Friday, November 30, 2012

Challenge #1, Days 3 & 4

The Good Wife Challenge was briefly interrupted on Day 3, simply because I was really busy being a good neighbor!  My neighbor (not the one I've mentioned in previous posts) just gave birth to her 2nd child, so I made dinner for her family on Wednesday--they got home from the hospital on Tuesday, and I totally remember those new baby days.  We wouldn't have eaten if it hadn't been for my mom, so I like to pay it forward when folks I know have babies.  I spent all of nap time that day making my old stand-by, Pecan-Crusted Chicken, and a chocolate cream pie.  Dan sauteed green beans and peppers, and I cut up fruit for a fruit salad--all delivered promptly at 6pm that night...when I also got to meet the sweet little peanut!  He is precious.  :)

I made enough dinner for my neighbor and for us at the same time, because I'm not about to go to all that effort and not have dinner for my own family!  I totally forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but here's a picture of Dan's plate after he had partially demolished it:

So good, it was eaten before a proper picture could be taken!

This was the most successful home-cooked meal we've had as a family of 5 ever, I think, because everyone at the table ate the exact same thing.  Everyone.  Abby loved the chicken and veggies, Jake ate a ton of the chicken, and Alex ate a few pieces of chicken (!!!!!) and the veggies (which he's never eaten before!).  It was so wonderful not to have to play sous chef to my picky kids after I'd been working on the meal all day--amazing!  The kids were totally bummed to see that chocolate cream pie walk out the door, so I promised them chocolate chip cookies after dinner--I fired up the oven again and let Pillsbury do the work for me.  I know that making cookies from scratch is relatively simple, but I also know that my mom makes the best chocolate chip cookies (and most other cookies, too) on the face of the earth, so I don't even try because I know I won't like mine as much as I like hers...I may as well not go to the effort!  Maybe that will be on the docket one of these days...

As an aside, I almost have the same philosophy about sandwiches that I have about cookies--my mom makes the best sandwiches, and even though I use the same exact lunch meat, lettuce, Miracle Whip, bread...hers always taste better than mine.  Is it just weird childhood nostalgia?  Do I have the ratio of ingredients all wrong?  I have no idea, but they just don't taste the same.  I do still make sandwiches, though, because unlike cookies, I might not survive if I didn't make my own sandwiches.  In the interest of full disclosure, Panera sometimes takes over sandwich-making duty for me, though...ha ha!

So I was a Good Housewife on Day 3 (the cookies really put me over the top!), but I wasn't as attentive to Dan as I would have liked to be.  I did kiss him goodbye in the morning and greet him at the door with a kiss and a smile when he got home (first time this week!) I didn't fail my objective--I just didn't do anything noteworthy.  I rocked it on the Good Housewife front, though--in addtion to making the best dinner, I also did four loads of laundry and got them all folded and put away!  :)

Day 4 was yesterday, and man, do I get tired by the end of the week...  Dan pointed out to me last night that I was being sarcastic with him (he is lording this whole Good Wife thing over me, obviously, because normally my sarcasm floats right by him), to which I responded, "It's Thursday--give me a break!"  He was puzzled and asked, "Are Thursdays now 'Sarcasm Thursdays'?"  We share a mutual love of sarcasm, apparently, but I've noticed that I get feisty and less focused on the Challenge the more tired I am.  That's not to say that yesterday wasn't a good day--I think I performed some Good Wifery here and there.  Dan was poking around the kitchen yesterday morning when I was making Abby's lunch for school, and was totally bummed when he realized that he had left his Starbucks travel mug in the car the previous night, so it didn't get washed.  I pointed out that his assumption was that I would have washed it if he had left it by the sink, when prior to me washing it earlier this week, I never washed his mugs.  Again, he's taking advantage of the Challenge--I just want everyone to know it.

Dan forwarded an email to me yesterday morning that included some glowing remarks about him from one of his superiors, and I shot back a quick, "Awesome!"  I was still thinking about those nice words an hour later, though, and thought that my one-word response may not have appropriately conveyed my pride in my husband and his work.  I sent him a long text message saying I am proud of him--something I know I don't say to him enough.  I felt really good about that, but he never responded...and I forgot to ask him about it later!  Oops--hopefully he got the text.  I also picked Abby up at the bus stop last-minute for him when he got stuck at work.  I even saved the last piece of that delicious Pecan-Crusted Chicken for him for dinner last night--after everyone ate it so well on Day 3, we only had 1 piece left!  I offered to heat it up for him last night before I had to leave to take Abby to gymnastics, and he said, "Yeah, I think I'll just have cereal...I'm kind of over chicken.  I've had enough chicken lately."  Ouch.  How can you be over chicken?  Chicken is pretty much all I know how to I guess I need to expand my repetoire.  I'm not sure what I'll expand it to--any ideas that don't involve hamburgers, seafood of any kind, or anything non-American?  We're all a bit picky in different ways, so finding foods we all like is a huge issue for me.  Without chicken, I am lost!  Roasts?  Steaks?  I don't know, but it sounds more expensive than chicken.

sad, unwanted piece of leftover chicken

After I got back from Abby's gymnastics class and all the kids were in bed, Dan and I had a long random talk--we don't often do that these days.  I can tell you with certainty that he wasn't at all interested in the story I told about some girl on Teen Mom (which I don't watch, by the way, but happened to see a clip of her stupidity somewhere) and her obsession with Ke$ha, but at least we connected and talked about things that didn't involve work or the kids.  It was nice to have down time with him after the kids went to bed--sometimes we (okay, I) get so caught up in cleaning up after the kids get to bed, watching our tv shows, and 8 million other things that come up in those precious few hours when I don't have little ones hanging on me that we don't make time for each other.  Last night, we did make time, and even though I now have Ke$ha songs stuck in my head, it was worth it because I think I hit the mark on TWO of the things on Dan's Good Wife definition list--seeking out more, quality couple time, and having conversations that don't revolve around work and kids.

So that you can get Ke$ha stuck in your head, too:

Yikes, okay--I almost posted her official video for that song, but I'd never seen it...and I suggest you don't watch it!  Maybe I'm getting old, but wow...I just killed a bunch of brain cells looking for a video version that wouldn't offend everyone!  I will say that I'm impressed that she manages to sing songs without actually opening her mouth wide enough to talk.  No wonder she's that Teen Mom girl's idol!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Challenge #1: The Definition of a Good Wife

Stay tuned to tomorrow's post for my update on Day 3's Good Wife Challenge effort--today, I'm doing something a little different.  When Dan was getting ready to head up to bed last night, inspiration hit me: We all have preconceived ideas about what makes us good at what we do--what makes a Good Housewife, what makes a Good Parent, what makes a Good Partner...but I hadn't asked Dan to give me his definition of a Good Wife before I embarked on this Challenge.  I decided to interview him so that I have a better idea of the standard for which I'm striving.  As a caveat, he refused to sit down for the interview, wanted time to think about his answers and write them down more formally, and was begrudging about the process because he wanted to go to bed...but I pressed on anyway, and may or may not have gotten his best definition of a Good Wife!

Q:  What is your definition of a Good Wife?
A:  Someone who doesn't give me a hard time about buying Christmas lights and spending time putting them up.

