Monday, October 26, 2015

Meal Plans and Tray Lunches

A major component to achieving fourth day status (wow, that reads like legislative action was taken or a constitution written) is meal planning. I've written of the virtues of Blue Apron but now I will share my scientific method to meal planning. Get ready, it's mind blowing.

I write down the meals for the week on this pad of paper that has a magnet so it can hang on the refrigerator. High tech, right. Oh, yeah, I also look at our wall hanging family calendar to see what activities are going on for the week. Those activities influence the meals. Busy night equals a crockpot meal (tonight was roast that I prepped this morn) and early evening where we are all at home can be a more detailed, complex meal (let me be clear, nothing like rolled stuffed steak but something that requires a couple of pots and bowls such as spaghetti with a salad).

Since it is football season, we usually don't have to plan a Friday night meal -- that's nachos and hot dogs at the game. And, the girls have dance on Mondays and Wednesdays so those are crockpot or easy prep meal nights.

Meal planning also helps with grocery shopping. We only buy what we need for the week. I sometimes poll the room to find out what the people in my house want to eat for the week but oftentimes the call for spaghetti or pot stickers very night falls on my deaf ears. Fortunately, my eaters are becoming a bit more adventurous. I also don't have to have as much meat since Chris is not here (pause for a tear and sad emoji that I don't know how to add to the blog).

I have many cookbooks. I just bought three more from the used book sale last week. My Pinterest board 'What's Cooking' is also full. I have many, many choices on what to prepare for dinner, yet we stick to our favorites. A few pasta dishes, that I don't eat anymore -- limiting wheat and all; pork chops, chicken, crockpot soups and big salads are staples. Occasionally, we do breakfast for dinner. Grilled cheese sandwiches also make an appearance from time to time.

Meal planning is not only based on the week's activities, but also on the next day's lunches. Both G and I bring our lunch most days to work so we do leftovers. Dinners have to be packable and portable for the next day.

Sometimes, the leftovers make their way into the girls' lunch boxes. Nice, right? But the best feeling is when you see that one of your girls picked a tray lunch for the next day. One less box to pack and sandwich to make. Throw a couple of dollars at that. Drop mic.

Meals no matter when or for whom must be organized and planned to help,with fourth part life. Because here I am in my PJs, face washed, girls in bed, reality reunion show on ... Fourth part. In full effect.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Rainy days too close to Paydays

Sold Baylor tickets, check. Went to a used book sale, check. Dance clinic cancelled, check.

Solid amount of funds in the checking account for online shopping or photo book projects on a rainy day, uh, not so much a check.

It is raining. Raining a lot, it's not stopping so we are in our house. All of us. We slept in a bit because the dance clinic was cancelled ..... due to the rain. We watched the football game on TV ..... it was raining in Waco, too, so I am happy we were dry.

With lots of rain on a free Saturday, all plans are out the windows, which are now open because the cool, fresh air feels nice and we are getting a little bit of outdoors while we sit indoors. Again, the constant rain. We need it, I know, but a bit of a break might get me out.

But, wait. We have low funds in the checking account. Payday is next week. So, I couldn't shop anyway. And, since it finally feels like fall, I would want to shop. In place of driving around to stores to shop, I could have the rainy day option of online shopping. Nope, no extra denairo.

Oh, yeah, I have some projects to finish. One is painting -- not a good mix when it is raining. I think it would take years to dry. The second are a couple of photo books -- yep, can't order those. Low funds. You would think I would work on them so they would be ready to order after payday. Nah.

As a result of the aforementioned rain and lack of dollars, I've opted for an all-day fourth part of the day. That means catching up on DVRed shows, pinning like a crazy person and drinking cocktails -- it's Baylor's homecoming after all and I would be risking if I were in Waco.

My girls are busy reading books from the used book sale mentioned previously. My husband is watching college football so conditions are ripe for an all-day fourth part. It's all mine!

Maybe, just maybe, I'll get up from the comforts of my couch, take a shower, put in the contacts, fold some laundry, clean the refrigerator, repair a torn seam in a dress, and now, I'm feeling like thenfourth part is slipping away because I have a list of to dos.

So, I'm stopping. Continuing with the fourth part. Keep raining.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Traffic, baths and short-order cook

My commute today was right under three hours. It took me 1 1/2 hours to get to work and almost that same amount of time to get home. Nerves shot, energy sapped and gasoline drained (my gas and my Suburban's). 

Details that tonight was a Blue Apron meal night on the calendar which I've come to discover requires a lot of chopping and prep. On any other night, those activities with a good big ol' poor of wine would be relaxing and enjoyable. Not tonight. Oh, yeah, because I was also a short-order cook. As soon as we walked in the door -- the girls were playing at the neighbor's house because the babysitter had plans that required her to leave at her usual 5:30 p.m. time -- one started saying in that'll too familiar whine that she was hungry. And, she wanted pizza. Grateful for a frozen, I popped that in for her. So as I chopped turnips and cabbage -- it's finally fall! -- my other girl started saying she was starving (upped it a bit for dramatic effect) and she wanted oatmeal with toast. Knocked that out and worked on the red onion and figs for the autumnal chicken dish.

Holy cow.

After finally eating, cleaning up, loading the dishwasher, throwing clothes into the wash, I sat down and remembered the girls probably should be bathed. 

The internal discussion went something like this:
'They took a bath two nights ago.'
'It rained today so there was no recess so there was no sweat.'
'Both can wear ponytails tomorrow.'
'Oh yeah we have to do an observe the moon activity so we are going to use a wash cloth to clean off and call it a night.'

So no bath. I'm OK with it. Why is Camille scratching her head? Is she thinking or finding something that needs to be cleaned off? I'm going with pondering her word wall words.

Fourth part tonight was a simple glass of wine while writing this. I'll take it. Sometimes things are out of our control -- traffic and the appetites of six-year-old girls -- so we take a deep breath, pour a little more in the glass and sit.

Without baths.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Achieving a fourth part requires careful planning and preparation. It shouldn't create chaos or angst. Sometimes, it does.

In my attempts to get everything done according to my timeline, I sometimes upset the timelines of the others in my house. In the moment, I don't always catch the disruption, but I'm getting a bit better at figuring it out. (So, this means tomorrow all bets are off because I wrote that).

I can get the next day's lunches thrown together in a heartbeat, but I don't have to plow over the girls to get to the garage refrigerator to grab the juice boxes. I can take out the recycle and pull up the trash can from the curb, but I don't have to slam car doors to make it happen. I can sign forms with my right hand while unzipping backpacks with the left, but I shouldn't stop helping with the girls' reading.

Yeah, choices. Ugh, but choosing something over getting a fourth part. Well, yeah, that's called life, parenting, responsibilities.

How about calming down and getting the tasks done at a normal pace while enjoying the girls tell me about playground antics and the latest Junie B. Jones chapter. Or how about taking a breath, pouring that glass of wine and sitting down with the girls while they do the art square in the tic tac toe homework. How about stopping and smelling ... Oh, wait, do they need a bath?

Tonight's choice, skip the bath, heat up a corn dog for one, make a Nutella sandwich for the other and let the reading go a little later leaving the light on in their bedroom until they fall asleep. Then, for some mad reason, I had time to get in a workout.

Choices. Payoff. Win.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Steroid shot and Verizon

Would you rather call Verizon to work through billing issues on your son's mobile phone account or wait in a med clinic for two hours to get a steroid plus B12 shot?

How about doing both? Remember, to earn that coveted fourth part of the day that is all yours to do what you want to do and how you want to do it, you have to get through the un-fun first.

Even on a sick day, some things must be done to earn a minute of fourth part. 

I summoned up the energy for a shower .... that went kind of wonky because the sprinklers were running and I don't know how to turn them off (there's some mystery timer and switch somewhere in the garage but today, really?!) so it was a cold, low flow, no time to shave the legs blast. And, then went to the local med clinic that also interestingly enough does Botox, Restylane, Fraxal and all sorts of other face stuff. I guess when you are feeling cruddy, there's nothing like a facial pick me up to improve your outlook. I mean, you feel like junk, but you look good?

Then, I waited for two hours! Guess the diagnosis -- bad case of the seasonal allergies. As my ATL friend says, 'what the whatty what?' The doctor told me to take an antihistamine, use some saline nasal wash and call it a day. Oh no, for two hours, I'm walking out with a line-free face or something. So, I got the steroid shot with a dose of B12. She assured me that would only help for a day or two and I thought, yeah, why would I want to feel better at all. Give me the shot.

Bounced out, then I remembered I had a work call and a call to make to Verison.

Thank goodness for sweet customer service agent Jenny who,earned the rest of the day off. Long, first world problem story short. My college-bound son couldn't perform at the highest academic level without an iPhone 6 so he found one and a deal that was too good to be true. A $300 credit thrown in here, 10 GB free each mont for a year there and then in the tiniest of legalese contract print -- a $760 phone. The payment for the phone was nicely broken down into $31 for life and we got a $25 credit a month -- really just bill us $6 a month. All in all, I'm fighting the phone giant Verizon for $430 but got the billing resolved. Can't wait for next month. Jenny and I became such fast friends, I even learned her grandson is five-months-old today.

So, Jenny is spending her fourth part with her grandson. And, I'm resting comfortably with a bandage on my hind side and a budgetable phone bill figure. I'm thinking the fourth part for me will be a cocktail that goes well with steroids. Glad I pushed through the seasonal allergies, unshaven legs and mobile phone company phone tree to get a brief fourth part.

What will tomorrow be? Another day. Prepping for first part begins now, I just heard my girls,and the sitter get home.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sick day(s)

Greatest plans can be made and then life happens, right? A holiday can mean a few things -- rest and relaxation if the kids are in school or projects and activities if the kids are at home.

I had a list going to earn me a few fourth parts for many an upcoming day. Photos downloaded and arranged into not one, but two photo books. I have a coupon expiring soon! Finish painting the laundry room. Take clothes to the resale shop. Complete the art and photo framing and hanging plan.

On top of this, dinner would be made, laundry done and two workouts knocked out.

Alas, I got a bug. Not a bug to wake up early and start the list. Not a bug to drive out of town to the beach. But a bug that knocked me out both yesterday and today.

Ugh. Holiday fun. And, did I mention it was a school holiday, too. Oh, and a teacher work day so my husband was out the door early for meetings and then at school all day for practice. Yip skip.

Now, I'm responding to pleas of hunger, cries of boredom and reading practice. All I want to do is pop some medicine and sleep. I've got a headache, body aches, a stomach that is not pleased with no food or any food, and a throat that is scratchy.

Because of planning ahead though, I've got a ranch chicken and rice casserole made and ready for dinner. That was a Saturday project. Most of the laundry is done. Bills have been paid. So there is very little real life activities that need to be done.

Projects can wait as I get some rest to feel better. Really, rest will have to wait too because I have someone rolling on the floor next to my bed repeating over and over 'what can I do, what can I do.'

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lunches and Backpacks

With twin first-grade girls, going through the backpacks, folders and end of the day lunch boxes is an effort. As soon as I get home from work and take off my shoes, I tear through the backpacks tossing barrettes, ponytail holders and headbands in one pile; creating another stack for papers to keep, forms to fill out and worksheets to toss .... Oh, and, I also dig in every corner of every section of the backpack to find rocks, crayons and other very important knick knacks.

And this is done at a speed that I can only compare to a pit crew or a parent running their potty training child to the bathroom after an 'I need to go' announcement. Because, if I don't get the papers tossed and special rocks out away before the girls pay attention, I'm then holding on to things we do not need.

I fill out forms while cleaning out lunch boxes. I start packing lunches -- juice boxes, chips, fruit bars, shelf stable stuff -- while working on dinner prep.

Yep, it's a whirlwind of activity. But, when it is done. It is done. Yeah, done.

Then that means .... A fourth part later on in the evening. A bit of a crazy fury, yet, it is our way.

Selfishly, my way because my end ... which requires some means that looks like a tornado .... is my end.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Blue Apron, Underwear and Emals

Seared chicken and caramelized fennel came in the mail today, along with two other meals in my first Blue Apron delivery. Wow, I needed this. I did not have to think at all about tonight's dinner. I did have to do some prep which didn't really fit into going through lunch boxes and keeping the girls occupied. But, I pushed through and everything was chopped and cooked by 6:30 p.m.

Good, right? Yet, I was no where near a fourth part. I had underwear to go through and emails to clean out (reverse that). The girls have (had) about 38 pair of underwear. Many of them no longer fit. So, we sorted. Rapunzel didn't make the cut, but we kept Frozen, Barbie and My Little Pony.

Next up, emails. Oh, never mind, laundry -- because we needed a pair of tights for tomorrow's tap class -- and I needed to get a workout done. And, ugh, baths needed.

Let's recap. Big plans to go through emails,and underwear with the luxury of a pre-planned Blue Apron meal. And, then, a few other requirements were thrown in -- laundry, reading, workout, bath. Then, a decision. With only emails left (let me be clear 2500 to sort through within a very unreliable mail server system) and a season premiere of a fav show, I had to choose. Did I want a fourth part or did I want to accomplish a task. I threw myself on my bed after washing my face and putting on PJs, turned on the TV, fired up the iPad and watched a TV show. And, wrote a blog post.

There will be about 200 more emails to sort through tomorrow, so that task can wait. Unless another TV show premieres.