I hope you had a good 4th of July (for those in the U.S.). Every year we run the race in our town, see the parade, and go to the pool. It’s always a good time but we end up too tired to go see fireworks.
Since we’ve gotten back from our vacation in late June, I’ve been less structured with dinners. I’ve been planning a few meals ahead of time with the goal of emptying out my fridge. I’ve tried to go as many days as I can without going to the store. I usually go grocery shopping on Sunday. But with kids home, I realize I don’t have to be on such a tight schedule.
Now seemed like the right time sit down and plan our summer meals. Mondays will stay Mexican and Tuesday I’ll be focusing on easy pasta dishes with lots of fresh vegetables. We are planning to grill on Thursdays and go super simple on Fridays with whatever’s left in the fridge. Weekends are simple square meals that can also move to the grill. The name of the game is flexibility because you never know what might come up.
Here are some newish recipes I’ve been enjoying:
New restaurant-style salsa recipe I’m making weekly
Roasted Veggie Couscous (add chickpeas and it’s even better)
Our Second Cruise
We took our summer vacation two days after the kids were out of school. We went on a Caribbean cruise for 7 days. Our last cruise was almost 6 years ago and we wanted to try it again. Last time I worked much of the time (book edits) and we all got the stomach flu.
But this time we really wanted to disconnect (“we” is me and my husband). So we did not get the Wifi package. I didn’t bring any work or writing (although last minute I did try to bring my laptop but my husband gently reminded me of our plan). The kids brought iPads but only for the plane (and no Wifi). We brought lots of books and one card game called Apples to Apples.
This was one of our better vacations. We had lots of quality family time. The ship had tons of excellent entertainment every night after dinner. The ports were fun (except for one excursion we wouldn’t do again). And the food was tasty. This was a big ship so there were lots of food options but we always had dinner in the main dining hall.
During the last cruise, I remember the kids ordering off the kids’ menu. They were 3 and 6. This time, at ages 9 and 11, they didn’t. The first night we sat down, no one offered us a kids’ menu. I kept thinking “please don’t let there be one, please don’t let there be one….” After a few minutes, we were finally asked if we wanted the kids’ menu. Both kids looked at us and said “no.”
For dinner, we got the choice of an appetizer, main meal, and dessert. Big A even had the idea of sharing bites of each person’s food so we would know what’s good for the next night. Little D liked the spaghetti Bolognese and the NY Strip Steak. Big A was also a fan of the steak and the salmon. I do think by the end they got a little tired of the fine dining, but it sure was nice enjoying these meals together.
Of course, there was other food offered for breakfast and lunch including buffets which had a little bit of everything, a pizza place and soft serve ice cream near the pool (kids got it every day!). But the best part was not having to shop and prepare food. This food break was way overdue and I returned home wanting to cook more than ever!
That’s what I love about traveling. It gives me fresh perspective on my life and I always come back so motivated. Plus, I read three books and got to truly relax. I will never bring work on a trip again. I hope to carve out a little time for reading and relaxing this summer.
But now it’s back to life, work, and kids at home.
The Summer Plan
After a few days back it was time to figure out what summer would look like. I know that if we don’t have a flow for our day it will be A) hard for me to get work done and B) too much screen time and C) we may not do everything we want to do.
So I sat down the kids to ask them what they thought. When should they have screen time, read, do house jobs (aka chores) and cook? I feel very strongly that when kids have extra time, they need to pitch in more. We talked about it and came up with the following:
In the morning they give me time to work. That means they make breakfast and afterword do any practicing (like piano) and house jobs I assign them. Little D likes to read in the morning since he gets up early. And Big A prefers to read before bed since she now falls asleep later. After some trial and error, we’ve decided that they get 2 hours of screen time and that they keep track of this themselves. If they get less one day due to being out etc, they can add it on the next day if they want. If they played with a friend that included screen time that doesn’t count unless that’s all they do.
Dinner time we congregate and they help as needed. Then after dinner, with more daylight hours, they can ride bikes or scooters, we can play family games or they can play with neighborhood friends. If it’s hot, we hit the pool.
We also joined Raddish, a cooking club for kids, so they have some cooking to catch up on. Every month they send a package that includes a cooking tool like a spatula, recipes, a patch (for the lesson), cook info and games. Each box usually has a theme, like our first month was Greece so there’s info about Greece, the type of food from that region and recipes. We made Greek chicken, Tzatziki, and spanakopita (pictured below). I plan to blog more about this — including recipes — in a future post! Thanks to my friends Krista and Rochelle for turning me on to Raddish.
The hardest part of our summer schedule is my own work. I got used to working out early morning but now I need to get work done so the two feel in competition. So I’m struggling with how I find enough time for myself and what I need to do, writing, and keeping the kids on track. If you work from home, let me know how you’re handling it all.
I’d be lying if this summer plan is perfect. Some days are good, some not so good, and others in between. I’m trying to keep the lines of communication open so we can make changes where need be and re-evaluate.
A few quick reads to leave you with:
New research showing that sleeping late on the weekend may help when you can’t get enough during the week.
Being called fat in early teen years ups eating-disorder risk in girls
Respectful Parent: 5 Reasons Kids Lie (and What to Do About it)
Karen Koenig: The Importance of Knowledge in Making Healthy Choices
Want to create your own dinner rotation? Check out Maryann’s book The Family Dinner Solution.