Cooking almost every night

Most evenings you can find me in the kitchen cooking dinner. My neighbor, a mother of three grown daughters, marveled over this since she doesn’t cook every night now and certainly didn’t when her girls were younger.

But I don’t find this odd. When I was growing up, most evenings my mom cooked. In the summer, my dad might grill but my mom was still in the kitchen making the salad or side dishes. To me, it is just natural to cook dinner rather than eat out.

Now, I am a stay-at-home mom, so I am sure there are people out there who think that is the only reason I have the time to cook at home. But even when I worked, I cooked daily.

But looking at reports, I am certainly not the norm. Only a third of Americans cook at home daily. Fifty percent say they cook at home between three and six days a week. And then there are the Millennials (those age 19 to 35) who cook only once or twice a week – if at all.

Wow.

These numbers come as a shock to me. I hadn’t realized that cooking at home was that odd. Now, I do know several parents who have their kids in every activity under the sun, so they get home late or need to eat on the run. These families do eat out more or pick up convenience food from the grocery store.

And there are those that work who juggle their commute with family duties or perhaps even a second job. It does take time to plan, shop, prepare, cook and clean up. So, time is definitely a factor for many families that it is no wonder many don’t cook.

And nowadays it is easier than ever not to cook. There are restaurants, fast-food places, places that deliver to your door, meal subscription kits and even pre-made meals you can pick up at the grocery store.

But with some planning, I don’t find cooking at home to be that much of a chore. There are plenty of cookbooks out there with quick meals and with insta-pots or slow cookers, the number of meals you can quickly get on the table are plentiful.

Some people even spend part of their weekend prepping meals for the week or even batch cooking meals. My brother, who lives alone, does batch cooking. He makes large meals and then stores individual servings in his freezer. He can enjoy a home cooked meal by simply popping one in the microwave.

The closest I come to planning ahead is I write out a 2-week menu of meals. We don’t necessarily have them on the days I write them down, but it does make grocery shopping easier. It allows me to ensure that I have the ingredients for those meals and lets me plan for super quick meals when I know there is a tight evening schedule.

And there are so many benefits to cooking and eating at home. It is healthier. It is cheaper. And research shows that those who eat at home regularly tend to be happier. I’m not sure that last one is true but the savings and the family time make it worth it for me.

 

How I met my husband

No, this isn’t my version of the TV show How I met your mother. I certainly am not that funny.

Yesterday was my husband’s 46th birthday. We met 26 years ago last month and began dating two months later. I always tell people who ask how we met that he just one day turned up on my doorstep. And for the most part that is true.

Twenty-six years ago, I was in my junior year of college. I shared an on-campus apartment with three other women – my best friend Kate, our friend from high school Joy and Barbara, a friend of Joy’s. It was a pretty nice arrangement. We each had our own bedroom, two bathrooms, a common area living room and a full kitchen with an attached dining area. There were two doors to the unit. One door led to the parking lot and the other opened to the street and faced the campus.

Ryder, Susan & Kate by a waterfall in San Antonio (Spring Break 1993)

One afternoon in late October, Kate and I were doing our homework when someone knocked on the door leading to the parking lot. I opened it to find a cute guy standing there. In an exasperated voice, he asked if Joy and Barbara lived there. It seems he had written down their address wrong and he had been to three other apartments before being directed to ours by Barbara’s boyfriend’s brother.

Of course, Joy and Barbara were not at home. After a few brief words, my future hubby was on his way. I can’t say I knew anything started at that moment. All I remember thinking was that he was cute and funny.

Later that evening, Joy mentioned that we had seen Ryder the previous spring. Kate and I had been heading over to check out a co-ed softball game. We arrived just a moment after Joy had been hit with the ball and broken her nose. As she mentioned it, I did recall seeing Ryder there and that he invited Kate and I to play, but we declined as we took Joy to the health clinic.

Over the next few weeks after Ryder made a few calls to talk to either Joy or Barbara but it always seemed that when he called, I was the person answering the phone and often they were not at home. I think it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving that I ended up talking to Ryder for over an hour after he called for Joy who was still in class.

