I have it), apples (no skin), oranges, cottage cheese, mini tacos (frozen food), bagels, chicken noodle soup, ravioli, cereal with milk, hamburgers, hot dogs, raisins, craisins... So now I have a starting point. No more casseroles and sauces. Just like her dad, she prefers plain food. Which really is fine. It doesn't suit my style... but this isn't about me, is it? So scratch this week's menu.... or not.... I've still got a few tricks up my sleeve that I want to try out. But at this point, I think that she's given me a really great list to work with. So now I can make dinners that she has said she will eat. No fancy menus, no lists of ingredients, no searching for recipes. Time to buy veggies, fruit, fish, and chicken. Time to bake muffins (just finished up a batch of applesauce muffins for the week). Time to keep it simple. Going forward... simple menus built from Teagan's list, take back the dining room and have actual family meals- with no TV. My next shopping trip will be Sunday and I will stick with Teagan's list. And the dining room? Jeff... set a date. And then we'll be ready to make our evenings as simple as possible- thereby continuing to build the strong foundation that we need.