- Posts for Monday Musings category
Back to School | Our Prairie Nest
Back to School

I’m experiencing mixed feelings about the kids going back to school this year. But tomorrow is the day.

For my daughter, it should be yet another lovely year of childhood. She’s going into second grade. She’s smart and feisty, and loves school and her friends. This ought to be a fun year.

My son is a senior in high school, and this should be his “Grease” year. Fun and exciting things should happen, while he figures out his future. With all the free periods he has in his schedule, he should be able to use the time toward college credits.

Last year started off with all of these lovely things. I had a new planner and enjoyed marking off special school events in it. We looked forward to spring sports – track and softball, neither of which my kids got to do. In March, we had them home and did our best to pull together to finish out their school year.

I’m sorry for what my kids missed out on last year, but more grateful that we’ve all been healthy and safe. The distance from friends had more of an effect on my daughter than my son. Fortunately, she was able to see a few friends here and there over the summer, but it was nothing like a “normal” year.

If our district switches to remote learning, we will manage just fine. Some families won’t. I know we’re lucky. I know we’ll be okay. But I don’t know if we’ll get sick or what will happen if we do. That’s the scary part, really. The uncertainty.

Of course, every day is uncertain, but I’m risk averse. And, this year, school is more of a risk than usual.

Our Meal Plan | Our Prairie Nest
Our Meal Plan

Right? RIGHT?!

This has been me for my entire adulthood. At least, until last year when my husband and I finally decided to get a handle on meal-planning. If you’re the same way, flailing at the grocery store or home about what to eat, here is one way to make it much easier.

Create a Spreadsheet

We created a spreadsheet with two tabs – Month One and Month Two. The plan has four weeks per month, and we don’t fret too much about a week five.

Each week has meals planned for Monday through Sunday, with a hyperlink to the recipe. When it’s time to place my grocery order for the week, I work off a handwritten shopping list where we write things that are low or we’ve run out of, and then the recipes that are linked for the week. It makes placing my grocery order so much easier!

That’s all there is to it! We started small, with the things we normally like to make, and slowly filled in the weeks as we found recipes we liked. It took time, so I want to emphasize that you don’t need to feel like you have to fill in the entire two months, or one month, or even every single week!

Start with what you’re accustomed to cooking. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If your first week is hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken, and spaghetti, so what? Just put the information in there.

Then think about how you might want to space out your meals. Are you looking to add more vegetarian dishes? More seafood? Lighter meals?

Google is your best friend. Enter the search terms you want and get started. For example, I find myself looking for new recipes often and my searches are always driven by the season. Summertime usually means I’m looking for “light summer meals” and winter puts me in the mood for “comfort food” or soups or stews.

It’s also important to think about who is doing the cooking. My husband cooks five nights a week. I only cook on Saturdays and Sundays. So I like to make sure he has a balance of “easy” days with the more complicated meals. There’s also the option for frozen pizza at all times. Not as delicious as homemade, but sometimes the primary cook needs a break!

I like to have soup as a weekly option, because it usually makes plenty of leftovers for me to bring to work throughout the week. I also have tried to group certain foods together, so some weeks might include more sweet potatoes, for example, or more beans. It makes the shopping even easier.

But there’s no need to get that complicated or detailed from the get-go. Start with what you know, figure out what you want to eat, and then start adding recipes little by little.

For me, it’s just nice to open the spreadsheet on Friday night, and do my grocery shopping off it from the comfort of my own home. And I never have to ask, “What are we having for dinner this week?” 🙂

Prettier on the Outside | Our Prairie Nest
Prettier on the Outside

This incubator of plague and sower of dissent is my daughter. I love her with all my heart, but motherhood isn’t easy, no matter how cute the child appears. Sure, plenty of people do tell me she’s cute – “So cute!” “How adorable!” “I just love her.” “She’s no trouble at all.” To the outside world, what you see is what you get.

But we know the truth about our children. We know no amount of dreamy, Instagram-filtered photos can convince us otherwise. Our children are tiny monsters of varying degrees, with superpowers we never knew existed until they were born.

