- Thank you SO MUCH for your responses to my Toddler Lunches perplexity. I truly NEVER thought about LESS variety. Which is odd, considering that I eat about three different things on a rotating basis, and my husband eats pretty much the same thing every day. On purpose! So I think I am going to Calm Down and maybe give her two PBJ sandwiches each week. MAYBE THREE! I have also fully embraced pre-packed things, especially fruit cups. The daycare has a requirement that we include at least one fruit or vegetable in each lunch, so having a selection of those little cut-up peaches/pears/oranges to drop into the lunchbox is very helpful.
- Speaking of things that you have helped me with: we survived the new babysitter. I had my husband write out a list of emergency numbers, and asked her show up 15 minutes early so I could walk her through things. Then, per Swistle, I let her know a couple of times that she could text at any time with anything. (She only did so once, to let us know that Carla went to the bathroom before bed [she is not potty trained yet] and asserted that she gets a piece of candy for doing so [which is true].) She was very laid back and confident, and all went well. I like to think that this moderate amount of preparation indicates a calm and confident attitude on my part, but it does not.
- Carla has mastered the concept of seeing one’s image reflected in a mirror, but she calls it her “collection” instead of “reflection.”
- The laundry situation is once again out of control. We keep USING laundry and then WASHING it, but no one in my household seems inclined to FOLD or PUT AWAY the laundry.
- Few things make me feel older than walking purposefully upstairs, saying over and over to myself, “why am I going upstairs? why am I going upstairs? why am I going upstairs?” until I remember why I started up the stairs in the first place.
- Speaking of feeling old: I got a manicure the other day – which, incidentally, is one of Life’s Most Uncomfortable Experiences for me, seeing as you are sitting two feet from a stranger who is trimming your nails and cuticles while making small talk and you CANNOT LEAVE and then sometimes, despite all your careful planning, you have to ask said stranger to reach into your purse for something lest you smudge your nails – and I turned to TV, which is one of my Go To small talk topics, and asked her if she was watching the OJ Simpson mini series. “Of course, you must be too young to remember the actual trial,” I said. I mean, I was a high school freshman and she seemed a bit younger. Turns out that no, she does NOT recall the actual trial because she was a baby. A literal baby. Born in 1995, the actual year during which the criminal trial took place.
- This winter, I’ve been All About Carbs – lots of noodley dishes on the menu. But this weekend I couldn’t bear the thought of LOOKING at a noodle, so I decided to do a big stir fry with lots of bell peppers. And as I was prepping the meal, I just sort of marveled at the perfect green pepper I was holding. It seems like such a LUXURY to have access to summer produce when there are eight inches of snow on the ground and the temperature hasn’t been above 20 degrees in several days. I remember my mother lamenting the lack of green peppers during winters when I was a kid. They were either shriveled and wrinkly or $4.99 apiece or BOTH. I don’t know if that’s a factor of the remote location in which I grew up, or that green pepper production and distribution is a booming-er business now than it was DECADES AGO when I was a child. But it seems miraculous, really.
I only recently took down the collection of holiday cards – the last vestige of Christmas. And the least visually/physically intrusive.
It seems that I didn’t read the cards closely enough as I was hanging them up: one of them caught my eye. It was from a friend of a friend with whom I’d hung out multiple times… but we’ve since lost touch.
Her card was a photo of her entire family: herself, her spouse, her two children. And there was a cheery holiday message at the bottom, followed by their names and respective ages.
And she is TWENTY SEVEN! This was deeply surprising to me, because, as apparently I do, I had just assumed she was Exactly My Age. To find out she is seven years younger was quite startling.
Why did I think she was my age? I guess because we are both at the same stage of life: family, young kids. Although I now realize I thought that she might even be older than I am, by a couple of years, because her kids are several years older than mine is.
It’s completely silly, you know, to assume that everyone goes around having their first child at age 32. And in fact I DON’T assume that, normally; if you were to ask me what the typical age of childbirth is, I’d probably say something like… 27 or 28. And even that is based on Nothing Remotely Related to Fact or Research or Knowledge. Just a pure guess out of thin air.