(He had just spent the last hour putting up lights outside...his 3rd attempt after as many runs to the store to get more strands.  Clearly, he wasn't taking my interview very seriously.)

Christmas lights 2011 on our row--this year, we got more strands!

Q:  No, seriously--what makes a Good Wife, generally and for you specifically?  I'm serious!
A:  Cooking, cleaning, and doing all my laundry.  I'm kidding, please don't write that.

(Behind every joke is some element of truth, wouldn't you say?  I totally do all of those things for him--except all the cooking, because he does, in fact, help with the cooking.  He also pointed out that he makes his own bowls of cereal for dinner when he doesn't want to eat what I've made--I don't know why he thinks that's a good thing, or why it was important to highlight here, but he felt that it was.)

Q:  Okay, please answer--I honestly want to know:  What does being a Good Wife mean to you?
A:  Someone who is supportive of me and accepts this military lifestyle, which forces us to move and unearth our family every 2-3 years for something that is new and potentially not nice, like Texas or a deployment.

(I view my willingness to move with him as part of my commitment to him and our marriage and family--not necessarily as a show of support, although I am supportive of his job.  He explained that a lot of military spouses don't feel that way, and their marriages end in divorce or the military spouse gets out of the military for the sake of the marriage.  If I didn't move with him, I would be a single mom with no income...and I would miss him, so that's not really an option!  I do want to try to be more supportive of him in other ways.)

the life of a military child--Abby during a move in 2008

A:  Being a Good Wife doesn't mean always giving a kiss when I wake up or when I come home...although I do love that because it shows that you're thinking about me.

A:  Someone who is patient with my mistakes and idiosyncrasies and failings.

A:  Someone who is interested in what I do, even if not interested.

(That one made me laugh!  How can you be interested if not interested?  Someone who feigns interest but is actually bored out of her mind??)

A:  Someone who is romantic/affectionate, and tries to find "couple time."

(When pressed for more detail on this one, he said that some married couples become more like roommates, and it's important to him that some romance always remains, and effort is made to seek out time together.)

A:  Someone who is surprising.

(I wasn't sure what this meant, but he explained that he likes to be surprised--like the time when I rented a ritzy hotel room and decorated it for Christmas unbeknownst to him, and I took him there as his Christmas present that year.  He liked that spontaneity and fun.)

A:  Someone with whom I can have good conversations that aren't necessarily about work or the crappy things that the kids do all day.

(This is something that I have been worried about--when we weren't married, it was endlessly easy for us to come up with things to talk about, because we led separate lives and everything about our days was new to each other.  Separate lives also worked in our favor during Dan's deployment in 2010, oddly--we had a lot to talk about, because we weren't sharing every part of our days together.  Now that we live together and our lives are so intertwined, it becomes more difficult to come up with things to talk about beyond work and the kids.  I think this is a struggle that a lot of married couples have.  He said that he doesn't like to be bombarded with the negative things that have happened at home when he gets home from work--he likes the positive kid stories, but not feeling my stress level hit him in the face when I've had a rough day.)

A: Someone who is not complacent about our relationship.

(I gave him a funny look when he said this--sometimes I feel like I overthink everything, including our relationship, and it must drive him batty.  We spend a lot of time talking about how to improve our relationship, mostly at my instigation, and he countered that trying to improve is better than not caring.)

A:  Someone who is complementary to my skills and strengths (whose strengths are my weaknesses, so we even each other out), and "checks and balances" me.

I read this list back to him and asked questions for clarification, then asked if that was it, and he said yes.  I asked if he had anything to add to the list (multiple times), and he said no.  I asked him if these list items were things I fulfilled, or if they were things that he wished I would do--and mostly, they are things he feels I fulfill, so that was good to hear.  He finally sat down, and we had a really good conversation about the list and how it applies to us.

I told him that I was really, really interested to note that he didn't once mention that a Good Wife for him would also be someone who is a Good Mother to his children--so that he wouldn't have to worry about the kids' safety, health, and well-being while he is gone all day.  He defended that omission by saying that in his mind, being a Good Wife and a Good Mother are two separate things--so while he thought of adding something about taking care of the kids, he decided against putting it on the list because I wasn't asking about being a good mom...and also because he feels like being a Good Mother is a given (um, it's totally not--does he not read the news?  Tons of examples of terrible parenting out there!).  I drew him a Venn diagram showing how in my mind, Wife and Mother greatly intersect and overlap, and I spend most of my time in that being a Good Wife is sometimes synonymous with being a Good Mother for me.  

My overlap is probably even bigger than this--not much room for just being a wife!

I found the whole discussion very enlightening--it was a little hard for me to hear that my full-time job of staying at home with our kids doesn't rank on his list of things that make me a Good Wife to him...especially when having a husband who adores our kids tops my list of what makes a Good Husband.  My list would also include a husband who is a good provider for our family, so I would include both his job and his role as a parent as vital parts of what makes a Good Husband.  He didn't mention either my job as a stay-at-home mom or my parenting on his list.  He wasn't at all intending to discount what I do with my life right now--I do understand what he was saying about how he doesn't think being a mom is part of being a wife, and just gaining that insight into his thinking is helpful for me.  I define myself as a Mother so much that sometimes I forget to maintain a separate identity as a Wife only...and that is something that Dan really needs for me to do.  Being a Good Mother does not automatically make me a Good Wife--something I need to remember even when I feel like I have little energy left after being a Good Mother all day.  I need to seek more balance in my identity.  I love that this Challenge gave us the opportunity to have this conversation, and I'm really glad I asked!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Challenge #1, Day 2

My cover is blown, the jig is up.  Dan read my Challenge #1 post when he got up yesterday morning, and came downstairs with a big smile on his face.  He said, "I read your blog...all is explained!" meaning that he now knows the motivation behind my oddly happy behavior on Day 1.  Bummer!  I was really hoping he wouldn't check the blog and I could pull off this week of Good Wifery in a vacuum untainted by his knowledge (and also so that I could complain that a whole week went by without him reading my blog--seriously, if you can't get your husband on board, how can you expect the rest of the world to follow?)...but he apparently subscribed to receive emails when I post on my blog (after countless reminders from me last week--totally shot myself in the foot on that one), so that kind of ruined it!  Now I feel like there's an expectation...I'm just hoping he doesn't try to take advantage of my attempted good-nature.  I'm not a doormat--I'm just trying to be a better wife!

Needless to say, my morning didn't start exactly as I had hoped--I was a bit bossy and a bit feisty with a dash of sarcastic...pretty much my normal self.  The Challenge needs to be the first thing I think about before I get out of bed, or else the day gets off on the wrong foot. I did manage to send him a sweet text while I was sitting at Jake's gymnastics class yesterday morning, and the boys and I tried to wave to him through his office window from our van...but he wasn't in his office when we drove by, so that was a bust!  I didn't pressure him to come home to pick Abby up from the school bus, which I know is something he would prefer I took care of every day--some days the boys are still napping, so he helps me out by picking her up, which is really great.  Yesterday, I handled the bus stop pick up, and then I took the kids over to our neighbor's house to play for a bit before Dan got home.  I didn't even complain once when my neighbor's husband showed up about 15 minutes after I got there...and he and Dan work in the same office.  That's kind of a big thing for me--I usually pester Dan when I know the other folks in his office have come home for the day already, because I know he goes in early enough and works hard enough to also be able to come home when they do...  So even though he doesn't know to appreciate it, I did make a conscious effort not to harass him about coming home.

