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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

guest blogger series-kerry




I am a wife, mother of two, and an elementary ESL teacher. I blog at Young Ones and taste a little of the summer (a CSA and local foods cooking blog).

When Johanna asked me to join her and speak about balance I laughed a little. How can I, one who feels as if she is constantly tilting back and forth, speak about balance? I gave the idea some thought and then I gave myself a little credit and admitted that I have created balance for our family as best as I can.

I returned to my full-time job as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher in late August. I had been on leave for a good part of the past two years. Going back this fall was tough, but it was the right thing for me to do for many reasons. It has been a bit of a struggle to balance all aspects of my life, but there is one area in particular that I have worked hard on because it is so important to me... family meals.

We eat together, as a family, every night. Of course, there are the rare exceptions, a random work meeting for my husband or parent-teacher conferences for me, but other than that, you will find us eating our evening meal as a family, almost always at our kitchen table.

My husband and I had a serious discussion a few weeks into the school year when I was feeling overwhelmed by the new routines and schedules. He offered some ideas on where he thought I could “cut back” on stressors and things that took up a lot of time. Cooking was one area he suggested taking a look at. I bristled at the suggestion that I spend less time on our meals. What did he want me to do, microwave chicken nuggets and fish sticks every night? Of course not that is not what he meant at all. He was simply trying to point out to me that it made sense that I get out of the kitchen and spend more time with our family if I could.

Less time with the kids has been the most difficult part of going back to work for me, but I am not willing to give up quality meals for my family. Plus, we are members of a CSA farm and it has been important to me that we use our vegetables and not waste them. So I had to find a way to be smarter about how I handled meal times.

I truly have a passion for cooking, so that is another reason I resented the idea that I spend less time on our meals. It felt as if my chance to work on one of my hobbies or interest areas was being taken away from me. But I have to admit, at the same time, cooking had lost a bit of its joy when it meant less time with my kids and more stress at the end of a long day.

In the end, the balance I’ve found has come in the form of planning ahead, cooking ahead, and yes, letting go of things a little bit too.

I plan for meals two weeks at a time basing dishes on ingredients that come in our CSA box, what is in season, and what we have stocked away in our freezer. I do a lot of cooking on the weekends. Cooking during my kids’ naps, with the radio on gives me a bit of relaxation while I am getting things done. I save slow cooking and more elaborate meals for the weekends and often prep ahead any veggies I will need for other recipes during the week. I have also been known to cook meals for the next night after my kiddos are in bed. If I throw a few baked potatoes in the oven while I watch my favorite show and knit a few rows on a sweater and there is no waiting an hour for them to be done the next day. Just a quick warm up, some veggies and cheese and dinner is on the table.

As for the letting go part, well, my kids have eaten the occasional chicken nugget and I will admit that there are cans of tuna and a couple of boxes of Macaroni and Cheese in my pantry. And I have come to learn that sandwich night, or breakfast for dinner, something easy like scrambled eggs with cheese and toast can be just as satisfying as sitting down to a more elaborate and time-consuming dish. Sometimes it’s a lot more fun too!


5 comments:

  1. I think Kerry has hit it right on. You can serve nutritious food without spending an hour cooking. kids love breakfast for supper. I love how she isn;t caving to fast food.

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  2. Meal time is always an issue in our house too. And I'm home all day! But recently I did a "Big Cook" (http://www.visiblevoice.ca/2010/11/dats-some-big-cookin.html) in order to get ready for new baby but also because I've been wanting to do it for a long time now. I came home after one day with 38 meals for my freezer (ready for oven, slowcooker or bbq). And even though baby isn't here yet we've already pulled a couple of them out. I could probably use two a week (leftovers!) and that alone takes so much stress off and gives me more time to do other important things....like pick up train tracks ;) So basically...totally dig how you do this! And hey Mac and Cheese is a better "treat" then fast food.

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  3. Thanks ladies! Oh Chania, I feel so guilty now! We actually had McDonald's on Monday night. Does it help that I felt bad about it the whole time and that it is a rarity? ;) I love the idea of the "Big Cook"!

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  4. Love this Kerry, cooking is by far my largest pitfall! Although I'm slowly becoming a better (read - not horrible) cook, it trips me up all the time. To cope, we do 'cold suppers' quite often - sandwich ingredients, salad ingredients, cut cold veggies, cheese, leftovers, etc, all on the table and we each throw together our favorite platefuls. Although I used to feel bad, sometimes I look at our table and realize it's more healthy and the kids enjoy it too. My new brilliant idea for when I do cook, is to cook twice as much and freeze the leftovers. Tonight it was stirfry and I'm excited we can have it another night just by warming it up!

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  5. I like your idea of "cold suppers' Victoria. Somedays I can't even pull it together to make a meal. Good idea!

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