Maybe I thought she was my age because she is so mature? But that’s again kind of a ridiculous thing, considering that maturity has really nothing to do with age. I know plenty of people on both ends of the spectrum: twenty-three-year-olds who are wise and self-assured and knowledgable beyond their years and fifty-five-year-olds who could be fourth-graders on the maturity index.
I think it’s just that I’m self-centered, and view the world very narrowly through my own particular perspective, and so assume that people in the same stage of life as I am must be my age.
Or maybe there comes a point when you just can’t tell anymore. I feel like I’ve reached the stage where everyone age 13 to 21 looks pretty much the same, and everyone over a certain point in their 20s to, say, age 50 or so looks about the same. Or if not the same, in some middling range of uncertainty where I would be just as satisfied to learn someone was 25 as to learn they were 48. I mean, Jennifer Lopez. She can’t be a day over 27, right?
We recently switched daycares. One of the biggest changes that came along with the switch was the food situation. Our previous daycare provided breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack. Our new daycare provides morning snack and afternoon snack.
This has been… a trying change.
For one thing, I now have to feed Carla breakfast before school rather than plopping her in the car directly (exaggeration) from bed. This is a lengthy process.
For another, I now have to prepare (and remember to take) Carla’s lunch each day.
This has more than doubled the “what in the hot deviled ham am I going to feed this child” angst that I was already experiencing daily, at dinnertime.
I say more than doubled rather than tripled because breakfast isn’t terrible. It’s not great. But Carla seems happy eating the same/similar things almost every day. So I don’t have to think much beyond whether I am microwaving French toast sticks or waffles or pancakes, and which fruit to pair them with. And Carla is at the age where she has and expresses her own opinions, which helps. If she wants to consume an entire box of French toast sticks in a week, fine. Who am I to object.
But the lunches. THE LUNCHES. Trying to come up with well-balanced, interesting, tasty lunches is tedious and irritating – and it also compromises my dinner plans, because a lot of the foods are interchangeable. I mean, I have some sort of bias (why?) against lunch meat at suppertime, but I have no qualms about giving Carla meatballs for lunch.
In the weeks leading up to the Big Daycare Switch, I tried desperately to research Toddler Lunch Ideas. But either I was looking in the wrong places, or the only reasonable choices are bento boxes filled with cheese flowers and sandwiches that look like bunnies.
What I REALLY want is a website that says, “a typical two year old requires two ounces of protein, three ounces of vegetables, and one ounce each of carbs and healthy fats” or WHATEVER so that I can adhere to that. Because I just want to give her a nutritious, well-balanced lunch that isn’t too much or too little. I constantly suffer from feeling like I am either over- or under-feeding her, like she’s a goldfish or something. But I just don’t know!
(And then that dips me into the pool of Daycare Despair, and the feeling – totally wrong! and irrational! – that I am a bad mother because I work instead of staying home with her. And if I stayed home with her, I would know that she requires X amount of food to feel full and, by the way, she never eats cucumbers.)
(Daycare Despair is WHOLLY ridiculous, by the way. While acknowledging that it is not right for everyone, daycare is the right choice for our family. It is good for our child. She is happy and well cared for and stimulated – as much as any child who stays home with a parent. But even though I know this… and even though I would say so to any friend or acquaintance – with Firm Certainty… it still creeps up now and again.)
Let us shake off those unwelcome droplets and return to the problem at hand.
Based on all those websites with the adorable toddler lunches, I bought some little cookie-cutter things and a little bento box and a super cute lunchbox and got ready to meal plan the crap out of my toddler’s lunches.
I created a spreadsheet, as one does, and set up columns headed “protein, veggie, fruit, carb, treat.” Here is what it looked like:
The spreadsheet lasted three weeks.
Which! To be fair! That is fifteen lunches! It felt like A Billion.
But after that, I just had to wing it. Sometimes Carla gets leftovers. Sometimes she gets a Smucker’s Uncrustable sandwich. Sometimes she gets a Lunchable. Sometimes I freeze a pouch of yogurt overnight and throw that in on top of her lunch and she eats a semi-frozen yogurt with her lunch. And if I buy freaking snap peas for her for one lunch, I’m not going to throw the rest of them away. So she may get the same thing for a couple of lunches in the same week.