Dan's workaholic motto!

After he got home from work, I stood in the kitchen and asked, "What can I do to help you, honey?"  He was sitting on our couch, and he just gave me the weirdest look, like I had morphed into a Stepford Wife and it was so alien, he didn't know what to do with me.  He thought for a minute and responded, "No, babe--what can I do to help you?" with a funny little smile on his face.  Hmmm...  Turns out he had no idea that I was referencing dinner--he thought I was just generally being helpful in my attempt to be a Good Wife.  It made more sense when I explained that because he wanted to make his famous stir fry (well, famous in our house), I was offering to help him get ingredients ready and prep with him.  It did all feel a little Stepford for a minute, though...

When dinner was over, I washed all the dishes (lots of pots and pans with burned on gunk, per Dan's stir fry norm) while the kids were watching Weird Al videos on my computer with Dan before bedtime--they get such a kick out of Amish Paradise, but the point is, I don't usually do hand-washing duty.  I have eczema on my hands that gets really bad in hot water and in the winter time, so I try to avoid all hands-in-water situations.  But Dan did the cooking last night, and I want to make sure our beautiful new pots and pans stay that way (for reference, Dan is a terrible dish washer and I usually have to redo them anyway to prevent us all from getting food poisoning), so I put my big gloves on and got to washing.  I even washed Dan's 2 Starbucks travel cups, which I usually leave for him to do out of general protest against his Starbucks addiction...  I definitely deserve a few Good Wife points for that extra effort!

These things are horrendous to wash by hand!

After the kids went to bed, my neighbor (she of the homemade graham crackers) invited me out to grab ice cream--she's been working non-stop on a Christmas project and needed a break...and she can always count on me if there's ice cream involved.  When we got to the Dairy Queen, I ordered my standard Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard and was getting ready to pay when my neighbor said, "Aren't you going to get something for Dan?"  It hadn't even crossed my yeah, not a very Good Wife moment.  I waffled back and forth--should I get him something?  He couldn't find his cell phone when I left the house, so I knew he wouldn't answer if I called, and I didn't want to call the house phone and risk waking the I didn't order him anything.  His regular order is an Oreo milkshake, but he hadn't said he wanted anything when I told him where I was I didn't get him anything.  My neighbor ordered for her husband and herself.  I felt like a punk.  Dan was a little bummed that I didn't bring him a milkshake, but he was fine about it--it just made me feel bad.  Here I am, trying to put in the extra effort to be a Good Wife to him, and I didn't even think of him when it came to getting ice cream!  If he had done that to me, I would have been heartbroken (that sounds like an exaggeration, but sadly, it's not).  Granted, I love ice cream a lot more than he does, but the fact that I didn't even think about ordering something for him makes me an abject failure on the Good Wifery front for the day.  Must do better on Day 3!

When in doubt, order the milkshake!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Challenge #1, Day 1

I love my husband!  I'm smiling!  It was a good day!  I love Mondays!  Okay, that last one was a little too far...but I'm trying hard to keep up my perky, happy wife mode going.  Truthfully, I'm not sure how I did yesterday, but I know I was trying.  On top of my Good Housewife Challenge, I had a lot of ideas for how I wanted to start off my week.  I was going to get up early and work out.  I was going to try to clean up the house from the weekend.  I was going to finally put away all the laundry that was in baskets in our living room.  I was going to make a delicious dinner.  All this on top of being nice to my husband...looking back, it was probably too ambitious!  I pretty much accomplished none of those things entirely, some of those things to a slight degree.  I overslept my alarm to get up early to work out because I stayed up too late the night before.  I did clean up some of the clutter and mess from the weekend--we decorated our Christmas tree this weekend, so there is stuff everywhere!  The house needs to be vacuumed and I still have a lot of boxes of Christmas stuff that need to go back down to the basement...but at least I organized them and they are waiting patiently by the stairs for a helpful husband to carry them back down.  :)  I did get almost all of the laundry folded up and put away, save a few shirts or Abby's outfits that needed specific hangers and didn't make it up the stairs before bedtime last night.  I did not make dinner--I realized that we still had a lot of turkey leftover from Thanksgiving, so it would be silly for me to cook something and waste delicious food.  Clearly, I had totally forgotten my husband's hatred of both 1) leftovers and 2) sandwiches...the exact plan I had for that turkey.  I ate a delicious turkey sandwich for dinner, along with some mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce...Dan ended up having a bowl of cereal.  Sigh.

As for the Challenge, I was feeling a little bummed about it because the day didn't quite meet my expectations.  I greeted Dan first thing yesterday morning with a kiss when he was getting ready for work, so that was right in line with how I wanted the day to begin--he was surprised, because I typically wave halfheartedly while throwing on some clothes and trying not to open my eyes (I am not a morning person!), so the smile and kiss was way more than he normally gets.  I know, I'm a bad wife.  Then I sent him a sweet text mid-morning to let him know I was thinking about him, and I sent him another text later to thank him for taking care of a task I had asked him to do last week.  There were lots of smiley faces and exclamation marks in my texts.  The attempted happiness with Dan spilled over into my attitude toward the kids, so we had a fun day--I was able to take the boys to the park during Abby's dance class because the weather was decent (but it got COLD as the sun set!), and it just felt nice to be outside with them.  When I got home from dance class with the kids, I was surprised to see Dan's car out front and our garage door open--he was standing inside the garage waiting for us, which is atypical.  Usually I'm calling him and pestering him to come home from work, not surprised because he shows up early!  It kind of threw off my plan to greet him at the front door with a clean house and a smile when he got home...but I did my best on the fly by smiling and giving him a kiss in the garage.

Kind of what I had in mind for when Dan came home today...

We came upstairs and had my failure leftovers for dinner, the kids had fun playtime with us before bedtime, and I had some time to myself after the kids went to bed--at that point, I was feeling kind of down about my efforts.  Dan and I really hadn't had a chance to talk--I knew he had had a stressful, busy day, and I wanted to hear about it and be a good, supportive listener...but that conversation wasn't happening over the din of three crazy kids.  It's a lot easier being a newlywed when you're newly wed with no kids...duh.  I was beating myself up over my efforts when Dan came downstairs and joined me on the couch--when he sat down, he said, "Well, you seemed to be in a good mood today."  :)  So he had noticed!  I couldn't tell if he was fishing because he had read my blog, but I quickly determined he had no idea about the Challenge--it's a little sad that I can't even get my own husband to remember to read by blog regularly, but in this case, I was glad because I kind of want the Challenge to be a secret this week.  He also said that he liked being greeted with a kiss this morning...score 2 points for the Challenge.  :)  Not bad for my first day's attempt at being a Good Wife!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Challenge #1

One of my main reasons for starting The Good Housewife Project involves my relationship with my husband.  We have known each other for 17 years, and we've definitely had our ups and downs over all those years.  The last few years have been particularly rough on our relationship--I was really unhappy in Texas three years ago, and that unhappiness spilled over into everything for me.  I tried to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation (I didn't know anyone/have many friends in TX, I was really far away from all our friends and family, the weather was disgustingly hot, and we lived in a really crappy town), but I wasn't a great sport about it all the time...  Dan was very stressed in his job in Texas, and it was a really demanding job, so that also took a toll on our couple time and family time.  It felt like Dan and I were at odds a lot, and then I got pregnant unexpectedly and he left for Iraq...  The deployment actually helped us mend some of those frayed edges--we were forced to communicate (via email and via Skype) instead of just go through the motions side by side.  The deployment also contributed to other frays--being apart for a year while raising children is very stressful.  Since Dan got back 1.5 years ago, we've been working hard on our relationship--we've availed ourselves of as many tools to strengthen our marriage as I can think of, and I still feel like we aren't on the same page a lot of the time...and that's hard for both of us.

with my handsome husband on his 30th birthday in 2010

Dan is my husband, and we love each other--always, period.  He and I are a family, and I chose him because he is my best friend and my partner in life.  I still choose him.  Marriage can be wonderful (and our marriage has been), but it's not a cake walk--Dan and I try our best to keep our heads together when things aren't quite right now.

