Bon (yeah right) Appetit!

As I was finishing up a conference call around 5:15 tonight, I could smell Andy making dinner downstairs and all I could think of was, “Pasta, AGAIN?”

While I was certainly happy that he was taking care of feeding everyone, the mere thought of eating another strand of spaghetti had me contemplating filling up on the Altoids in my purse instead.  When I asked him why the carbo-loading of late, he looked at me quizzically and asked, “You ARE aware that we have almost no food in the house, aren’t you?”

And then it hit me.  Between snow days for all three kids, multiple soccer practices, baseball pre-season, meetings and, oh yeah, our full time jobs (!?*), I seem to have forgotten the way to the grocery store.

Sound the alarm: the Shumways aren’t eating balanced meals.  AGAIN.

Am I alone here?  Lately I’ve found myself so busy that I’m lucky if Andy and I get to talk for more than two minutes much less gather the family around the dinner table for a meal consisting of meat, a vegetable, a starch, and five tall glasses of milk.

(Sidebar: I just pictured that very scene and almost started to laugh.  Our darkened dining room, filled with a chatty family, good china and a hot dinner rather than a lonely table piled high with stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else in the house?  Stop the madness!)

b57fb7b110c81770c5a95fb752b55248While I love cooking and trying out new recipes, it’s really hard for busy parents with even busier kids to make that happen.  I mean, if I can’t even get to the grocery store, well, there are only so many dinners you can make with a jar of pickles, Dijon mustard, eight eggs and a bunch of wilting kale.

(Actual items in the Shumway refrigerator at this very moment; no exaggeration here.)

There are times when I get a burst of organizational energy (and a quiet week with fewer meetings and sporting events) whereby I will break out recipes, make lists, perhaps even cut a coupon or two and hit the grocery store.  As much as I am so proud of myself when I’m able to accomplish this, it seems to be a bit of a rarity.

When it DOES happen, usually the dinner is cooked and there are only two or three of us around to eat it while it’s hot; the other ones will scarf it down when they return from practice or meetings.  It’s then that I get irritated and think, “did I really just kill myself to make Beef Bourguignon, just to have the kids pick through the vegetables and hoover the meat in less than 60 seconds?”

(Confession: Beef Bourguignon has never been prepared in the 11 years I’ve been a parent; extreme exaggeration on display here.)

At the end of the day, we busy parents do the best we can with whatever we have in the kitchen.  Sometimes our families enjoy a dinner full of vitamins and protein and other times they’ll eat pasta for the fourth time in a week.

Either way, if a chicken nugget and carrot stick is all you have on hand, then serve it with gusto, toss an apple at your child and hug them on their way out the door. Vow to hit the grocery store and do better next time.

As for me, it’s another busy day tomorrow so there’s a good chance I’m serving spicy mustard and kale omelets with a side of pickles for dinner.

With a tall glass of milk. Obviously.

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Toddlers and Tiaras? Not on MY watch…

Perhaps one of the most harrowing ordeals a parent can experience with her young daughter is the shopping excursion for a new bathing suit.  We had spent a few days on the Cape during last year’s February vacation and as any parent knows, the goal for this trip (in the kids’ eyes at least) is to spend 12 straight hours a day at the indoor pool.  Therefore, when 7-year old Georgia told me that her suits from the previous summer were too small, I took her word for it.  I mean, it could be that she had grown, right?  The thought of heading into her disaster of a closet (and risking never coming out again) scared me enough that I grabbed my American Express and we headed to the mall.

As expected, Georgia led me straight to Justice, her favorite store.  Never had the pleasure of shopping there?  Let me help: if the Disney Channel and Teen Nick had a lovechild and it launched a retail chain, Justice would be the outcome.  Any questions?

As we stood in front of the bathing suit wall, my jaw fell to the glitter-covered floor and I realized that Georgia had brought me there to buy a new style, not a bigger size.  Skimpy neon-colored bikinis with plunging necklines hung from ceiling to floor, and when I asked the sales clerk where the suits for my 7-year old were, she said I was looking at them.

Oh, the horror.

ImageWhat’s worse is that Georgia had already grabbed two bikinis and was headed for the dressing room.  I frantically reached for a somewhat less-revealing two-piece and followed her inside.  As she pulled on the first top and visions of Toddlers and Tiaras flashed through my mind, I panicked.  How would I talk her out of this?  Would it be possible to convince her that Justin Bieber actually prefers one-piece suits?

“Hmmm, that one doesn’t look too comfortable.  You’ll be pulling it up the whole time.  Why don’t you try THIS one?  It has these little sparkles on it and everything!”

Wasted words, my friends.  She was twirling in the mirror to see it from all angles as I chattered on, extolling the virtues of the longer top that came down to her bellybutton.  “And this one will keep you warmer when you first get in the pool, while that bikini will let your stomach get cold so fast.”

Seriously?  This was the best that I had?  I embarrass even myself, but a woman backed up against a wall will grasp at anything.  I knew what had to be done; I was just hoping to avoid it.  However, the time had come.  I had run out of options.

Breathing deeply, I looked at my tiny 7-year old Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model-wannabe and gave it to her straight. “Georgia, I’m sorry, but that bathing suit is inappropriate for a little girl.  You need to get the other one.”

At that very moment I think I aged 15 years. Ugh.

Of course I got my way (I was the one paying, after all) and after a few minutes she had come around.  But, I saw a glimpse into my future and it scared me to my very soul.  Today it’s a bikini, but what is it tomorrow?  A bellybutton ring?  A car?  BOYS?

I fear that neither Andy nor I are ready for what lay ahead as she gets older.  While I hope she’ll see us as cool parents who understand, I expect that she’ll see us as nerdy conservative ones who love rules and won’t let her get away with anything.  And you know what?

That’s just fine with me.