My life will always have dirty dishes.
If this sink can become
a place of contemplation,
let me learn constancy here.
In my meditation on the needs of this household over the past couple weeks, my attention continues to wander full circle back to the kitchen. It seems I spend approximately 70% of my waking home hours cooking in it, cleaning it or planning out the execution of our daily lives in it. This is our art gallery, our walls feathered with primary color paintings, foam art, paper cuttings of various shapes and sizes. It is also our art studio and game room; an entire cabinet dedicated to Play-Do, paints, stickers, puzzles and the like. This is Baby Food Maker Central with all the steaming, pureeing, freezing and bagging that entails. This is the room that needs to be cleaned at least three times every day. This is the meal and week-planning hub of our lives...the stacks of cookbooks, grocery lists, coupon inserts, flyers, activity notices and calendars attesting to the fact that "shit happens here"...and not in an entirely organized way. This is the room that so often hears "What the hell are we going to have for dinner?!" as I dig, hip-deep through the contents of the freezer. The room that witnesses my blind rush in the morning when I realized that, again, I failed to plan and pack school lunch the night before. The room that cringes when I sigh in frustration that, again, I procrastinated in the weekly grocery shop and now we're out of milk.
Clearly, my meal planning could benefit from a bit of an overhaul. As could the command center that is Our Kitchen.
And so last week I finally bit the bullet. I sent Sascha and the kids on a pre-planned activity with well-stocked diaper bag and sat down at the kitchen table, amidst my piles, and began the painful process of planning our food for the week. For some reason, I loathe this part of my job and I think it's because I never learned how...how to cook, how to plan meals, how to enjoy it. I never learned and it doesn't come naturally so I battle with this. And, damnit, it's time to come to terms. Gone will be the panicked mid-week mini shops after I imaginatively come up with dinner on the drive to preschool pickup. No longer will I scrape the bottom of the baby formula can and realize there is not a back-up can. I enthusiastically welcomed the idea of Organized Living.
It took me an hour and a half.
Granted, 40 minutes of that was spent griping to a friend and saging the house (nothing like clearing out the emotional debris, I say). But still, it took me that long to focus on the task at hand and knock out a menu for four people (with vastly different eating preferences) for a week. It'll get easier, it'll get easier, it'll get easier...
When I returned from the planned and organized grocery shop 90 minutes later, the house seemed fresher, more attractive and I felt a lot more calm about the coming week. Maybe smudging the house helped, maybe it was having a plan and feeling prepared in one realm of existence. Whatever the reason, "fresh" and "attractive" are welcome feelings. And I think I'll do it again this week.
Some Online Support (S.O.S.)
Raise Healthy Eaters 's Family Meal Planning Series has been a godsend. This entire blog, started by a San Diego mom struggling to feed her young, picky child, provides nutrition information, recipe ideas and emotional support for parents in similar situations. Kicks butt.