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Routines, drudgery & something different for supper

The kids are really doing pretty good. Between school, sports and activities their schedules are pretty full, their routines in place. My nine year old daughter is the more difficult of the two to manage. She's just like my mom, fiercely independent and stubborn as a gear oil stain on a white cotton tee-shirt. Trying to get her into a routine not of her own design has been about the most difficult challenge so far. Since the kids get on the bus at different times in the morning, I used to delegate the challenge to Judy by heading off for work after getting Ed on the bus bright & early. When Judy left on her little trip, there I was alone with 50 pounds of Tazmanian devil.

Finally after four months I think I see a glimmer of hope. I've run through my complete parental portfolio of tactics to make the progress I boast of, talking softly, redirecting, screaming, stern looks, firm grips, and lots of hugs & kisses. I wish I could define the magic formula but I dare say her improvement is largely the result of many repetitions and lots of patience. She is still an active management project and would consistently miss her morning bus if not for vigilant time checks during the routine: 7:25-wake up/snuggle time, 7:30 shower, 7:45 brush & blow dry hair, 7:55 make bed & eat breakfast, 8:15 brush teeth, 8:20 pick out a snack & pack the school bag. 8:25 out for the bus. Again, each step requires active parental involvement.

We have similar routines for every part of the day when she's home, although the afternoon & evening are less structured until it comes time for bed, when the real battle begins. The fire-fights in the streets of Baghdad look like a picnic at the beach compared to getting her down by 8:30. I can't wait until someday when she has a kid who's just like she is! I'm going to give her that same knowing smile I've seen my mom give me.

Our son Ed can manage all of his affairs without my even noticing. He has learned to make himself very well organized for being 12 and requires nothing more than a general reminder about remembering a snack or packing a swimsuit for gym class. Generally my reminders are a waste of breath since he's already got it covered.

With routines however comes a sense of drudgery. Frankly I'm sick of our weekly menu routine and I'm sick of my own cooking. A quick dinner, usually two or three times a week means hamburger helper, tacos, leftovers or maybe cheeseburgers now that the weather is decent. I make a point of staying away from fast food, prepared meals from our grocers freezer case or dining out. At least once a week I try to make something that tastes halfway decent like a chicken or chuck roast in the crock-pot. Tonight we just made eggs for supper.

Dietary relief comes in the form of friends and neighbors. Sally from across the street brought over this huge pan of homemade lasagna last week with all the trimmings; fresh bread, Caesar salad, ice cream & homemade hot fudge sauce for desert. When she unloaded it from the back of her mini-van I thought to myself that she had enough food to feed eight grown adults and here we are just me & two kids. We were still working over the leftovers when Ed's best friend's mom said to stop by her house last night because SHE had made dinner for us. This time it was oven baked chicken with stuffing, fresh rolls, a vegetable "medley" (sorry Meg, the kids didn't care for it) with cake & brownies for desert. Oh my goodness how those meals tasted!! Guess what? Yup-more leftovers.

I mentioned in my last post how much we appreciated the help & support from friends and neighbors. If you know someone whose spouse is deployed and want to help out but don't know quite how, take it from me, one of those home cooked meals is mighty tasty & pretty hard to beat!

-- Phil Basinski

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