In my last post, I shared the Pediatric Psych Ward’s lunch menu for the week. It seems like a lot of you get tired of the daily battle of “what’s for lunch” too. Thanks for the validation!
Believe me, lunch was soooo much easier last week having a plan in place, and the inmates liked having input too. I didn’t have to hear moaning every day, “What is there for luuuunch? *HUFF* There’s nothing good in this house to eat!” as they stood in front of the open fridge. (This makes me stabby every single time.) Instead, I could answer, “Check the menu!” And you know what? I found that they looked forward to lunch daily! It was one less decision any of us had to make each day. I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired of making a million decisions day in and day out.
So to help take five decisions off of your plate this week, here’s the PSW’s menu that we created together: Feel free to use, share or just mock as you wish:
Now I’m sure a lot of you are saying, “Is this woman for real? This all looks like a lot of work, and roasted cauliflower?!! Seriously??”
Wait. Let me explain. Young Son and First Born are not big fans of raw veggies. However, they will eat roasted vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, brussel sprouts even! What can I say, they’re high maintenance. Big surprise.) But I’ve been trying really hard to have healthier, more well-balanced meals for all of us that I don’t have to fight the inmates to eat. I could just throw some raw celery and carrots on their plate and pretend they’ll eat it, but we know that’s just going in the garbage. What’s the point?
The key: THE AIR FYER! If you don’t have one, GET ONE. Like today. I could write a whole post on the life-changing gloriousness of the air fryer! For the cauliflower, I’ll just break it into bite-sized pieces, toss it with a little olive oil and S&P, throw it in the air fryer for a bit and voila! Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Wednesday’s chicken tenders and smiley fries will go in my air fryer too.
The other key for making this menu work for my family is that these are things that all five of us will eat, the Warden included now that he’s been working from home. Instead of making five different lunches each day, I can make one meal for all of us in about fifteen minutes with a lot less mess and chaos in my kitchen.
If you have other ideas and meals that work for your family, please share them with me! If this menu was helpful for you, let me know and I can continue to share our menus. Have a great week!
If you ask any kid what their favorite part of school is, I’ll bet you a majority of them would answer, “lunch and recess!” If you think back to your school hot lunches, I bet you remember Friday pizza days. Your tray may have looked like this:
Ahhh…the rectangle pizza that fit neatly in the compartment. As I look at this picture, I don’t know what bougie school this kid went to, but we never got soft pretzels with mustard. And the fruit cocktail and milk need to be switched. What kind of monster put them in the wrong compartments?? Oh the humanity! I digress…
You could always tell a lot about a kid by the way they ate their rectangle pizza. They usually fell into one of a few categories:
The Folder: This method involved folding the pizza in half and eating it like a taco. It’s efficient and no-nonsense, however this method had its drawbacks. If you didn’t staunch the flow of grease with a wad of those useless mini napkins before you folded it, you’d have to tilt it and let the grease drip out through the trough created at the fold. By the time you were done de-greasing it, all the cheese would have slid to the center and completely ruined the cheese-to-soggy crust ratio. If you didn’t do the trough method of de-greasing and just started shoveling in, you’d have a river of grease dripping down your chin and arm. It was not attractive.
The Knife and Forker: This method of cutting the pizza into bite-sized pieces was generally adopted by prissy girls who wrote with fancy pens with fake flowers and flowy feathers on top. They also had a coordinating headband, bow or scrunchie for every outfit. The Knife and Fork method, while much tidier and sophisticated, was slow and inefficient, (especially if your school had plastic utensils) leaving you with little time for recess after lunch.
The Slob: This is probably the most direct method of getting pizza into your gob, but by far the messiest and grossest. It required strange contortions to steer the floppy, drippy mess to your face and it was annoying and unappetizing having to sit next to this Oscar Madison. You could always tell which locker belonged to this kid too. It always had a coat or random papers sticking out their half-shut door (if they could close the locker at all), and it smelled like rotting apples or smelly socks.