So I started The Good Housewife Project--for me, so that I can channel some of my frustration into something fun and positive for myself, but also for us.  I have high hopes that this Project will help my relationship with Dan--by helping me change my point of view, and by giving me something to focus on besides all the daily pressures.

This week, I'm giving myself a Good Housewife Challenge:  spend the next 7 days being the best wife that I can be for Dan.  I want to embody the newlywed mentality this week, when everything was fresh and easy and light.  Be happy and greet him with a smile when he comes home instead of waving distractedly from the floor while I'm changing a diaper.  Be supportive, listen, and knock off the sarcasm (the #1 hardest thing for me to's ingrained in my personality!).  The house is my domain, so I know I get bossy with him...I'm going to try to back off on the bossiness as well.  I want to just generally make more of an effort--put more of my energy into my relationship with my husband.  I'm hoping that my 7 days of concerted effort will forge the way for a more-permanent shift--something we really need to help us find our way back to wonderful.  :)

Suggested reading for this Challenge--ha ha!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving!  There's really nothing better than good food and fun family time, and I love reflecting on what I'm most thankful for--my husband and sweet kiddos, great friends and family, our health, and that Dan and I get to spend this holiday together (not something to be taken for granted in the military!).  Our very first married Thanksgiving in 2004, Dan and I did the whole spread together, just for the two of us since we lived really far away from our families that year.  Our 2005 Thanksgiving together was spent at my grandparents' house in Ohio, and I didn't have to do any cooking, because my grandmother is the original Good Housewife, who taught my mom how to be the phenomenal housewife that she is.  I remember that Thanksgiving well because we had just found out we were pregnant with Abby.  :)  Thanksgiving 2006 was also spent at my grandparents' house, and this time, I convinced my grandmother to let me make the pies--kind of a big deal, since the recipes that my mom taught me are the ones that my grandmother taught her, and the bar is set really high.  Eyebrows were raised when I offered to make the pies--these pies are serious business in my family.  I wanted to help with the meal, though, and pies are something I make with confidence...although I truly have no idea how that happened, since I don't even make cookies from scratch!  As a caveat, both my mom and my grandmother make their pie crusts from scratch, and I do not--Pillsbury pie crusts are easy and fine by me.  I was super nervous about my pies not living up to my grandmother's standards at that Thanksgiving dinner, but everyone said they were delicious--and I was feeling great about it until my grandfather (who is a wonderful man with no qualms about telling you how it is) said, "Well, Jill--the pies were good...we're going to have to have Grandma teach you how to make crusts."  Thanks, Grandpa.  :)  We intended to spend our 4th Thanksgiving together in 2007 also at my grandparents' house, but Abby got sick, so my sweet grandfather drove an hour to meet Dan in the parking lot of a grocery store to exchange food (they made the turkey and sides, and I made the pies) so that Dan and I could still have a complete Thanksgiving dinner!  My grandfather must have thought my pies were okay if he was willing to drive all that way for them...just sayin'.

I make the Pillsbury pie crusts look as good as homemade!

Thanksgiving 2008 was in Virginia at my parents' house--I was pregnant with Jake, and contracted a nasty stomach virus Thanksgiving morning...  It had already hit my dad, my mom, and Abby, so I thought I was safe...but as soon as I saw the turkey my mom was fixing, I lost it.  Dan and I spent Thanksgiving in the emergency room because I couldn't keep anything down and needed an IV to get fluids for myself and the baby.  That was not our best Thanksgiving moment, but I did lose 10 pounds...I always wish something like that would hit me now, when I need to lose the weight!  Our 2009 Thanksgiving was Jake's first Thanksgiving, and we were living far from family in Texas--I was early in my pregnancy with Alex and had been feeling pretty rough, but I managed to make the whole meal for our little family of four.

Thanksgiving 2009

In 2010, Dan and I were not together on Thanksgiving--he was deployed to Iraq, so I was in Virginia and had Thanksgiving at my parents' house with all my siblings and their families...again, I made pie (but just the fillings, because my mom won't stand for store-bought crust in her house!).  Last year on Thanksgiving, Alex and I were sick (sensing a common theme here...late November illness seems to be a trend in our family), so my sweet dad picked Abby and Jake up and took them to my parents' house for the big meal with all my extended family.  He dropped them off along with leftovers for when we felt up to eating again.  2012 marks our 9th Thanksgiving together, and we spent the day at Dan's parents' house--his mom fixed everything for the main meal, but I contributed the ice cream and, of course, a chocolate and a banana cream pie.  :)

My chocolate and banana cream pies

I did have the thought to try to make the crusts from scratch this year--because The Project is forefront in my mind, I thought maybe I should attempt it this year.  I looked over the recipe and considered what I would need to make it from scratch:  I have a great mixer and of course I own a rolling pin, but I couldn't tell you where that rolling pin is...nor do I ever use my mixer--the last time may have been Thanksgiving 2009, sadly!  Using my mixer more will be something The Good Housewife Project tackles, but ultimately for today, I decided to just go with the Pillsbury crusts.  Dan's parents aren't as discerning when it comes to pie crusts, so I knew they wouldn't care at all if I used store-bought crusts.  Dan's dad loves my banana cream pie--he doesn't care how I make it, just as long as he gets to eat it.  :)  I did find a picture of Abby making pie crust with my mom in 2008, and that means she has made one more pie crust from scratch than I have!

My little pie maker--learning crucial future Good Housewife skills!