Sometimes I DO buy a nice thick slice of ham and cut it into cat and dolphin shapes. Sometimes I spring for the fancy pre-rolled salami-and-mozzarella twirls. When I make her a sandwich from scratch, I often cut it into the shape of a star. Occasionally, she gets a tiny container of Swedish Fish or fruit snacks or gummy bears. I try to make it fun and interesting enough that boredom isn’t preventing her from eating.
Of course, Other Things could be preventing her from eating. And, in fact, I still have no idea how much she eats. We get a report each day from her teachers, and they will say whether she ate “most” or “all” or “some” of her food, but I don’t really know what “most” or “some” means. And while at home, Carla continues to eat mainly nothing. So far she seems to have plenty of energy, she keeps growing, and none of her teachers have called child protective services, so I’m going to say that we’re doing okay.
I am always open to new ideas. But keep in mind that they should be super easy to prepare, and likely that she will try them. That second bit is tricky to determine. Some Pinterest post somewhere recommended these little egg “muffins” – that are just like scrambled eggs, but in a muffin shape. Carla has on occasion eaten scrambled eggs, and she seems to like cupcake shaped things, so I thought this was a shoe-in. But no. She licked the top of one muffin and that was it.
My mom had a bunch of really fresh and creative ideas… but they were all things I don’t normally eat, and so made me nervous. Like, how can I prepare chicken salad properly if I don’t know what it should taste like (and nor do I want to know)?
And easy to prepare is really important. This is why a lot of her meals include a cup of diced peaches or pre-sliced apples or peanut-butter-filled pretzels. You just put them into a little dish and you’re good to go.
But man. If I’m bored of preparing the food, I wonder how boring it is to EAT it?!?!
We have become pretty smooth about leaving Carla with a babysitter. In fact, we have a regular sitter whom we ADORE, and… I don’t think we’ve left Carla with anyone else (outside of family).
Oh. That’s not true. We did hire, on occasion – with permission, lest you think I am a no-good babysitter stealer – a friend’s regular babysitter. She was also great, but has since moved out of town.
Anyway, today I feel pretty easy breezy about leaving Carla. I still write out emergency phone numbers and where the sitter can reach us, and I still set out Carla’s nighttime pull up and pajamas, but other than that, I think I have Chilled Out quite a bit.
The first time we left her alone, I was A Mess. I typed out and printed a full sheet of instructions (even I am cringing a bit, thinking back on it) (although let’s be kind to Past Me, who was simply terrified of leaving her baby [her more than one-year-old baby] for the first time) with everything from emergency numbers to snacks Carla could eat to where extra burp cloths live in Carla’s bedroom. Gulp. Okay, just admit it: I even put “Call 911 in case of emergency” at the top of the typed up sheet. I just… I don’t know. I remember thinking, in a panicked fashion, what if the sitter sees these “in case of emergency” numbers and thinks I want her to call THEM instead of 911 if Carla is choking or on fire or something? Gah. Poor Past Me. (And lord only knows WHAT the babysitter thought, and whether she still tells that story – to uproarious, incredulous laughter, no doubt – at family gatherings and nights out with friends.)
Outside of being A Little Crazy, I try to be a decent babysitter-hirer. I try to ask her to sit well in advance. I fill her in on details a few days before, and I provide dinner – and a sweet treat – every time she comes over. (Although my husband and I discuss whether she even eats it, at this point. And whether she even LIKES the food, which I lazily lovingly purchase for her at the gourmet food store up the street and then put on a plate for her, and cover in saran wrap. And whether I should just have some sort of Frank Conversation with her about whether she would prefer I order pizza for her.) (One of my friends doesn’t feed her sitters at all. She used to ask her regular sitter if she’d like pizza or something, and the sitter always said no, so she stopped offering.) (That makes me anxious, thinking of someone in my house and me NOT FEEDING her.) I try to keep up on her life, to a not-creepy extent, and to offer her a ride home if it’s cold or rainy. I try not to text her too often during the evening. And we get her a Christmas present each year.