The Hybrid: This method requires a bit of prep, but is totally worth it in the end. First, you staunched the grease with napkins, then cut the pizza into quarters. This allowed the diner to neatly pick up the pizza without needing to fold or slop pizza goo everywhere. Students bound for National Honor Society utilized the Hybrid method.
Which kid were you? Or did you always bring cold lunch and never experienced Pizza Fridays at school?
The inmates are generally hot lunchers, and I’m totally fine with that. It’s less stress on me not having to be sure there is lunch food in the house, much less needing remind them to pack their lunch in the first place. Having one less meal to plan each day is pretty awesome too.
But now that the inmates are eating their lunch at home for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided I don’t want to be the cranky lunch lady. We decided to try to plan the weekly lunch menu together to make things more efficient and less stressful. If they decide they don’t want to eat “the main” for lunch that day, they are welcome to make themselves a sandwich. This helps in so many ways. 1.) I can more easily plan my grocery shopping instead of needing to buy a full buffet of lunch foods for them to choose from each day. 2.) It saves time every day because I don’t have to repeatedly rattle off their choices like a waitress and then waste time waiting for them to decide what to have. 3.) I’m no longer a short order cook at lunch. They either eat the jointly pre-determined lunch or make themselves a sandwich.
Here is this week’s menu:
And because I’m the quirky weird mom, I kicked it up a notch. I found a list of all the weird food holidays and we incorporate those into the menu. As you can see this Thursday is National Hot Dog Day. Last week there was International Bacon Day, so we had BLTs. Next Friday is National Cheeseburger Day, so if they have a great week, McDonald’s it is! (In case you’re interested, here’s the link to the holiday list I used: https://foodimentary.com/)
And what would hot lunch be without the compartmentalized tray?! Mmmm hmmm! Oh yes, I did! Each inmate has their own lunch tray! Here’s First Born’s lunch from yesterday:
So far it’s been working pretty well. Come to think of it, I should have bought the Warden his own lunch tray too!
We’ve made it through two full weeks of remote learning. I still have five people living in my house. Was it relaxing as a spa day? Ummm… no. Was it the firey pits of hell? Also no.
When it was becoming clear that there would be at least some amount of remote learning this fall, the Warden and I started brainstorming ways that we could make it better than it was in the spring if we were going to survive. Spring was chaos, mayhem and frustration. The inmates did their school work (with endless hounding from me) all over the house: at the kitchen table or island, in the playroom slumped in a gaming chair, in a huge treadmill box filled with pillows and snacks in my dining room (can you guess who created that hot mess?) No matter how I tried to keep them on task and organized, it was futile. If I made them all work at the kitchen table, it was bedlam, fighting, yelling and tormenting (me included.) If they went and did their school work where they wanted to do it, that meant I had to run all over the house helping, monitoring and riding herd on them. I was a gray hair’s width away from completely throwing in the towel.
So when the Warden came up with the idea, “Why don’t we make the living room into a school room?” I had serious doubts.
“They’re going to kill each other,” I said. “It’s going to be one big MMA Cage Match in there every day!”
“And how is that different than any other day here? At least they’ll all be in one place and easier to manage. We can get some desks and they can keep all their stuff there and not all over the house. I think it could work.” He looked hopefully at me.
I started warming up to the idea. “Well, they’ll have to have good headphones for sure. And we use that white noise machine from when Warrior Princess was a baby to drown out the sound of her brothers killing each other. If it does turn into a MMA cage match, we could live stream it and Young Son could finally have the monetized YouTube channel he’s always dreamed of. Warrior Princess could be the bookie.”
The Warden ignored my brilliance and immediately turned to his computer to search for desks. He found some really cool corner ones at Ikea (I reminded him that he was in charge of assembly and the inmates would guaranteed want to “help” him. That did not deter him.) I found some desk chairs on Overstock.com and desk lamps on Amazon. Ooh! I could shop for office accessories!