We are heading to my parents' house on Saturday for Thanksgiving Round 2 with my side of the family, and I'll be making 2 chocolate cream pie fillings--my mom, of course, is making the crusts from scratch.  Here's a picture of Dan's banana cream pie tonight--even with a Pillsbury crust, I think it looks delicious (and it was)!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Dan's super fancy pie presentation

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chicken and Rice

Since it's the week of Thanksgiving, I knew I wouldn't have much time or be able to put in much effort with dinners.  We had leftovers on Monday night from our weekend of gluttony--we ordered that pizza Friday night, went out to Panera with my old college roommate on Saturday night, and went out to lunch with Dan's parents on Sunday...we had a lot of leftovers in the fridge!  So last night, I thought I'd go with an easy old standby for me--chicken and rice.  Another staple of my childhood, it's a dish I've been cooking our entire marriage--and the dish that caused Dan's and my first memorable married fight.

this is what all newlyweds look like when they go grocery shopping

We had just gotten to Colorado Springs, fresh off our honeymoon, and I was determined to start our marriage off right...with at least some attempts at cooking.  I didn't want my new husband to know how inept I was so early on--although he had known me for 8 years by the time we got married, so I'm pretty sure I wasn't pulling any wool over his eyes with respect to my domesticity.  He married me anyway.  :)  After we got settled into our apartment, we headed to the commissary (the military term for grocery store) to stock up our fridge and pantry for the first time--there was a lot to buy!  Dan and I really had never been grocery shopping together before--sure, we'd run into 7-11 to grab cartons of ice cream after going to see a movie, but had never been on a real grocery run together.  I had a list (that's how I roll), and I had written down the ingredients of some of the meals my mom always made for my family when I was growing up so that I could start making them in my own kitchen, for my husband.  I had grand good housewife illusions!  Things were going well at the store--even grocery shopping is fun and cute when you're newlyweds.  We got to the canned soups aisle, and I stopped in front of the Campbell's Great for Cooking! soups.  I picked up a can of Cream of Celery and marked that off my list, and then I picked up a can of Cream of Mushroom.  Dan had been patient with me thus far, and we were just chatting about foods we liked to eat and meals we wanted to make, but suddenly, Dan had an objection.  He would NOT eat anything with mushrooms in it.  I tried to explain to him that you really can't tell there are mushrooms in the final dish, but he was adamant.  Then I informed him that he had, in fact, already eaten this exact dish with the Cream of Mushroom soup in it at my parents' house when we were dating, and he basically started gagging right there in the soup aisle.  I thought that was a little over-the-top, since we weren't ingesting any mushrooms at that moment, but he was beside himself at the thought that I would willingly poison him with them.  We went back and forth for a few minutes (we're both pretty stubborn, although I will say that this particular time, I was less stubborn and more petrified to stray from a tried-and-true recipe that I actually had yet to even try making myself) before we compromised and I bought a can of Cream of Chicken soup as a substitute for the mushrooms.  That's the one and only time I've ever made chicken and rice with Cream of Chicken--every time after that, I've made it as the recipe intended, with Cream of Mushroom.  Dan hasn't known the difference and hasn't been harmed by mushrooms.  ;)

Dan's worst nightmare

Chicken and Rice was the one dish I knew how to make for a long I think Dan got pretty sick of it.  I haven't made it in a while (and by a while, I mean more than a year...) and figured it was safe to throw it back in the rotation.  I love it because it's a really easy meal--the prep time is really short, and there's just really not much to it (1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup mixed with 1 can of Cream of Celery soup and 1/2 can of water, poured over 4 chicken breasts in a baking dish and baked uncovered at 375 for 1 hour, served with 2 cups of rice).  It wasn't until I was preheating the oven that I realized I probably shouldn't leave the house to go pick Abby up from the bus stop while the oven was on and unattended in the house...grrrr.  I wanted to have dinner on the table around 5:15pm because I was going to let the kids have a special treat and watch the new "Sophia the First" movie that was on the Disney channel this weekend before bedtime, so we needed to have time for them to do that and still get to bed at a decent hour.  Thankfully, Dan bailed me out and picked Abby up at the bus stop, but now I know to consider the cooking time along with bus stop pick-up and plan accordingly!  I am correct that it's not a good idea to leave an oven on when I'm not in the house, right?
Chicken and Rice with corn and veggie stir fry

The finished product (both the food and the scene at the table) was a lot more in line with what I had been aiming for with my cooking efforts last week--everyone sitting down together at the same time enjoying dinner conversation and a good meal, and everyone eating their food!  Jake had three helpings of the chicken, and Alex even ate a few pieces of chicken, too--I consider that a massive success!!  Abby always eats what we put in front of her (such a good girl), so I knew I wouldn't have to worry about her.  All in all, it was a very pleasant evening at the dinner table with no screaming meltdowns, and I feel pretty proud of myself for the effort.  Dan even said that it was really good and Chicken and Rice has always been one of his favorite meals--clearly, he doesn't remember the commissary fight, or the fact that it has mushrooms in it.  And we have enough for leftovers tonight before the insanity of Thanksgiving food takes over tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Very Bad Mommy Project

Thinking I should rename my efforts--gone with The Good Housewife Project, in with The Very Bad Mommy Project.  Oh wait...that's part of what I'm trying to fix, isn't it?  Let's just call these last two days an epic fail on the Good Mommy portion of the Good Housewife Project.  Yesterday was a classic example of a crappy Monday for me.  I think it all would have been fine if I hadn't gotten a migraine around 3pm--everything went downhill from there.  Jake didn't take a nap (he's in that growing-out-of-nap stage where I never know what to expect), and I didn't think much of it until the kid came downstairs right before we had to leave for Abby's dance class and announced that he had a poopy diaper (as an FYI for you new mommies out there, poopy diapers will always derail any attempt at a nap).  Seriously?  I have a monitor trained on his room for the express purpose of him letting me know if he needs to use the bathroom (well, and also that I can see if he's climbing his furniture, jumping off said furniture, and in possible need of a trip to the ER).  This is Day 3 of the poopy diaper at naptime.  The kid will be 4 years old in January--he doesn't need to be wearing diapers AT ALL anymore, so that just increases my frustration.  I've tried leaving him in undies for naps and bedtime, only to increase my workload by 100000000000000000% when I have to wash his clothes and his sheets and everything he touches/sits on/thinks about for days on end.  I just don't have the ability to keep up with what I have going on normally--I can't add that ridiculous to the normal insanity with no end in I always end up caving and putting diapers back on him.  I figure the boy will eventually no longer wear a diaper, and I'm just going to wait him out.  But days like yesterday, I get really frustrated with the whole situation!  So yes, there I am rushing to get Abby ready for dance, get two boys ready to take her to dance, and I have to stop what I'm doing and change a poopy diaper, all while trying to see out of one eye because of my migraine.  I wasn't moving as quickly as I normally do because my head was throbbing, and this wrench in the machine wasn't helping us be on time.

Abby announced that she needed to go to the bathroom after getting fully into her tights and she got undressed again while I dealt with Jake's diaper.  I asked him to go into the bathroom to use the potty before we got in the car while I put Alex's shoes on, and Jake insisted on taking his train (with three large parts) into the bathroom with him so that Alex wouldn't get it.  Yes, he just really dislikes sharing that much.  Here's how the next 10 minutes went:

Me:  "Jake, no trains in the bathroom!  Alex won't play with it--we are seriously about to walk out the door.  PLEASE go in and go potty."

Jake:  "But Abby won't let me use the step stool!  Abby, MOVE!  WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!"  (Jake has a major emotional control issue--every little pitfall of his day is accompanied by him falling to the floor in a crying, often screaming, crumpled mess.)

Me:  "Abby, let your brother use the step stool--you don't need it to wash your hands!  You are tall enough to reach the sink.  Jake, GET ON THE POTTY."

Abby:  "Mommy, now I can't reach the towel, and my hands are all wet!"

Me (washing my hands):  "I will get the towel."

