Monday, June 23, 2014

Busy Moms & [Mentally] Healthy "Cooking"


Cubicle Life | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My old cubicle from my rat race days.
This is where great meals
deteriorated into grab-n-go attempts
to maintain my sanity.
There are times when, despite our best intentions, healthy succumbs to quick and easy in our efforts to keep our families fed. I recall a time not long ago, when I worked those 50- and 60-hour weeks in a brick building to which I commuted for that precious salary. Mornings were always filled with too much hectivity for me to think about supper. But I always had good intentions floating in the back of my mind in that department. 

On that particular morning, as responsibilities at the office piled up with each sip of highly caffeinated coffee, resulting in a need for me to work late, I texted Hubby. I suggested he go ahead and pull some frozen chicken breasts out of the freezer during his lunch break. At that point in the day, I had every intention of cooking the chicken upon my arrival home. 

As I plowed through my growing to-do list tacked to my cubicle wall, I imagined the chicken baking in the oven after I coated each piece with a homemade bread crumb mixture of wheat bread, fresh herbs from our garden, a pinch of sea salt, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Green beans picked from the vine mixed with sun-ripened tomatoes would make the perfect side dish. 

However, frustrating circumstances conspired to make the workday extra challenging. As my attitude grew weary, my expectations for dinner deteriorated and became clouded by an intense need to rush through dinner so I could relax in front of the television with a glass of wine. My motivation for picking and serving fresh veggies waned. While the chicken was baking, I decided I could bake frozen fries and heat a can of beans in the microwave. 

Minutes before powering down my laptop, a text from my mom buzzed my phone. She was sick and would love a frozen dessert to cool her scorching throat. I’m honored to help out my mother, especially when she’s not feeling well. Though, the timing for this particular illness and ensuing errand was less than excellent.
Coffee Shelf | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My travel mug full of coffee had its
own spot. Now that I'm home, my coffee
cup is consistently misplaced. 


On the commute home from work, I reevaluated my dinner plans. I could pick up ready-made bread crumbs at the store for the chicken. In addition, if I grabbed a jar of cheese sauce, I could boil up some elbow macaroni for quick mac and cheese, which goes great with canned green beans.

I found all I needed in the store, except for the sorbet my mother wanted. Standing in the frozen food section with a scowl on my face, I texted her to ask where she normally buys it. She texted back the name of a store-—it was the one on the other side of town. I headed to the checkout with my crumbs and cheese sauce. 

Oddly, everyone in the store—patrons and staff alike—kept their distance as I negotiated my way toward the cashier. Then I received another text. My mom had an alternate frozen treat option for me to consider. 

Another trip to the freezer section meant losing my place on the checkout line. But if it also meant I didn’t have to drive across town to the other grocery store, it would be worth it. Ten minutes of searching for the alternate frozen dessert without success rendered my eyes tired and my patience thin.

Twenty minutes later I was back in my car ready to head across town. Before I pulled into traffic, my gas warning bell rang. Perfect. Midway to the other grocery store, I had to fill up my tank. 

At the gas station, I thought it prudent to call my children and let them know I was not unconscious in a ditch waiting to be found by passers by. When I finally reached one of my boys, he seemed unalarmed outside of wondering what was for supper.
Pre-cooked Chicken | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Once the pre-cooked chicken is
removed from the container, cut, and
arranged on a platter, no one cares
that you did not roast it.


By the time I made it home, what was for supper was a lukewarm pre-cooked chicken that clearly died of anorexia. Next to the chicken rested a freshly opened bag of potato chips. I pulled the ketchup out of the fridge for good measure. 

Any guilt I should have felt for counting the chips as a viable side dish was squelched by the wave of relief washing over me at the realization I could finally plop down in the recliner and call it a day. 

Since resigning from the rat race, I’ve had several similar days. Whether parents work in or out of the home, there will always be days when pre-cooked deli chickens served with a side of potato chips are the healthiest option, because mental health must be maintained along with physical health.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Grilling for Mom's Sake



Grill Time for Dad | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Hubby, our summer chef!
Ironically, the workload for mom goes up exponentially around the same time the last petal from her Mother’s Day bouquet drops off its brittle, dead stem. Once school dismisses for summer vacation, the laundry piles grow taller and the children demand more food than three meals and a snack each day. In addition, offspring require constant behavior management and redirection during the summer months.


