Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pass the Potatoes...

Being a Mom, myself, I have been contemplating the importance of having dinner together as a family. Right now my son is still young and goes to bed before we eat, however this will not be the case forever.

There have been so many studies on the importance on family dinners that I find amazing. Several have indicated better grades in school, more involvement in extracurricular activities, fewer behavioral problems - the list goes on and on. But it's just so difficult to do! You have soccer practice, baseball games, piano recitals, PTA meetings. Not to mention, you just get tired after a looong day of parenting. Then you have to play magician and come up with a menu that pleases everyone and is healthy as well. It's so hard!

Right now, my husband and I just sit on the couch with our plates and relax together. Not the best habit, I guess, but it's nice. I can imagine that it's going to be hard to make the adjustment to family dinners so I've been researching and brainstorming for ideas to make the transition easier.

Idea #1: Involvement. I think one of the easiest ways to get everyone on the "Family Dinner Bandwagon" would be to involve everyone in the process in one way or another. My husband can pick out a side dish, my son can help decide on dessert. One can set the table, one can help clean up. I think if everyone has a say in what goes on and what they eat, they will be much more happy with the arrangement.

Idea #2: Flexibility. If Jimmy has a game or you have a late meeting, make a point to do SOMETHING together. Eat lunch together, if possible. Go out for dessert as a family after the offending event. As long as you have that designated family time, I think it's ok to sway from dinner every now and then.

Idea #3: Positive Conversation. I'm a firm believer in saying out loud what you are thankful for - and why - on a regular basis. It just reminds you that no matter how bad things are sometimes, there are things to be happy for. I'd like to make it a ritual to go around the table every night and say one thing that each person is thankful for that day. Also, I think that dinner needs to be a pleasant event - so save the lectures and scolding for other times.

Idea #4: Stick With It! I think family dinners have to be made a priority in order to work. If you don't make them important, you'll stop doing them. Sometimes they are just going to feel like a chore. But, if you remind yourself of why they are important, it will be easier to keep doing.

I don't know, maybe my ideas are a little idealistic. I'm not at this point yet, so I don't know entirely what to expect. I'm hoping that I will be able to do this for my family - and for myself. Because, after all, the time goes so quickly, and I want to savor every second.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts and Coconut

I just made these cookies and they are SO GOOD!! I think the whole wheat gives them a more "rich" flavor. There is just a hint of coconut - which I like. I think coconut is better as an accent than the main attraction. Just my humble opinion, of course.

Anywho, If anyone wants the recipe, here goes:

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts and Coconut

3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 egg
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 pkg. chocolate chips (whatever variety you prefer)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream together brown sugar, sugar, and butter. Add vanilla and egg, mix until well combined. Slowly add whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut.

Drop onto cookie sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on how done you like your cookies.


Friday, May 23, 2008

The Middle Class Crunch

With our economy and our dollar how they are and with all of the Presidential Candidates using scare tactics and pretty little economic plans to lure votes, there has been a lot of talk recently about the "Middle Class Crunch", particularly the housing market situation, health care costs and out of control childcare costs.

Now, I'll admit that inflation is out of control (even thought the government completely denies it. Hello! Where I live a gallon of milk is $5 right now!) it's getting harder and harder to make ends meet. But, honestly, is it really just the rising costs making it so difficult? I don't think so. You want to know the biggest part of the problem? Debt.

That's right, it's your credit cards. It's your car payments. It's your big screen TV that you just HAD to have. It's that huge house you bought 3 years ago that you really couldn't afford, so you got an ARM. Debt. Americans spend money like there's no tomorrow - money that they don't even have! Look, just because you have a huge credit limit, doesn't mean you need to use it. And just because they tell you that you can pay that monthly payment, guess what, it doesn't mean you can afford it!

To quote the linked article:
"A generation or two ago, Mom -- and it was usually a mom -- could stay home with the kids while Dad put in the hours at the office. His income was enough to let them own a home and a car, and put a pot-roast dinner on the table once a week."

Exactly. The article hit the nail on the head without even realizing it. They had enough for what they needed and the occasional treat. Today we don't think twice before going out to eat 5 times a week (or more, for some people) and putting it on the credit card. We have huge walk-in closets full of nice clothes - your probably still paying them off, too. We have $50,000 SUV's . We have piles of store cards, cards with airline miles, cards with cash back rewards - and it just KILLS us to miss out on a reward. So what if you spent $25,000 (plus interest) to get that free airline ticket , it was FREE!!

Now the average costs for childcare in this country are $8,303 per year, per child for infants and $6,215 per year, per child for preschool. That's a lot of money, I understand that. The cost of childcare is rising at twice the rate of inflation. Many claim it's impossible to have a one-income household anymore. Bull.

I'm a SAHM. My husband works very hard for me to be able to stay home with our son. We're by no means rich but we don't have to worry either. Why? Because we make sacrifices and we have priorities. I manage to keep our monthly food bill to $300 a month, including diapers, formula, baby food, toiletries, etc. It's hard, I have to be creative sometimes, but I do it. And no, we're not living on Hamburger Helper, either. We will have our house paid off in 6 more years - we've only lived here a year and a half. We're maxing out our Roth IRA contributions every year and my husband is maxing out his 401k contributions. That's a ton of money going straight to investments. Not including our house payment, we live on $10,000 a year so that we can do that. That $10k includes utilities, gas, insurance, cell phones, food, entertainment - everything. And we end up putting a small portion of that in savings.

I know that for some families, it truly isn't possible to have a one income household. But I think that the vast majority of families could do it, if they really wanted to. It's about discipline, it's about priorities, it's about goals, it's about common sense.

I'll get off my soapbox now. ;)