“What did the inmates think of the idea?” you ask. They actually were on board with it. We talked about how eLearning in some capacity was going to happen for at least awhile, and we wanted to make it a better experience. We showed them the desks and chairs and told them they could personalize their space how they wanted (within reason!) They were sold!
Since our “living room” has never been a “living room” and has always been a playroom, I had some purging and clearing out to do. It was actually pretty satisfying and I even got out the carpet shampooer.
After a couple trips to Ikea and a few hours of some assembly required, voila! Behold…
The sChOOL clASSroom!
Has it been perfect? No, but we’ve tweaked things here and there and it’s starting to work pretty well. The inmates are driven by money, so they have a reward chart for every week. Here’s an example:
So far they’ve been doing a pretty good job too. For now I’ve been reminding them about charging electronics and being ready for the next day as we get used to this new system. The Positive Attitude can trip them up. Give your brother a wedgie while he’s on a Zoom meeting? No star. Start complaining about school work or classmates? No star. Distract or annoy classmates on purpose? No star. Make Mom come out and yell? NO STAR!
Is this ideal? No. We all are longing to have our kids back in their classrooms with their teachers and friends. But in the meantime, we’re grateful to be together and healthy, and the inmates are liking their independence and taking pride in their special work areas.
Do you want to know one of the craziest things to come out of quarantine and remote learning? The inmates have become closer with each other. I see them looking out and caring for one another more and wanting to be together in their free time. I’m really proud of them for taking this in stride and with grace…as much as possible. (I’d be worried if they didn’t murder on each other at least once day!) If one good thing comes out of all of this, may the great bond they are creating last a lifetime.
Hi friends. Yep, I’m still here and I somehow managed to survive The Summer of 2020. It’s been forever since I’ve written anything. Honestly, it feels like this summer has been just one never-ending boring day, and I’ve had little inspiration. I know I’m not alone.
First Born, Young Son and Warrior Princess start seventh grade, fourth grade and kindergarten respectively this week. I had been looking forward to that day for years. It was going to be my first day in over twelve years of having more than two and a half hours to myself. But COVID-19 dashed that fantasy, as the inmates will be doing eLearning for the first trimester.
What an excruciating journey it has been to get this point. For weeks, the Warden and I had been weighing our options on having the inmates physically go back to school or keeping them home for remote learning. Like a lot of parents, it felt like it was impossible to make the “right” decision. Normally the Warden is an extremely decisive guy. He collects as much data as possible, thoroughly analyzes said data and makes his decision. Boom. Done. Onto the next problem. But even he struggled and changed his mind multiple times each week. (Yeah, pal! See how it is to live in MY head??!)
It wasn’t even a decision of picking the lesser of two evils. It was just deciding between two evils. On one hand, we desperately wanted to have our kids back in school — to be with their friends, teachers and peers and get all the benefits and joys of in-person learning…and albeit selfishly to actually get a few hours of peace and quiet, for the love of God! I love my children, but I really need to love them from afar for awhile!
On the other hand, the thought of all of the risks of sending them back either on a full-time or a hybrid schedule, much less what that would even look like, was crippling. Proper mask wearing, maintaining six feet of social distancing, constant sanitizing, no collaboration or playing with their peers, guaranteed cycles of quarantining…ugh!
What kept me up at night was the thought of the significant risks this posed for their beloved teachers and school staff. Having to put “Update will and life insurance policy” should NOT be on their back-to-school to do list!! (Seriously. A friend who works in a neighboring school district was told this by her administration!) Since I have the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom, wasn’t it my moral responsibility to keep my kids at home to ease the burden of my three kids on the school, teachers, and other families who desperately need their kids to be back at school so they can be employed?
In the end, our district decided on 100% eLearning for at least the first trimester. Of course there are a lot of angry parents, who are now thrust into an impossible situation. It makes me want to cry at the thought of Warrior Princess not getting the magical kindergarten experience every kid deserves. (That girl is ready to kick ass and chew bubble gum!) The constant worrying over what this is doing to my kids’ social/emotional health is making me ready to break out in hives at any moment.