To combat exhaustion brought on by summer parenting, mom did what she had to do. She purchased a big, manly outdoor grill. By enticing dad with fire, she was able to creatively delegate cooking responsibilities to her husband.


The consequence for convincing the man he should cook was a rise in supper related accidents. For a few warm months each year, emergency rooms see a rise in accidental bratwurst burns, hickory chip splinters, and grill fork puncture wounds. But at least mom routinely gets a break from the kitchen.


The outdoor grill is dangerous enough to make cooking a challenge no man can resist, while at the same time versatile enough to ensure men don’t become bored before the Independence Day family picnic. And with today’s built-in beer cozies, the grilling season can be stretched out through the end of October in most American climates.


Once the grill was installed, mom had to develop a comprehensive menu of grill-worthy foods and market them to her family. Hot dogs were not a convenient accident. Hot dogs gave mom the break she needed to catch her breath during summer vacation, while at the same time affording dad a no-brainer culinary success the children would eat.


Mom could, if the need arose, grill anything from the grocery store to perfection. Given enough seasoning, mom could transform a bath towel into an appetizing grilled entrée. However, she also understands that dad needs to feel superior in his outdoor kitchen. Therefore, mom purchases hot dogs and hamburgers weekly during the entire month of June.


Prepped Salmon | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My 2-minute prep work typically
consists of covering raw food in
olive oil, dried herbs and garlic. 
As dad gets back into the swing of grilling and the burgers start sliding off the grill consistently medium or medium rare instead of raw or charred, mom begins to broaden the summer menu. Chicken and pork are added. Although mom strategically visits the grill more often with a fresh, cold beer and a meat thermometer—just to be sure.


As the couple ages, their children let go of food inhibitions. They realize they will not perish should they consume something other than a hot dog, cheeseburger, mac and cheese, or pizza. Meanwhile, dad’s doctors suggests even the statins he takes aren’t enough to combat the summer menu. At this stage, mom suggests dad’s grilling expertise has evolved sufficiently enough to introduce fish and vegetables.


The first night the grill is fired up, mom lays down the law. Dad is to cook the food without burning down the house or neighborhood. He is also charged with keeping an eye on the children and ensuring they do not kill each other, break their necks, drown, or bleed to death. She then pries her children away from technology and banishes them to the backyard.


It can take dad up to two hours to heat the grill, find the meat in the fridge, cook the food, and then serve it. It only takes mom three minutes to toss paper plates, plastic utensils, and a few condiments on the picnic table. So what does she do with the precious time she so cleverly carves out for herself by buying her hubby a manly grill, giant grill spatulas, and a kiss-the-cook apron?


Sometimes, she reads the newspaper. There’s typically no way for her to read it on a summer vacation morning. Rather, that is when she gets the laundry caught up and bathrooms cleaned, which she does her best to complete before the kids wake up.


She might also use that time to watch something on television that she enjoys. Something without blood, gore, or explosions. Or she’ll get a jump on that novel she picked up for the beach trip next month. An early evening bubble bath is another option for the weary caretaker. She may even sip her favorite tea or vintage of wine while waiting for supper.


Every now and again, mom bakes a pie to keep the summer grilling momentum strong. To make up for the time spent baking, she pulls out the ice cream maker and assigns a la mode manufacturing to dad and the kids.

During the rest of the year, mom secretly plants the seed to ensure everyone will crave cookouts come June. She does so by serving up a taste of summer every now and then: pigs in a blanket. A hot dog rolled up in piecrust is not a quick and easy hors d’oeuvre meant for the twelfth holiday party in December. Rather, it is a strategic enticement developed to ensure dad cannot wait to clean and fire up his grill once the weather breaks.



Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Shoebox Opened Gateway to Summer


Summer in NYC | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
I must have been reminiscing...
AGAIN...just before I snapped this
photo of my youngest several
summers ago in NYC.
It is the first official day of summer vacation. Well, for our high schooler it is. For our oldest, it's just a day off of work. For our middle child, it is time to study for mid-terms during his summer session. Summer vacation is losing its luster around our place as our boys age out of childhood. 