No worries about me stealing Ryder away from Joy. They were just friends who had a class together. Barbara as I said had a boyfriend. Ryder was friends with both of them.

Me with the huge pink teddy bear Ryder gave me on our first Valentine’s Day (1993)

After Thanksgiving, Ryder went to a basketball game with me and my roommates. I think it was clear to them that something was developing between the two of us. A few days later we went on our first date. We went to the mall to hang out and McDonald’s for dinner. And that is how this relationship started.

I don’t think either of us knew that nine months later (on my 21st birthday) he would ask me to marry him or that we would still be together 26 years later.

Another year, another trip to Alamo City Comic Con

For the fifth year, my family has attended the Alamo City Comic Con.

As always, this comic con attracts some big stars. There are really too many to list but here are a few of this year’s stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator), Rick Moranis, Jeff Goldblum, Neve Campbell (Scream), William Shatner (Star Trek), John Cusack, Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy).

And as we did the last four years, we went ahead and got into the spirit by wearing costumes.

This year’s cast of characters….

Imperial Tie Fighter Pilot – Jase loves Star Wars. Last year he went to Comic Con as K2SO from Rogue One. He was a Rebel pilot for Halloween. So this year, he decided to change to the dark side and be a Imperial Tie Fighter pilot. My husband actually made his helmet and added “extra” to the black Tie Fighter costume we bought off of Ebay. By the time he got done with his modifications, Jase’s costume looked awesome.

A Dragon Slayer – Lexie wanted my husband to make her a costume too. She picked a dragon slayer. I don’t know why. I think she was just grasping for something to be. My husband made her bow, sword and costume. She was a “battle” tested slayer with dirt and a few cuts on her face, neck and hands.

Arrow – Last year my husband and I went with a “couple” them – sort of. He went as Indiana Jones and I went as Lara Croft (from the Tomb Raider video games). OK so they weren’t a couple but both are archaeologists. This year we decided to do characters from the CW TV show, Arrow. Because finding green leather wasn’t easy, my husband went ahead and bought his costume and bow. He then custom made the quiver and add some lights to the costume (of course.) And we made the masks for both his and my characters.

The Canary–  I went as The Canary/Sara Lance from CW’s Arrow TV show. If you follow the show there are several people who play canary/black canary but Sara Lance’s character is the first. I pieced my costume together – black leather pants, black corset and wig from the internet and the black leather jacket from Ross Dress for Less. My husband made the eskrima (the staff like weapon in my hand – it breaks into two pieces.)

It was a great event, and we look forward to doing it again next year.

Money sails out the window as the school year begins

It is fundraiser time at both kids’ schools. In addition to that, both schools are doing different drives collecting items for needy families. This got me thinking about all the money you spend as a parent.

It begins in August with back to school supplies. The schools provide you with a list. Luckily, some of it like scissors and pencil boxes can be used from last year. But folders, paper and pencils must be bought. I spent $100, and that includes usually an extra or two for the teacher’s classroom (at least when they are in elementary school).

The start of school also means joining the PTA. That is $6 or $6.50 per person. I usually sign up both parents and the student at each school. And there are agendas (required at the elementary level and optional at the middle school level), spirit shirts to wear on school spirit days, class shirts for the elementary student (for field trips), organizational dues and shirts for orchestra, shirts for extracurricular activities at the elementary, gym clothes (two sets so you can wash one while he wears the other – I lucked out on this one as he hasn’t outgrown last year’s sets.) Total $150.

Then comes September. And you think it is time to put away the checkbook. But no…there is more. There are school pictures ($24/student at the cheapest package for what I need) and the PTA fundraiser at one school (another $50).

October hits and both schools are doing fundraisers. Lexie has a fun run, and Jase is doing catalog sales of overpriced wrapping paper, chocolate, household items or magazines. We of course bought/supported each child/school as I know there have been budget cuts to the schools. This money will pay for field trips and technology at the elementary school and will pay overtime for a police officer to monitor traffic in the mornings as well as some special assemblies and extras for the students at the middle school.

And then at the end of the month is Red Ribbon week, and both schools are collecting donations. The middle school is collecting socks and underwear for a center for disadvantaged students, where they receive five outfits as well as brand new socks and underwear. For the elementary, we are collecting umbrellas for a disadvantaged school where many of the students walk. When it rains, many of them stay home. Their principal wants to give out umbrellas, so our school is collecting gently used or new umbrellas. Of course, I will donate to both donation drives.

I also donated to a faculty candy-bar buffet at the middle school. And supported the book fair at Jase’s school. Alexa’s will be coming in December, but I have bought a few books from the class Scholastic Book Sales.

And last, we have a Bake Sale for the middle school orchestra. Not only do I need to buy some baked goods to be sold, we will also be buying some treats after the orchestra concert.

So, with just 2 ½ months done for the school year, I have already spent $550. And there will be more things coming – other food drives or donations, party food, pies for the middle school faculty at Thanksgiving, group photos, class photos, orchestra photos, the cost of Jase’s orchestra field trip. Oh, and I almost forgot Spirit Nights at 2 different restaurants coming up. A portion of the evening sales goes back to each PTA.

Whew. It is a lot. And yes, I know I don’t’ have to do ALL of these things. But I still do. I know that the money or items are really needed. Those funds raised by the PTAs or schools will enrich not just my kids’ experience but those of their classmates.

 

To get a hamster or not is the question

Image result for hamsterLexie wants a hamster. I don’t know what brought that on, but she won’t let this go even after I told her there were three problems with a hamster. Their names are Nikki, Spooky and Tails. Ok, so Tails isn’t much of a hunter, but the other two cats certainly are.

Hamsters and cats don’t mix.

I know this because as a child, our family cat killed the class hamster that my family was watching over Christmas break.

Image result for cat huntingCats are hunters. Our cats bring in lizards, snakes, birds and even mice. Some of these creatures are dead but some are alive…but not for long if I don’t intervene.

We explained all this to Lexie, but she still wants a hamster. She insists that the two can exist together. But Nikki loves her. Nikki sleeps in her bed. Nikki would be a threat to her new pet.

So, we said no to the hamster. But anyone who knows Lexie knows she won’t give up that easy. Every few days she would ask. And we said no hamster each and every time.

I didn’t think Lexie even knew what having a hamster meant. Did she know how to take care of one? I told Lexie that if she was serious about a hamster, she needed to research them. I thought the idea would discourage her.

It didn’t.

Lexie asked to go to the library to get a book on hamsters. When there wasn’t one in the children’s section, she got the only one from the adult section. And she read it. Sure, she had to ask about a few of the words, but she read up on what type of hamster would be best. She read about their care.

And she did something we weren’t expecting. She decided that to get a hamster, she needed to be responsible. She began setting her alarm. She got up on her own and was dressed and ready for school. Ok, that only lasted the first week. But she still sets her alarm and sometimes gets up without me going in there over and over until she wakes up. And she works hard to get her homework done and make it to her activities on time.

She seems like a totally different child. Oh, she still drives me crazy, but she is trying to be good. She is trying so hard that she has burst into tears when she forgets something or something goes wrong. She worries that that one act will be the deciding factor on whether she gets a hamster or not.

So, now my husband and I are thinking hamster…well, maybe. But the more she tries, the more we consider it. I still think if we get her a hamster that the cats will kill it, but Lexie seems fine taking that chance.

Miscommunications abound when getting info through my daughter

Last week, I wrote about this year’s extracurricular activities for Lexie and Jase. As I mentioned, fifth graders have lot of choices. They can help with the special needs kids (Buddies), do safety patrol (morning or afternoon), be in fifth grade strings (beginning orchestra) or be on EPTV (morning announcements). There is also choir, robotics or student council.