At this point, however, I’m at peace with it. As with all things COVID-19 related, there is very little anyone can control. But how I react to it is something I can control. We’ve been frank and honest about it with the inmates — it is going to be different, challenging and surely there will be glitches along the way. But we can do this. It’s not forever and it will help us appreciate school even more when we finally do get to go back.
Instead of focusing on how much it’s going to suck, I’m trying to think about some of the positives and plan on ways to make it fun. Here are some of my ideas:
Less Rushing in the Morning: Granted, they’re still going to have to get up and ready to be on time for their first class, but there won’t be the stress of getting ready to catch the bus. No waiting outside in the rain or cold and no weird bus smell either.
Wardrobe: While our rule is they have to get dressed everyday and may not wear what they slept in, they can put on a clean T-shirt, jammy pants and cozy socks. No shoes required.
Lunch & Snacks: They can still choose hot or cold lunch (and will even help plan the weekly lunch menu). Want to use your lunch box? Sure! Thursdays can be Brunch for Lunch, Fridays can be Pizza Day (and if they’ve had a good week, we can have it delivered from Luigi’s!) No nut allergies here at the Pediatric Psych Ward (thankfully!) — bring on the peanut butter! Although they will probably have to deal with a cranky lunch lady.
The New sChOOL clASSroom: We’ve tried to create a fun work area for them. But you’ll have to wait until my next post when I’ll tell you all about it.
They’ve Been Preparing for This: People have asked me if I’m worried about the inmates being online all day long. Yes, but they’ve been preparing for this all summer with the copious amounts of time I’ve allowed them to be on electronics. They’ve really built up their stamina for their long days of eLearning. I’ll call it a win…or just my way of justifying lousy, lazy parenting on my part. Hey. At least with eLearning they’ll be getting smarter instead of wasting brain cells on watching asinine YouTubers all day long!
In the end, I hope what comes out of this is resilient children who have learned to make the best out of a difficult situation. By making it as fun as possible, giving them lots of love and assuring them they are being kept safe, we can do this. In the meantime, let’s all set good examples for our children: to give each other grace, to be kind and to care for one another. Always. Oh…And wear a mask, for the love of Nellie!
Me: “It should arrive tomorrow, but you know what has to happen first before you get to play it.”
YS: [Sighs] “I know…get my school work for the day done first.”
Me: “Yep. AND you need to do it without all your usual drama, moaning and groaning the whole time you do it.”
YS: “Arrrggghhh! But Mom!!!”
Me: [Blinking]…”Seriously dude. You are complaining about not being allowed to complain. You are a piece of work, my Grumpapotamus Old Man.”
YS: [Pouts…while trying not to smile.]
Me: “You know, I think you complain for sport. Like you should try out for the Olympics. You’ve been complaining so much, I think you got your PE credit in for the day.”
YS: “Really?!? COOL!!”
Me: [Rolls eyes. Sighs.]
Oh Young Son. Compared to his big brother, he’s generally pretty chill and usually a rule follower. He’s a lover, not a fighter. (That’s not to say he won’t throw his siblings under the bus when push comes to shove. He is human.)
For as much as First Born makes me completely lose my mind and make me want to quit this whole parenting gig sometimes, his fearlessness and creativity does get put to good use (when he’s not creatively wearing me down or tormenting his little brother.)
The words, “I can’t do this!” have never come out of his mouth. Life is pretty much a dare for the kid — both good and bad. (You’ve heard a LOT about the bad already.)
But one admirable quality in him is that if it’s something he is passionate about, he goes full tilt at it. He’s very much like The Warden: Go big or go home. I always say, if First Born would harness his powers for good, he could change the world.
Young Son often lives in his big brother’s shadow. While I appreciate that he doesn’t do every crazy thing that comes into his head, I wish some of First Born’s can-do attitude would rub off on him a bit more. Often times if something is challenging, Young Son takes it to mean that he’s not smart enough or strong enough to do it. It breaks my heart. Convincing him otherwise is usually an uphill battle.