Summer vacation was magical when I was a child. I remember walking home with a shoebox filled with the junk I'd cleaned out of my desk. It smelled of used crayons, pencil shavings, and wet paper. As I walked along the path through the circle of woods that separated our home from the bus stop, Clinton Road, and the lake, the contents of the box bounced around. The sound it made could be described as a deep-voiced jangle. That sound, those smells, and the sunlight dancing through the fresh green leaves on an afternoon on which I did not need a sweater or jacket meant it was officially summer vacation.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom. So for my siblings and me, summer vacation meant swimming lessons at Bubbling Springs, excursions to see the grandmas, family camping adventures, and day trips to the shore. 
Swimming at Grandma's | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
One of my cousins preparing to submerge
into the icy waters of my grandparents' pool. 

One set of grandparents lived in the New Jersey suburbs of NYC. They had a big yard, a tire swing, and a pool. If it was officially summer and the sun was out, we jumped in that pool. We didn't care if the water temperature was still hovering in the mid-60s. 

My mom's mom, our granny, lived in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan. Visits with her meant subway rides, perusing the sale racks at Ohrbach's, and street vendor cuisine for lunch. I loved the sound of my footsteps echoing in the hallway as we walked to her apartment. 

Summer vacation also meant building forts in the woods on warm summer days or out of blankets and furniture when it rained. It meant reading contests with my cousins. It meant sitting with dad in the screen house when he got home from work, trying to convince him we should keep the kitten that followed me home during the last week of school. 

It meant scrapes and bruises from falls off bikes and out of trees. It meant lots of calamine lotion for bug bites. It meant cool aloe for sunburn. It meant splinters from tree houses and Uncle Frankie's new pool deck. It meant moms and dads, aunts and uncles, and grandmas and grandpas saying, "Oh, you're fine. You'll live. Go back out and play." 

I loved the impromptu gatherings of all the kids in our makeshift, dirt road neighborhood that morphed into wiffle ball games at our house, flashlight tag at AnnMarie's house, or touch football at Brad's house. We played our hearts out, pausing only to rehydrate with the garden hose. We were always late for dinner on those days. 

As I walked home with that shoebox, I knew there were fireflies to collect in jars, caterpillars to coax into becoming butterflies, and wild berries to forage. I knew it was going to be a great summer. 


Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare

Friday, June 6, 2014

Five O'Clock Somewhere


Floating with Govino | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Floating on Friday at
Wine O'Clock
It's been a long week, after a very long month. I did not get a chance to tap into my creative writing powers much during the month of May. Rather, my energy was redirected into directing, stage managing, raising money, and dancing. After coordinating, marketing, and attending three fundraisers in between rehearsals and performances, the month concluded with record-breaking attendance at our RSVP production as well as record-breaking money raised--only slightly assisted by the efforts of Dr. Bill and me--for the Dancing With the Randolph Stars event. It was an honor to be involved with both events.

Both at the same time was more than overwhelming. 

RSVP Cast & Crew May 2014 | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
The Awesome & Amazingly Talented
Cast & Crew of RSVP Community Theater's
Production of Ted Swindley's hit Musical
"Always...Patsy Cline"

When asked when or if I would want to do either again, my reaction was the same for both. Each was like having a baby. Right now, I remember too much to feel like I could ever tackle either in the future. Then again, with time, the good memories will numb those weighed down by frustration and lack of sleep, and I will think back fondly on May 2014. When that happens, I'm sure I'll get caught up in more of the same, much to the chagrin of Hubby.
DWRS 2014 Dance Partners | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Me and My Eye Doctor,
Dr. Bill Walker
After Waltzing to Metallica

For now, though, I'm still playing catch up. I rested a lot. I scrubbed my kitchen and cleaned out cabinets. My laundry is almost caught up. The week after has been nearly as overwhelming as the weeks leading up to that crazy last weekend of May. 

Therefore, I decided to engage in a little time travel. Since I'm done with this week and need to bid farewell to all the chaos lingering from May, I decided to reset my internal clock. For the rest of today, I switched to Newfoundland Standard Time (NFS). 

By switching, five o'clock gets here an hour earlier. And at five o'clock, I plan to be doing laps...in a floating chair...in my pool...with a plastic cup filled with red wine. So when everyone else is saying, "It's five o'clock somewhere!" I'll be raising my Govino and responding, "Yes, it is. Right here in my backyard."

Cheers!

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare