It is a rainy day here; the sky is a cool gray-white and cars create a sibilant shushing as they pass. The house is nearly silent.On my Tuesdays off I share this space with a cat and my sleeping nineteen year old son who has recently begun working overnights. Marc Gunn's Irish and Celtic Music Podcast is playing quietly against a background of tapping raindrops. After the rush and noise of the holidays, the near-silence is exquisite.
I don't mean to sound as though I don't like the holiday season, because I do. Even as adults we absorb some of the magic of the season, gasping with delight at the sight of twinkling lights on trees and houses, and sniffing the warm spicy smells of gingerbread and peppermint with mouth-watering anticipation. And our own children's excitement is enough to make any parent smile. (I even found a website that sent out daily text messages from Santa. My seven year old was over the moon.)
But with all this excitement comes tears and tantrums, and not just from the children. I don't know how many times I snapped at my husband over the last two weeks when he asked what was for dinner. I had no plan, because I hadn't had the time to make up a menu plan like I usually do. And New Year's Day I woke up with a migraine that didn't let go until after dinner. (I only had one glass of champagne at midnight, I swear. Okay, two.)
The near-constant party atmosphere of the last two weeks has taken its toll. The little boys are cranky and irritable- my three year old foster-son cries over everything lately. The teenager that works full-time off-shift is sleepy and sullen. I've been relying on a great deal of closed-away quiet time to prevent myself from going Amazon and running through the house bashing all the male beings in the head with my favorite cast-iron skillet. (Seriously: the cat is my only female ally here.)
I realized that the only way to speed recovery from the holiday hangover, as my husband calls it, was to restore as much normalcy as possible as soon as possible. Thus, I sat down and wrote up a meal plan for the week with some help from Bubbah. We added a little something new, the Kids Cook Monday program. Every Monday my seven year old cooks dinner with me as his assistant. We actually started this last week, and two weeks in he's loving it. His plan for next Monday is Rachael Ray's Double Dumpling Soup. Last night it was Porcupine Meatballs from Dinner: A Love Story.
I sat myself down with the kitchen calendar and wrote in the meals, special dinner nights like '2nd Friday Pizza Nite,' 'Taco Tuesday' (the third Tuesday of every month) and 'Eat Out Nite' (the 28th of every month. Bubbah announced that was going to be hibachi this month.) I wrote in my weekends to work and the little boys' bath nights. Everyone in the house can now look at the calendar and know what is happening when, even the three year old. (He recognizes the first letter of his first name, so his bath night has a big blue 'J' written in.) Some small measure of stability re-established. Bubbah brought me his calendar, and he wrote in his bath nights, Kids Cook Monday, 'Grandma Days' and the special dinner days. We also added 1/2 days and days off from school as well as the 'specials:' PE, music, art, technology and school library days. He feels grown-up having a schedule 'just like Mom,' and less anxious. He knows what he needs to do. Next we'll tackle his chores. Next week.
My husband brought home a couple white boards to chart chore days and who is to do what, and we'll get the whole family involved in that. Even the three year old can pick up his own toys and match socks when we fold laundry. This way everyone helps out, but more important, especially for the little ones, there is a routine. This is doubly important for the three year old, as he having more prolonged visits with his parents and is facing all kinds of transitions.
Is my prep work going to make everything run smoothly? Not a chance. Something can always throw a wrench in the works, but we at least have some semblance of structure, and I find that structure and routine are the best ways to get my family back on even keel after we've been wallowing for a time. (I just finished reading a book on naval history, can you tell??)
Let me know what you do to get yourself re-sorted after the holiday hullabaloo- I need all the pointers I can get!
Here's to you, and a happy 2017!
For more info on the Kids Cook Monday program, please visit http://www.thekidscookmonday.org/