So when it comes to trying to get him to do his eLearning every day, it makes me appreciate and worship his teachers even more. Somehow they are able to coax and encourage him to do the hard things that he thinks he can’t, and they haven’t set their hair on fire in frustration yet.
The past two weeks have been Poetry Weeks. Oh sweet Jesus. For the first week, each day they studied a new type of poetry and had to write a poem in that style — Haiku, Clerihew, Tanka etc. You’d think he was supposed to write a dissertation on quantum mechanics in Olde English. It was excruciating. For both of us.
The whole “power through and just get it done” method does not work for him. No. He prefers moaning, groaning, dragging his feet, complaining and making it as miserable as possible. He took it to a whole new level when it came to writing poetry. We managed to clobber out a few poems, but it left me frustrated and exhausted. So imagine my disdain when the second week was writing more poetry, but this time for their poetry journals. It nearly brought me to tears.
I decided then and there that this poetry assignment was not going to break us. I needed to come up with a different approach. We needed to come at this like a nine year old boy. That meant getting weird and gross. He finally decided on which style to write, but then he started in on the, “but I don’t know what to write about!!!”
“Okay. Let’s write about silly stuff. We’re having one of your favorites for dinner tonight: lasagna. You’ve been helping me make the sauce and we’ll put the lasagna together later. What’s awesome about lasagna? How do you make it? Let’s write down some descriptive words. And so we did and here’s what he came up with:
Lasagna Super cheesy Italian food Mozzarella, Parmesean, Ricotta Layers of noodles, sauce and cheese Super yummy in my tummy
Homemade sauce Layer on noodles Then the cheese Add more sauce Repeat Repeat Repeat
Bake in oven until it’s hot
Okay. Not bad for a third grader. We survived writing that. But the next day he needed to write another poem in a different style. Forget any progress we made yesterday. We were back to the same drama. “But there’s nothing good to write about! I can’t do this!”
“Okay. Well, what’s the grossest thing you can think about?”
“Poop,” he said with a defiant sneer, thinking he was going to call my bluff.
“Okay. Let’s write about poop. Haikus are five-Seven-five syllables, remember?” He looked at me for a beat, raised an eyebrow, got a mischievous look in his eye and went to work.
He was quite pleased with himself. Now you might be wondering, “But what did his teacher say?!? Wasn’t she appalled? How do they give detentions during eLearning?!” Well, luckily my kids have had some really amazing teachers and I knew this wouldn’t phase her a bit. Plus they all know what a nut job of a mom the inmates have, so the bar has been set pretty low I’m guessing. In fact his teacher responded that she thought it was funny and that it fit the pattern, even though Haikus are supposed to be about nature. Ummm, excuse me. What’s more natural than POOP??!
So the next day was yet another poem type to write. But it was game on for Young son! “Today I’m gonna write about FARTS!”
“Fantastic!” We reviewed the remaining styles of poetry he could choose from and he thought alliteration would be the best. After all, he had lots of expertise in the subject matter. After a bit of word smithing together, here’s his poem in all its glory:
Farts Freddy farted ferociously. He ate a billion baked bean burritos His powerful poof produced a plume of poison Freddy fainted flat.
Young Son beamed with pride and would randomly recite it throughout the day followed by gales of laughter. That night, his teacher died laughing and said it made her spit out her tea at her computer when she read it. You would have thought she had awarded him a Pulitzer, he was so proud of such high praise!
Now granted these aren’t “hang on the locker for Arts and Academics Night” material for all the parents to see, but it got him to write poetry with the least amount of pain for both of us. I consider that a huge win.
After all, Alfred Mercier said, “What we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” Still, I’m not holding out for a future career in poetry for him. But we survived the third grade poetry unit. Better yet, we had a positive step away from a fixed mindset toward a growth mindset. Success.