In her first 6 years, my daughter:

  1. Informed me that she thinks I hate her and wish I never had her (this is because we grounded her for sneaking outside with her unwanted dinner and trying to throw it in our trash can to fool us into thinking she’d eaten);
  2. Had various colds and hand, foot and mouth disease (something I, as a city-bred New Englander, thought only hoofed animals contracted);
  3. Managed to make up fantastic stories to explain mundane things, like how a Raggedy Ann doll got all the way up on top of a bookshelf (according to her, our smallest parrot found a way out of his cage, picked up the doll, and flew it up there; another time, she informed me that a monkey farted on her finger, causing her pain… what?).

When my husband and I fight, it’s only about one thing: how to parent our daughter. While my daughter is rolling in mud, organizing her spiders to worship their queen, and plotting how to hide the evidence that she didn’t eat her broccoli, my 17-year-old son is calmly ambivalent about his sexuality, strumming a guitar, and going with friends to Taco Bell.

I never had these challenges with my son. I am one of the moms who was duped into thinking, “Wow, the first child is so easy, the second will be a breeze!” Why, why, why did I think that?

Here’s something else I’m also guilty of thinking: that other kids suck. When I see a child screaming in a grocery store or a mother with 5 kids clinging to her, I look at my daughter and say, “I’m so grateful for you.”

But I think most moms don’t actually suck at parenting. I think most of us are doing the best we can, and most of us only see what others allow us to see. I think we all make our parenting choices and hope for the best. And, honestly, we need to let it be that way.

So next time your child is organizing a household mutiny or you suspect them of seditious intentions, don’t despair. I’m pretty sure you aren’t alone.

Releasing or That night Daniel saved me from prom | Our Prairie Nest
Releasing (or the night Daniel saved me from prom)

Blame the New Year, blame 2020, blame the eclipses, but here’s the truth: it’s not them, it’s me. And I realized I tried to do and be too much last year.

Late last year, I started getting headaches, something I don’t generally suffer from. I had more sleepless nights than ever, and I lost about 10 pounds because… Well, I don’t know why, but it happened and I know it’s not a good thing.

The first weekend of December, I went to Midwest Furfest with my husband and son. We’ve gone in previous years, but not the past couple because A. it was getting a little stale and B. renovations took priority. But this year I had a little bonus from doing some editing work on the side, so off to Chicago we went for MFF 2019 and I am so glad we did. We chilled. We laughed. We raved. It was fantastic and it was eye-opening.

What I realized that first weekend in December was that there were things I didn’t miss back home. Things I was doing because I did have an interest at first, only to find out they brought on more stress than satisfaction.

Maybe some people are stubborn and will push through that, but not me. It took another month to realize my body was telling me something: to stop, fall back on what I truly care about, and let the other stuff go.

I want to spend time with my family and my birds, get back to writing (which has been going slower than I want), focus on genealogy again, spend more time gaming (we’re going weekly with D&D), go out with friends for coffee, and have the freedom to sit down and watch TV at the end of the day. I’ve actually been pining to watch Turn since I saw the first episode, but every weekend I think I’m going to get back to it, something happens.

The entire month of December was full of highs and lows, which is pretty normal. However, the lows of 2019 were some of the worst. I’m burned out on the things I’ve tried, from socializing at the Mom Prom to being a Girl Scout co-leader. They’re all great things and I’m glad they exist, but they aren’t my things.

This sense of burn out has been acute since October, when I lost someone who meant a lot to me. It hit hard and there are times the grief still makes me feel incredibly alone in social situations. But that compelled me to drop the things in my life that don’t do me any good or stress me out, and spend more time smelling the roses (so to speak… it is winter, after all). So I’m in the midst of releasing physical things, commitments, and other things that literally cause headaches.

Last year, I found a job outside the home that I love, and am back to working in a law office, like I did for the first 15 years of my adulthood. I’ve committed myself to writing fewer books per year, but that’s still a priority because I love doing it. And, of course, I’m as passionate as ever about genealogy. I want to get more into the family history aspect of it, and I still get so much satisfaction and energy from teaching writing and genealogy classes at the local community college!

This year, I also want to make more time for doing what I want to do. Like taking an impromptu trip to Carhenge. Or spending a day cross-stitching with my daughter. Or finally visiting an archive in Nova Scotia.

The thing is, we’re in a place that isn’t permanent for us. I don’t just mean Nebraska, but life. So we ought to live our lives, our way. Yannowhadimean? Yeah, you do.