She is completely lovely, and she knows CPR, and she has lived on our street her whole life and has babysat for all our neighbors and she has a good day job and she is kind and easy going and Carla loves her to pieces. Of course, she has now gotten engaged (because OF COURSE, she is amazing) and so our days with her are numbered.
With this unknown limit on our babysitting time with her, I was almost glad when she wasn’t available for an upcoming event my husband and I are going to. Because it has forced us to find another sitter. (NOT the one whose number I got at a chain restaurant on the urging of my mother-in-law. I mean, the waitress seemed LOVELY and was very good at her waitressing job, but… I don’t know. Maybe this is a perfectly natural way to pick up a new sitter? I HAVE NO IDEA.)
So in a moment of boldness, I texted one of the lovely women who sees Carla each weekend for Sports Things and asked if she might be available. She was (although she charges FIFTY PERCENT MORE than our regular sitter GAH) (does this mean we are underpaying our beloved regular sitter? GAH) and so now I am hopeful that we will have a good backup.
But now I am pre-panicking about Dealing With Someone New. Do I… resurface my (potentially insulting but THOROUGH) sheet of instructions? Do I… have her come over 30 minutes early so I can walk her through Carla’s routine? The best part is that Carla already knows and likes her, so at least I don’t have to worry about Stranger Danger kicking in when I’m trying to get out the door. If this were a Brand New Person, I would have her come over to meet Carla before the real night out, or at least have her come over for a very short sitting experience – an hour or two, maybe, while I ran to the grocery store.
But what about her? How do I make her comfortable while making myself comfortable with leaving my child in her care?
I think if I were a sitter, I’d want to know:
- Emergency numbers, like who to reach if the parents never came home (gulp)
- The number and name of the place where the parents will be
- Location in the house of first aid materials
- Specific instructions about what the child can/should eat and cannot/should not eat
- Specific instructions about bathtime/bedtime routine (what time, what to wear, what happens when, where pajamas and pull ups and toothbrush and loveys and other-such live)
- If there are Other Rules and Expectations – like if I’m supposed to be doing dishes, or not going into a certain room, or no television (for me or for the child)
- Expected duration of the evening
- Any Common Issues – like, the child will definitely cry some when the parents leave, but will get over it quickly; or the child will try to hide before bathtime, and here are the places where she typically hides; or the best way to distract a child from Extreme Feelings is to make goofy noises and faces; or the child tends to sob quietly for awhile before falling asleep, and it’s normal and doesn’t require extra soothing
I would be very interested to know what other parents do to find a new sitter, and then, once they have a new sitter, prepare for the new sitter. And what sitters like/how they prefer to be treated.
A fun thing that happened over the winter holidays is that my husband and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary. Seven years! Seems like nothing compared to the FIFTEEN years we’ve been together, but fun nonetheless. And we hired a sitter and went out to dinner, to a place we’d never tried, and the evening was warm so we went to a nearby town that has a quaint little main street, and we got ice cream and walked up and down the sidewalks and went into a bookstore (and got glared at for still holding our – empty – ice cream containers). It was lovely. I wore stockings with polka dots, which was A Big Fashion Risk for me, so that felt bold and daring, and it’s always lovely to have a leisurely evening with one’s beloved, with good food and ice cream to boot.
To celebrate, my in-laws got us a present! It was a lovely surprise, because they don’t normally get us presents… (Or do they? Now I am re-thinking that statement. They got us a huge, beautiful wooden cutting board last year, and I have some vague recollection that six years is wood… we haven’t even USED the cutting board because it is too beautiful and because I don’t know how to clean it properly SIGH) Anyway, they got us a set of those adorable copper Moscow Mule mugs you see at restaurants, because the seventh anniversary is supposedly the copper anniversary.
It was very unexpected and something we would never buy for ourselves, so it was really fun. And I went right out and bought vodka and ginger beer and limes and something else that goes into a Moscow Mule and we had Moscow Mules that very evening. Quite delicious, despite the fact that I do NOT like vodka.