Many of these opportunities must be applied for at the end of the fourth-grade year. Lexie wanted to do patrols. She applied…and didn’t get in. That is practically unheard of, but the P.E. coach insisted they had too many people for afternoon patrols. He said she was on the waiting list. A day later, Lexie came home and told me if she changed to morning patrols that she could get in. I agreed she could do that. But somewhere along the way, Lexie must have not understood what Coach meant, because she still didn’t get in. She would have to wait until after the summer to see if anyone moved or dropped out.

So, I asked Lexie what else she might want to do. She said EPTV. I knew there would be an application for that too. I asked Lexie to find out when it would be. The librarian aide told her it would be after the STAAR test. The test came and went, and Lexie didn’t see any applications. I told her to keep checking. And then we heard they were doing interviews, and it was too late to apply.

Feeling frustrated, I wrote the school librarian. She admitted that when Lexie had spoken to her and to her aide, they thought she had already applied. It seems that the applications had been out for weeks and that on the day she didn’t get into patrols was the deadline. She asked about EPTV just next day. (She swears she never heard the multiple announcements to apply for EPTV.)

So, now it was too late for EPTV unless she wanted to be the backup camera person. But that would mean that she would only be used a handful of times if at all. We declined that option. The librarian had another suggestion. Every year, the librarian aide picked a fifth grader to help in the mornings with the kindergartners. If Lexie wanted to, she could speak to the librarian’s aide about it.

She did that the next day and it was all set. Or at least it is if you can believe what Lexie says. And I do…most of the time, but the past few weeks had proven that communication with Lexie or rather through Lexie was not always accurate.

As it turned out, Lexie did get the librarian assistant job. I think that was through persistence. At the end of summer, she checked in the with the librarian aide and then again after school started. In the beginning of September, she began helping with the kindergartners and enjoys reading to them a few times a week.

Little did we know that a few weeks later, an afternoon patrol position opened. Lexie said Coach told her she could do it if I approved. Hmm…I had heard that before. So, I emailed Coach and guess what. This time the information was correct. Lexie began training as a Patrol the following Tuesday.

All this miscommunication was frustrating, but I guess it all worked out in the end.

Extracurricular activities keep my daughter busy

A new school year has begun. Jase is in his second year at middle school, and Lexie is in her final year of elementary school. As always, a new school year can mean new extracurricular activities. I always try to keep the kids’ activities to a minimum (usually just one.).

For Jase, this isn’t a problem. While he was very busy in elementary, he has slowed down in middle school. His only extra activity this year (and last year) is the orchestra. Now that he has moved up to the symphony orchestra (the middle level of the three orchestras), there will be more rehearsals, more competitions and more field trips. And while I continue to encourage him to look for other clubs or activities to join, Jase is fine with his one activity.

Now, last year Lexie did two activities – took an art class and choir (which is only available for fourth and fifth graders). She didn’t want to do either one this school year. But I encouraged her to do something this year. And there are so many things – safety patrols, buddies (who assist the special needs students), fifth grade strings, morning announcements – offered to fifth graders that aren’t offered to others in her school. I was sure she could find something she liked.

And now, Lexie has gone from having no activities at the beginning of the school year to having several by the end of September.

Her first new activity is Robotics, which is a club open only to fourth and fifth graders. Lexie said she wanted to learn programming and that is what the club focuses on. They build Lego-based robots and program them to complete tasks as part of the First Lego League. She has a chance to go to a competition in January or an exhibition in May.

Because she didn’t get into safety patrols or a part in EP TV (which is the morning announcements at school), she volunteered to help in the library in the mornings. Every year the librarian picks one fifth grader to help with the kindergartners who line up and wait for their teacher in the library. She reads to them while they wait.

And then, after we had her down for just two activities, a position in safety patrols became available, and Lexie decided to take it. So, she began training for that at the end of September. She helps the crossing guards at any one of three crossing areas or she opens car doors for those being picked up in the car line. She seems to like it so far. At least she missed the blistering heat at the end of August/beginning of September and the heat of last May/June’s normal training period.

It looks like it will be a busy year for Lexie. Maybe next year, we will try going back to just one activity per child.