I reach over to get the towel hanging above the toilet, and in the process, I knock one of Jake's three train pieces off the bathroom counter and toward the toilet.  Thankfully, Jake was finally sitting on the toilet, or I would have been fishing train out of a used toilet.  The train piece fell to the floor behind the toilet.

Me:  "JAKE!  THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I SAID NO TRAIN IN THE BATHROOM!  THIS IS WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU DON'T LISTEN TO ME!  NO TOYS IN THE BATHROOM FROM NOW ON, DO YOU HEAR ME!?!"  I kind of growled and screamed this at the same time while chucking large pieces of train out the bathroom door, sending them skittering into Alex's room across the hall.  The kids were a bit shell-shocked.  My head was steadily getting much worse.  Time was escaping us.  I walked into Alex's room to gather him up and head down the stairs to the garage.

Alex:  "Mommy, you're mean Mommy--you frow toys."

Well, that actually made me laugh--I did throw toys, which is exactly what I tell the kids all day not to do.  I also do think I probably sounded quite mean with my little temper tantrum.  My good humor over being called out by my 2-year-old only lasted about 5 seconds, when I heard Abby and Jake yelling at each other in the basement.  (I did manage to tell Alex I was sorry and throwing toys is never a good thing to do, so at least I had one redeeming moment.)

Abby:  "Mommy!  Jake is doing all kinds of things with his hands--he's hitting me and pushing me, and he has long nails that he's scratching me with!"

Me (while dragging Alex and 6 of his bed friends that he insisted on bringing in the car with us down the stairs):  "Jake, do you want me to kick you?"

As an aside, I have no idea where that thought came from, except that I really did feel like kicking him.  Obviously I would never do that, and usually I do a much better job filtering what I would like to do out of what I actually say...but yesterday was not that day.  Jake just looked at me with a very worried look on his face.

Me:  "Obviously I would never kick you, Jake--or any of you, obviously.  Can we just get in the car and try to manage to be nice to each other?  Your sister is going to be late to dance class!"

Jake (after we're all loaded in and I'm backing out of the garage):  "Mommy, you sure are in a mood today."  This is what I say to him when he wakes up grumpy.  Very observant, little one...very observant.

Fast forward to today--I was determined to have a better day with the children.  Unfortunately, some weird postnasal drip had me hacking up a lung ALL NIGHT LONG last night, and I got about 2 hours of sleep.  When this Mommy is tired, things tend to go poorly...  I got a little rest on the couch this morning prior to Jake's gymnastics class, and then I got up to get ready to go--I gave myself 30 minutes to get myself dressed, get the last-minute bathroom run done, and get out the door.  We were right on time--I was putting Alex's shoes on while Jake was in the bathroom when I hear, "Uh oh..."  Jake somehow missed the toilet and instead peed all over himself, the step stool, the bath mat (which I just washed YESTERDAY, not kidding, after the last peeing on the floor incident a few weeks ago...I'm really lazy about washing bath mats, apparently), and his clothes for gymnastics.  I. WAS. LIVID.  I yanked him off the toilet while growling incoherently at him (I don't really remember what was said, but I definitely remember that I was growling because now my throat really hurts) and sent him straight up to his room with a naked behind.  I considered cancelling gymnastics.  Alex sat quietly on the floor, playing with his shoe while avoiding looking at his lunatic mother.

I Fantastik-ed the bathroom while thinking that it really did need to be cleaned, so in essence, Jake was helping me accomplish more than I had intended to today...but now we were running late.  I calmly walked up the stairs, helped Jake wash his hands, got him some clean clothes, and got us back on track to head out the door.  Both boys must have been really stunned by my behavior (which is a good thing, because it means I don't act this way normally--I'm just having 2 bad days), because they were so good going out the door.  Jake even put his own shoes on, which he never does--I was so touched by the effort that I didn't even care that he put them on the wrong feet.  He was genuinely trying, and it was very sweet.  I love these ornery boys, even when they drive me nuts.  And to top off my morning, Alex says to me as I'm buckling him into his car seat, "Mommy, you're a bad guy."

I can't stay mad at these two little monkeys!

The Good Housewife Project clearly needs to add

  • Try not to blow up at the children in such a way that it brands you "mean Mommy" or "a bad guy" and you end up threatening to kick one of them

to my list of goals.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Case of the Mondays

Mondays are my absolute least favorite day.  There's the usual back-to-the-grind funk that settles over the house when Dan has to go back to work and Abby has to go back to school, but my Mondays are so much uglier than that.  Our weekends seem to pass by in a blur, and I never can quite remember what we spent 2 days doing...other than whatever it was, it did not involve my usual chores at the house.  I barely keep up with the clutter, mess, stink, dirt, and junk during the week--all hope is lost on the weekends.  We usually spend one day with my in-laws every weekend--Dan's parents live about an hour from us, and while we love seeing them and having the kids spend time with their grandparents, that one day does a number on the house and our collective psyches (mostly mine).  Maybe other people are way better at packing up for a day than I am, but for me, it usually involves throwing clean laundry out of laundry baskets onto the floor, digging through the pile for spare underwear, pants, and shirts for the kids, rummaging through the pantry and fridge for whatever snacks and drinks I need to take with us, and packing about 8.6 bags of various sizes full of all the stuff we travel with for the day...all while screaming at the kids to cooperate and at Dan to help in any way that doesn't involve reading the paper at the table while chaos breaks out around him.  So yeah, after that one day at my in-laws' (usually Sunday), it looks like a hurricane hit my house.  Welcome to the scene of destruction come Monday morning:

This photo doesn't do the mess justice because you can't see into the kitchen!

Not only do I have to uncover the house from the storm of the weekend every Monday, I also have to resume my normal day-to-day stuff...and I'm already way behind.  Today, the "normal stuff" includes tackling laundry--I had to strip the boys' bed sheets because they are both getting over some form of illness and could probably benefit from germ-free sheets, and one of them had an unfortunate diaper leak on their sheets last the laundry was a first-thing kind of emergency project.  After stripping the sheets and getting that load started, I discovered that most of the laundry hampers in the house were full...I'm never quite sure how that happened, since as you could see, I haven't yet finished putting away the laundry I just did.  I'm certain I just finished the laundry--how could there be more already?

Here's the kicker to my Mondays, though--Abby has a short day at school every Monday.  Her classes let out at 1:30pm, and she gets off the bus close to 2pm.  Why is this a big deal?  Because both of my boys still take naps.  Every afternoon, from about 1pm to 4pm, those boys are snoozing.  So on Monday afternoons, I have to magically be in two places at the same time--home with my sweet sleeping boys, and at the bus stop picking up my big girl.  The bus stop is at the top of my street--it takes about 4 minutes to walk up there, and I can still see my front door from the bus stop...but it's too far for the monitor in the boys' rooms to still receive a signal, and too far for me to feel comfortable (or legal) leaving my kids unattended.  Abby is only 6 years old, so the bus driver isn't allowed to let her walk home by herself--if no one is there to get here at the bus stop, Abby must get back on the bus and be driven back to school until I can come pick her up.  Thankfully, that has never happened (my fellow bus stop parents have pity on me if I'm not there in time and someone has always vouched for her off the bus)...yet.  My neighbor will usually watch the boys' on the monitor for me (I have a video monitor) while I run up to the bus stop, but I still feel a constant source of anxiety about the Monday afternoon juggling act.  Sometimes my neighbor has things to do and isn't home at 2pm...what then?  I have had to run up to the bus stop before with no one watching the monitor, but I just really, really don't like to do that.  So I get anxious about how it's all going to work out as soon as I get up Monday morning.  I hate Mondays.