Apparently you can make something called a Dark and Stormy that is quite similar, but involves rum instead of vodka. But I like rum even less, so we did not try that one.
I would love to try something similar with gin, which is my liquor of choice, but all the recipes I found just sounded… suspicious. I canNOT imagine gin pairing well with ginger beer. And drinking gin and tonic in a copper mug just… didn’t feel right. (Perhaps I am overthinking this.)
But after that, I really didn’t have occasion to try any more fancy cocktails. My husband isn’t really an alcohol drinker, and I’m much more of a wine person. And I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm needed for making a fancy cocktail on a weeknight.
But those adorable glasses were just sitting there, unused!
So I bought some grapefruit juice and some more limes and some club soda, and I concocted a mocktail with those ingredients. And once the club soda ran out, I used grapefruit LaCroix instead (which I’d purchased… oh… a year or so ago, when it seemed like LaCroix was all the rage and it turned out I am not a fan). And the copper mugs keep the drinks very cold and make them seem MUCH more frivolous than juice and soda might normally seem.
I don’t even remember what The Thing was, now. It was something ridiculous. Like, tomato sauce. We have these shared shopping lists on our phones: one for the grocery store, one for Target, one for Costco. And my husband was going to Target that very day, so I put “tomato sauce” on the Target list.
When he came home, I helped put the shopping away. No tomato sauce.
“Oh no!” I lamented. “You forgot the tomato sauce!”
“No, I didn’t,” he said.
I looked at him, blinking. “. . .”
Him: “We don’t get tomato sauce at Target.”
Me: “I know we don’t usually get tomato sauce at Target. But… I put it on the list.”
Him: “But we don’t get it at Target. It’s less expensive at the grocery store.”
Me: “But… you weren’t going to the grocery store today. And I need the tomato sauce tonight. And I PUT it on the LIST.”
Him: “But we Don’t. Get. Tomato sauce. At Target.”
Me: Primal scream.
How..? How can something so perfectly logical to one half of a couple – a couple who have been together FIFTEEN YEARS and who know each other QUITE WELL – be so completely illogical to the other? HOW WILL WE SURVIVE?!?!
(At least now I know I will have to include “Special dispensation” or “One-time exception to the precise location of the typical purchase of this item” should I need The Thing at Target in future. Marriage: A Perpetual Learning Experience.)
You know that feeling, when you’ve been going along, feeling smug about something, and then all of a sudden you run smack into the fact that you shouldn’t be smug at all?
Yeah. That’s one of life’s least satisfying feelings.
My husband has always been a coffee drinker, and he spends, like, $8.99 for a 10-oz… bag? sack? container? why cannot I not think of the appropriate word here?… vessel of coffee at the grocery store about every week. I don’t really know how many cups he drinks each day, or how much coffee is required to brew a cup of coffee anyway, but he needs a new bag almost every week. So that’s about $1.28 per day on coffee.
I, on the other hand, would order a box of 24 Keurig pods of English Breakfast tea for $11.99. And I use one K-cup each morning. That’s about $.50 per day.
But then for Christmas, my husband got me this awesome little thing called an “IngenuiTEA” which brews loose-leaf tea… and then it has a special mechanism that allows you to put it on top of your mug and the tea comes out the bottom, into the mug, leaving the leaves behind. It’s AMAZING. So amazing that we put the Keurig away, possibly forever.
Alongside the tea brewer, my husband got me a cute little tea sampler with a bunch of different types of black tea and a tea called “mango tango” and an Earl Grey that smells so floral and sweet that I want to wear it as perfume.
I drink two cups of tea every morning. Let’s go back a second: I didn’t do that with the Keurig. I simply set it to the largest brewing size, which was probably about 12 ounces, give or take. Maybe closer to 14 ounces. I don’t really know, the machine did it for me. (I’m going to be one of the first people who starves to death when the robot resistance begins, aren’t I?) So in terms of K-cups, I was only drinking one cup of tea per day. But now, I brew the tea according to the directions, which are “one heaping teaspoon per eight-ounce cup.” So I use TWO heaping teaspoons to get to the actual amount of tea I require to feel human each day.
