Since I started this blog, the most common question I get from people is: “How in the world do you have time to get everything done?” I usually sort of feint and parry and demur a bit — I hardly feel like I get everything done most days, and in fact, there’s always a list in the back of my mind of all the things I have NOT gotten done, but should attend to soon (before we’re all buried in a giant pile of laundry, or L. learns to write his name in the dust on his windowsill). But I think I get the general point. On any given day, it’s a feat for most of us to just get everyone out of the house clean, fed, on time, and carrying all the things they need for the day; by the time we all gather back together in the evening, after work, school, and commitments, feeding a family and tending to all the various needs of the household becomes another full-time job for which most of us feel we just don’t have the energy. I’d love about eight extra hours tacked on to the end of each day, so I could feel that I’m making progress in actually staying on top of, well, life.
Over the weekend, though, it occurred to me that people keep asking because they genuinely want to know. Demurring and deflecting and being vaguely modest about the whole affair isn’t helping; people really are curious about how somebody who has two very small kids and a husband and a full time job and a bunch of other commitments can possibly be doing this homemade, from-scratch, real-food kind of thing without actually collapsing from exhaustion. And it also occurred to me that part of the reason I launched Red, Round, or Green is that I genuinely wanted to help others understand that it isn’t as difficult or daunting as it might seem on the surface. You might not all become Gourmet Geeks to the extent that I am, and I wouldn’t want you to if it’s not authentic to your personality and lifestyle; but on the other hand, getting a realistic picture of how my household functions on the weekends (prime RRG time) might encourage some of you to take some small steps in that direction.
So, at the risk of boring you senseless, here’s a rundown of this weekend in my house.
Saturday morning. 8 a.m.: I’m sipping coffee, considering breakfast, and watching the boys demolish their cereal. J. and I decide that we’ll all venture to the Farmer’s market together so we can take the kids to the nearby playground afterward. The plan gets me moving; I toss a bunch of stuff into the slow-cooker and get it started. In 12 hours, we’ll have chicken stock.
Saturday afternoon. Back from the playground at 11:30, J. and I start making lunches for everyone. He keeps an eye on the grilled cheese while I make a grocery list. After lunch, J. goes to the store, and I hang out with the boys and get them ready for naps. By 1:15, he’s back and unloading groceries; the kids are in their rooms; and I’m cleaning the first floor of the house.
2:30 p.m.: Start prepping things for the dinner J. and I are leaving for the kids and their sitter. Sweet potato gratin (using both regular sweet potatoes and some neat, pale-yellow Japanese sweet potatoes from Pak Express) is in the oven by 3:30 to par-cook, turkey is marinated in honey mustard, and we’ve gotten the kids up from naps and are doling out snacks, changing clothes, entertaining them, etc.
5:15 p.m.: Pop the turkey bites into the oven along with the gratin for final cooking; J. and I start taking turns getting ourselves ready for a night out. By 6 p.m., the babysitter has arrived, the food is ready, and we’re out the door for a much-needed date!
Sunday morning. 8 a.m.: I’m making French toast sticks for the kids and stealing a few for myself between cups of coffee. After breakfast, there’s some playing, some reading, some snuggling, and then we all start getting ready for church. We’re out the door at 9:50. Back at noon, we’ve got two hungry boys on our hands; I change clothes quickly, slide into my trusty fuzzy slippers, and head into the kitchen to get lunch together for us all. The kids, J., and I inhale the leftovers of turkey bites and sweet potato gratin, and the kids play a bit before their 1:00 rest time.
Sunday afternoon. 1:15: I get into the kitchen and start mixing up batter for pumpkin-oatmeal muffins with chocolate chips, while J. and the boys rest and laundry runs in the basement. I also set a pot of apples to steam on the back burner.
1:30: upstairs to grab P., who can’t sleep because he’s stinky. Diaper change. Dealing with L., who is upset that he can’t get out of bed yet (he doesn’t really nap anymore, but we give him books and ask him to rest). Back to the kitchen.
1:45: P. goes back down; J. gives up and grabs L. for some snuggles on the couch. I get back to the kitchen. Food mill out — apples ground into applesauce — muffins out of the oven. Dishes.
2:00: Quiet time with L. We eat some muffins and end up going to the grocery store for mini-pumpkins so he can do a painting project (pumpkins are apparently much more fun than paper), but not before I quickly put together a pot of marinara to leave bubbling on the stove.
3:15: Laundry into the dryer, second load in. Eggplant sliced and salted and laid in a colander. Hanging out with L. and J. while the painting project ensues. Sunday phone calls to family begin (it’s a ritual); we chat with my Mom and Dad for a while, until P. wakes up at 4:00.
4:30: P. has had a snack and a change of clothes, so J. offers to take the boys to the playground while I a) clean up from the painting project/disaster; b) fold the laundry; and c) finish up dinner in peace. I do all of these things while chatting with my grandmother on speakerphone. I also tidy up some of the toys and sweep the floors.
5:30: Eggplant out of the oven; boil some water for pasta while the atomic cheese and sauce cool. Dishes — don’t want J. to come in to a war zone when he and the boys get back. They march up to the back door at 5:50, just as I’m about to drain the whole-wheat penne and get our plates set. We’re at the table with our rosy-cheeked boys at 5:59. They’re starving. Even P. scarfs his dinner.
Sunday evening. 7:15 p.m.: boys into pjs. P. goes to bed at 7:20; L. stays up a bit and drinks a little warm cider before we take him upstairs for stories and bed at 7:45. When we get back downstairs, I finish folding laundry; J. finishes the dishes; the leftovers all go into the fridge; and I grab the slow cooker, which has been chilling, to skim and strain the chicken stock. 4 cups go into the fridge. 4 go into the freezer. Clean-up time; dishwasher runs; J. and I collapse early, at about 8:30.
What didn’t get done. As always, there’s a list. I did change L. and P.’s bedding and wash it this weekend; I did not change ours yet. I did clean the downstairs bath, but not the upstairs. I made muffins and dinners, but didn’t get around to the spinach bites and apple-cheddar turnovers I planned to make. At any rate, it was a good weekend, and we accomplished more things than not; I hope it’s also evident from the timeline, however exhaustive, that we spent a good deal of time as a family. I think people tend to assume that if you cook a lot, you’re chained to the kitchen and not seeing your kids. Happily, I can report that that’s not the case for me. We’re always sort of on a tightrope, trying to balance all the things that need doing, but at least this weekend, we didn’t fall off.