the ballerina with her welcoming committee  :)

In addition to this early-out day of school, Abby also has dance class at 4pm on Mondays.  This means that while trying to uncover the house from the weekend, catch back up on my day-to-day chores, and work out the bus stop run, I also have to manage to feed the boys lunch about 30 minutes earlier than every other weekday, so that they can get down for naps at an earlier time and therefore wake up at an earlier that we can all pile in the car and get Abby to dance class by 4pm.  Her class is literally 4 minutes from our house by car, so it's not a really big deal, but I'm always the totally disheveled Mom dragging two reluctant boys in their pjs across the parking lot at the dance place while trying to put her daughter's hair in a bun...five minutes after the class has started.  Ugh.  The boys are still in their pjs, by the way, because Jake refuses to sleep in anything other than pjs (including at naptime), and I never seem to have enough time to get them back in their regular clothes in the mad rush out the door.  It's just kind of a miracle that I'm not still in pjs in the parking lot.  Abby's class is an hour long, but there's no real waiting area for siblings to wait during the class--her class is in an office building on the military installation, not in a dance studio.  There's a waiting area down the hall (meant for people waiting to be called back for appointments in the offices), but it doesn't have a door--and if you've met my boys, you know that a room without a door does nothing to deter them from running, screaming, into the offices of people working it's not really an option for us to wait there.  When the weather is nice, I take the boys to a nearby playground and let them burn off some energy for 45 minutes--something we all enjoy.  When the weather isn't nice (like today), I let the boys watch a DVD in the car for 45 minutes--something I don't enjoy at all.  It's all over at 5pm, when I drag the boys across the parking lot again to collect our beautiful ballerina and head home...where I then have to figure out dinner and explain the still-disastrous state of the house to my husband when he gets home from work.  Between the bus stop run and the dance class prep, I lose my naptime quiet in the house to get anything it's going to have to wait until Tuesday...when Jake has gymnastics and I'm not home to get anything done.  Maybe Wednesday, then?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Keeping up with the Joneses

Let me tell you a little bit more about my neighbor--the one who told me to exchange my Calphalon cookware that pretty much spawned The Good Housewife Project.  I just met her this summer, and we hit it off right away--in the military, you either make friends quickly, or you are a loner...and you can reinvent yourself from duty station to duty station or even year to year, because people come and go so frequently.  Last year at this same duty station, I was a bit of a loner--with the kids' ages, it was hard for me to get out as frequently as the other moms in our neighborhood, and my kids were too little to play on the bigger, more social playground outside our houses.  I was either stuck in my house during naptime, or alone with the boys at the little playground (dragging Abby reluctantly there with us when her friends were at the big kid playground).  I'm making more of an effort this year to be social and make friends--the boys are a little older, so we are slightly more flexible...and we got a new crop of neighbors who have been making it easier for me.  Dan works with my neighbor's husband and considers him his best work buddy (or, as my neighbor and I say, they are work spouses...ha ha), so it helps that our kids play well together and she and I get along well.  She is really a way that can make me feel like I don't know what I'm doing.  :)

Little Playground fun for my 3 Musketeers

You never know what goes on behind closed doors, even with your good friends, but I get the feeling that she spends really great, quality time with her kids...and that makes me feel both impressed and insufficient!  We both stay at home, but I literally stay at home a lot--whereas my neighbor is constantly on the go.  I get it--I loved Ohio so much because I was constantly on the go, and exposing Abby to so many different people and activities really made me a better parent to her, as did the friendships I made through our moms' group there.  Here, I haven't really gotten into an on-the-go groove--with three kids, it's a lot harder for me to balance.  Jake and Alex both still take naps (long ones, if I'm lucky!), so I need to be home in time for lunch and naptime.  I also need to be home every day for the morning and afternoon bus stop runs to get Abby.  And then there are the kids' activities--Abby's dance and gymnastics, and Jake's gymnastics, all during the week.  I just feel a lot more tied to the house than I did when I had fewer, non-school-aged kids.  And sometimes I stay home by choice--like I said, I haven't been in the best head space for the last year or more, so getting up and going is hard when you just don't feel like it.  There's always the excuse of laundry and cleaning and cooking (okay, maybe not cooking for me) that keeps me in the house more than out.  But my neighbor doesn't seem constrained by these things--granted, she has one fewer kid than I do, but we live in the exact same house (right next door to each other), so I know what she faces in terms of housework!  She would be the last one to say that she has it all together, but I'm always really impressed with what she has going on...and that makes me wonder if I should have that going on, too.

Our houses--I'm in the middle, and my awesome neighbor is to the right

Today, I'm ordering pizza for dinner.  It's Friday, I'm tired, and the kids (and Mommy and Daddy!) all love pizza.  We haven't ordered it in a while, so it's kind of a treat.  And, I'm feeling a little guilty because I'm going out tonight for a "girls' night"--I rarely go out at all, much less go out before the kids are in bed like I'm doing tonight, so maybe I'm bribing my family with pizza so that they'll be happy with me before I ditch them and make them cry (Dan may cry the hardest at having to do the bedtime routine by himself--sorry, honey!).  I told my neighbor that I was ordering pizza, and she said, "You should blow Dan away and make your own pizza crust--it's super easy!  I just made some for tonight--all you need is flour, yeast, salt, and water!"  My immediate response to her was, "Yeah, that's just not my thing--as soon as you said 'yeast,' I mentally checked out."  As the words were coming out of my mouth, though, I thought about The Project.  Does The Project mean that making pizza dough from scratch should be my thing?  Does making my own pizza dough make me a Good Housewife?  I don't know the answer to those questions, nor do I know what I'm supposed to do once I have freshly baked homemade pizza crust (how do you do the cheese and the toppings?  I don't keep cheese on hand...what kind of cheese do you even use on pizza?  I'm sure Pinterest could help me here)...but I didn't say that to my neighbor.  We were having this conversation sitting on her couch watching the kids play, while enjoying some homemade chocolate graham crackers that she had just pulled out of the oven.  Seriously.  I wasn't sure how ignorant of this whole housewife thing I could prove to be without her kicking me out of her house.

This is my idea of "make your own pizza"  :)

This brings me to my current dilemma:  Does The Good Housewife Project mean I should be trying to keep up with my neighbors and do all the fancy housewifely things that they do, or does being a Good Housewife mean different things to different families?  My neighbor doesn't do all her family's laundry--I do (not that I'm necessarily proud of that fact...bragging that your husband helps you do laundry is way cooler than bragging that you do it all yourself, in my opinion).  Does that mean that in order to be a Good Housewife, she should be doing all her family's laundry?  In her family, no.  I need to figure out what makes me a Good Housewife in my family--that may very well include making pizza dough from scratch (and I think my neighbor is going to make sure that I at least attempt it, and for the sake of The Project and ensuring she doesn't think I'm a total idiot, I will), but it may also include ordering pizza every once in a while to give everyone a break.  I think my current definition of a Good Housewife also has to include some verbiage about being good to myself (can you be a Good Housewife if you're not a Happy Housewife?  Maybe in the 1950's, but I'm not sure I can), and for me, that could mean having some boundaries and not trying to do it all (from scratch!).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Shake 'n Bake (and I helped!)