And now that I’ve tasted all these little samples, I am so excited to try all sorts of things. Oolong! Rooibos! White tea! There must be other types! (My previous experience with tea was limited to English Breakfast, chamomile, chai, and Throat Coat [by Traditional Medicinals – this is not an ad, I am simply obsessed with this tea when I have a sore throat]. Occasionally, I have enjoyed some green tea. Especially when it is mixed with lemonade, by a barista at Starbucks.)
So recently my husband and I had occasion to go to the mall, and we stopped at this tea place. I was aware of this place because it typically had a staff member prowling the hall outside its door, holding a tray of tiny cups of tea for passersby to sample. I had never been inside. It’s the size of a closet, but has so many teas I was promptly overwhelmed. I don’t know the first thing about buying tea! My little sampler had fooled me into thinking I had some sort of Tea Cred, but lo – I have no cred at all!
Luckily for me, there was a little table with some tea samples on it, and I tried some, and smelled some others, and thought, okay, I could see myself drinking this tea… Or, no way would I even shampoo my hair with this… Or, blech ptthhh pttoooey.
I talked myself into one of the teas, and then picked up a package… and. Oh. It was $12.50 for two ounces. That’s $12.50 for about six my-size cups of tea. That’s more than $2 per morning drink. That’s… Crazy.
(Turns out tea is one of my starling expenses TM Swistle.)
(Along that line: I really wanted to get my husband a… what is WITH my brain today? I can’t think of ANY WORDS. Let’s see if I can talk my way to the correct name of this thing. I really wanted to get my husband one of those little kits that has nail clippers and a nail file and a cuticle pusher-backer-thingy [that’s a word I’ve never known]. I’ve been thinking about it for at least a year, and occasionally when I would be in Nordstrom, I would think about it. And I even went so far as to ask one of the Nordstrom salesclerks whether they had any – this was some months ago – and they said, oh we typically get those in around the holidays, they’re really a nice stocking stuffer. Which is exactly how I was envisioning this kit: as a little add-on, not a big gift on its own or anything, just something fun but practical. So when it got to be Decemberish I went into Nordstrom and started poking around, and lo and behold there was one of these little kits in the Men’s Vanity Section. And I picked it up and… it was $125. Um. No. I am not paying THAT for that.)
(Never did figure out what the word was. Manicure kit? Why does my brain insist that the word/phrase I’m looking for starts with an S?)
After this parenthetical interlude, we are now back to the Tea Saga:
So I put THAT package back on the shelf and was fully prepared to walk right back out of the tea closet and rescue my Keurig from its lonely place on a shelf in the basement.
But my husband encouraged me to just try something! Don’t leave empty handed! Hadn’t I been yearning for some jasmine green tea? Perhaps the store sold THAT.
And indeed! The tea store had rows and rows of little cupboards – kind of like the little boxes at a post office – containing other teas, all lined up in the wall behind the counter. (Which I found very awkward and stressful, to be honest. Because you are trying to read all the little names and prices while looking over the shoulder of the teenage salesperson who wants to ring you up and nudge you on your way so she can get back to gossiping with her friend about Manda’s new tattoo.) I got really flustered, trying to acquire as much information as possible without taking too long or looking tea-stupid. And jasmine green tea was indeed one of the options! It had a terribly, ridiculously high price stamped on it. But I imagined that was for a POUND of tea, and I was so flustered and uncomfortable, I didn’t want to ask any questions to clarify that point or anything. To sort of hedge my bets, I guess, I asked the salesclerk for the smallest amount of tea possible. Which turned out to be two ounces. Which turned out to be the exact price stamped on the jasmine tea cupboard. $15. For two ounces. Of beautifully perfumey tea, all furled up into little pearls.
And then it turns out you need someplace to KEEP the tea – the tea from the little wall cupboard doesn’t come in its own tin, as it does when you buy an entire tin at the grocery store. So I had to pay an additional $5 for a little thing called a “macaron” (because it indeed looks like the cookie of the same name) and then I slunk out of the tea closet with my “my morning drink costs less than yours does” smugness shattered forever.