So was this an aberration or a glimpse of things to come? This morning was a little unusual, yet could work out to be the norm next year: only my middle and youngest daughters had to get up to go to school today and the pre-school time was harmonious and pleasant.
I’m not saying that my oldest daughter causes problems, nor do I mean to imply that we will be happier without her; I’m just stating fact here. I really enjoyed puttering around the kitchen, listening to my two youngest chat about nothing over tea and toaster crumpets while I threw a couple of lunches together and sipped coffee. Usually the youngest and I share this time, often with her off on other pursuits while I work, until the older two fly down the stairs, grabbing their backpacks and coats, and slam out the door. There is usually no nice, relaxing, convivial time.
Next year will see their oldest sibling in college, and away from us. We’ll get her back, occasionally, but our routines will all change in ways I’m sure we don’t even realize. I’m both dreading the lack of her smiling face and excited for her to move to the next step – it’s a very mixed-up emotion that I am sure I’ll be feeling for quite a while. Roles will change within the family, and the balance will shift to more adults than kids. It’s something parents work for, but I’m not sure we really want, in our hearts.
Granted, this morning was out of our regular routine because the eleventh graders were testing and none of the other high school kids had to be at school, so daughter #2 had a little more to prepare for. It wasn’t really a normal day for her either. Tomorrow is the same schedule, so perhaps that will be the litmus test of whether this was just pre-testing nerves that got her up and moving, or not.
Or maybe it was the tea and crumpets. I’ll have to buy more.
Last night there were no time constraints and nobody had to go anywhere; there was no need to put dinner on the table at a specific time. I could finish whenever I finished, so I gathered all my ingredients from the refrigerator and laid them out, working from one item to another, cleaning up as I went. I arranged a taco making station full of empty bowls and set about filling each one while the rice cooked.
As I moved from peppers to tomatoes, to onions, to olives, to lettuce, chopping all the components for tacos took on a meditative quality. Each stroke of the knife was a separate and discrete action, requiring no thought beyond the next stroke, needing no justification and no reason behind it. I had offers of help from several family members, but I turned them all down. Other nights, when I am fighting to have dinner done before one of us has to rush off, I gladly put people to work, but they didn’t seem to mind my good-natured refusal this time. None of them were very interested in the proceedings beyond offering to do their share and were busy doing other things, so they continued on. So did I.
The taco fillings I had made earlier stayed warm on the stove, sending a spicy, savory aroma to fill the kitchen that I breathed in as I worked through the crisp vegetables. The sound of the chop on the board, the cool feel of the veggies in my hand, the repetition of each action, and the satisfaction of seeing each bowl fill up with beautiful colors and textures became mesmerizing. I was almost sorry when I finished shredding the last chunk of lettuce just as the timer rang, indicating the rice was done.
I set out the hot pans next to the cool bowls, and called the family to come and combine the bounty in any way they saw fit. The mix of crunchy and soft, cool and warm, creamy and spicy always satisfies us on many levels. I stood back, leaning against the doorjamb, and watched my children build their tacos, jousting for turns at the full bowls and then carrying their laden plates to the table.
I made my own and joined them. There is more than one way to bring peace to the household.
Grocery shopping. Why do I hate it so?
It’s not like it’s a difficult chore. There are far more unpleasant things I have had to do in my life as a mom (most having to do with bodily functions). I don’t have to actually grow the produce, butcher the meat, process the grains – it should be easy to feed my family in this age of plenty and convenience. But if I could hire someone to do something for me, it would be a toss-up between meal planner/shopper and housecleaner, and that’s saying a lot.
First, you have to have a plan. Wandering aimlessly is never a good idea; you end up with snacks and things that catch your eye, but balanced meals never materialize. Having a plan means you actually have to figure out what’s going on for the week, because with our schedule, we aren’t always all home and I’m not available to cook on lesson nights. Pleasing five people a majority of the time is also a challenge, and mixing it up so we don’t have the same kinds of things night after night – I need a production manager for that.
Assuming I have planned at least the minimal amount of meals, off to the store I go. Up and down the aisles, stand in line at the deli, stand in line at the checkout, load the car, unload the car, carry it all to the kitchen, and put it all away in the cupboard, refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.
All that to soon hear, “Mom, there’s nothing to eat!” Sigh.