I decided that tonight would be a good night to tackle some actual "cooking."  The Good Housewife Project had to commence sometime...I couldn't just sit around eating candy while writing about trying harder to do this whole thing and then not follow through.  What would my 5 readers think of my commitment then?  ;)  I pulled 4 chicken breasts out of my freezer to thaw while also running through my morning routine of getting the kids dressed and fed and starting some laundry (after getting Abby ready and to the bus stop, of course).  Laundry, by the way, was not on my docket for today until my husband helpfully informed me that he's been on such a great workout kick lately (good for him!) (that was meant to be sarcastic, but in writing, it looks like I was being supportive--score one point for The Project!) (okay, that last part was sarcasm again...geez) that he was entirely out of shorts to work out in...he did the elliptical in our garage in his pajama pants last night to make a point that I needed to do some laundry.  I hate doing laundry (it's the obnoxious never-ending chore), but what I hate most about laundry is reaching into my hamper and pulling out his soaking wet sweaty socks (among other items) after he works out.  So gross.  Anyway, back to the cooking.

I wasn't sure where to start dinner-wise--I haven't had much time the last few days to get on Pinterest and find some recipes for my new cookware, and I don't know if I would have the ingredients on hand even if I did find some recipes (my general assumption is that if you don't cook, having ingredients on hand to do just that is pretty unlikely).  I remembered seeing a box of Shake 'n Bake that I bought ages ago sitting in my pantry the last time something fell out of there and I had to do some rearranging, so I thought that could be a safe, easy first attempt.  I talked to my mom on the phone during the boys' naptime, shortly before the cooking commenced, and I told her that I was making Shake 'n Bake (which, by the way, was a staple that my mom cooked all the time when I was growing up).  She said, "Well, aren't you Suzy Homemaker."  (Anyone want to guess where I got my sarcastic streak?)  I immediately said, quite defensively, "No, I'm not!"  I stubbornly cling to my anti-housewife ways, which means The Good Housewife Project may be harder than I thought.  My mom was being humorously passive aggressive--clearly, she knows better than to think I'm Suzy Homemaker, nor does she believe for an instant that Shake 'n Bake makes anyone Suzy Homemaker.  I think she has always been slightly shocked and dismayed that this Bad Housewife was born of such a Good Housewife.  I also don't understand how that happened, although I think it was because my mom was so good, she never needed any help, and therefore, I never learned by helping her.  (This irony makes me laugh, because every time my mom made Shake 'n Bake when I was growing up, I always said, "It's Shake 'n Bake--and I helped!" in a really horrible Southern accent like those old Shake 'n Bake commercials...  I, in fact, did not help one bit.)

Random question: Who is Suzy Homemaker?  Oh, Google--how I love you...Suzy Homemaker was a doll from the 1960's, and she "personified the quintessential female American housewife, or a housewife who manages the household with enthusiasm."  Is that who I'm attempting to emulate?  I think I want to be more of a happy, witty, 50/50 partner with my husband who also happens to be a decent cook and have a clean house in addition to well-adjusted children...that's not too much to ask for, I don't think.  ;)

My question exactly

Anyway, I started the Shake 'n Bake effort with the goal to have the chicken in the oven by 4:30pm tonight, because Abby had dance class at 5:30pm...I wanted dinner on the table by 5pm so that we could all eat together (my first Good Housewife effort!) before her class.  I read the directions on the box--seemed straightforward.  I had seen my mom Shake 'n Bake many times, usually while I was sitting on the kitchen counter regaling her with the most recent gossip from school instead of helping, so I thought I knew what to expect.  I pulled out two little bags and two packets of coating...  I was confused--I didn't know it came with 2 kits, so that was kind of an exciting bonus.  I unfolded one of the bags and was thoroughly confused...the box said that I should be making 6-8 boneless skinless chicken breasts, and I was only making 4, but there was no way my 4 pieces of chicken were going to fit in that tiny bag.  Where was the huge bag I remember my mom shaking the daylights out of??  I read the instructions again, and this time noted that they want you to put one or two pieces in the bag at a time--totally not what I was envisioning, but whatever.  I wet the chicken pieces and bagged/shook them one by one in a very messy process--I don't like messing with raw chicken, and this process somehow seemed very contaminating of everything in my kitchen.  Maybe I just need to get a better system down now that I know what I'm doing.  I don't know what took me so long, but I didn't get the chicken in the oven until 4:40pm, and at 5pm, it wasn't done...  Grrr.  The smaller chicken breast was done, so I cut the end off, cut it up for Abby, and put it on her plate with corn and some green beans and peppers that Dan had stir fried for us.  I put her hair in a bun while she scarfed down her dinner (the rest of the chicken still in the oven), and I sent Dan out the door with her to get her to dance class.  Urgh...not quite what I had in mind.  I pulled the rest of the chicken out after 10 extra minutes, cut up pieces for the boys, got them some Steamfresh corn and some canned Bruce's Sweet Potatoes that I warmed up, and sat down at the table to eat with them.  Here's my plate--not too shabby:

Lookin' good!

Jake loves chicken, so I gave him a healthy serving of chicken, along with the sweet potatoes.  When he was little, he would eat corn like there was no tomorrow...until one day when he wouldn't touch it.  Fast forward to today, and he still won't eat corn, nor will he eat peppers or green beans.  So it was just chicken and sweet potatoes for him, plus some mandarin oranges.  He did eat the chicken and the sweet potatoes with some coaxing--the oranges were gone in 2 seconds.  Alex is tougher--I gave him a few pieces of chicken because he typically does not eat's a constant struggle.  My parents watched the kids for us in October and fed them dinner, and my mom made Shake 'n Bake--when we picked the kids up, she went on and on about how Alex ate tons of the chicken and kept asking for more!  I was hopeful that he would do the same with my Shake 'n Bake effort.  He did not.  He ate a little sweet potato, none of the corn, and none of the chicken--but he did eat the apple slices I gave him. I'm remembering yet another reason why I hate cooking--kids who don't eat the food you spent all that time to make.  I have one straight carnivore and one vegetarian making my life difficult.  Here are the boys...not eating their dinner:

Don't ask what happened to Jake's kids don't usually eat naked!

I didn't get any pictures of Dan eating, because he wasn't here until after I was done eating and already cleaning up!  So much for our family dinner, although I made so much chicken that I now have leftovers for tomorrow night (when Abby has gymnastics class...probably another scrambled attempt at eating together), so that's nice for me.  For reference, my husband hates leftovers.

Today's cooking effort certainly wasn't perfect, but I feel like a Not-So-Bad-Housewife for trying!  The Shake 'n Bake really couldn't have been easier (if a little messy), so it will probably be something I make frequently (just call me Suzy Homemaker!).  I need to learn better time management when it comes to putting meals on the table--I heated the corn up too early, so it was cold by the time the chicken was done (although in my defense, if the chicken had been done in 20 minutes like it was supposed to be, everything should have still been warm at the same time!).  And, of course, I should probably plan family "home cooked" meals for when everyone can eat together and we're not so rushed!