Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Redefining Breakfast

Part of our new early-to-the-bus routine for Ann involves squeezing in enough time for her to eat before she leaves the house at 7:10 or so in the morning. Having a new time goal in mind this year (last year, gan started at 9) prompted me to do something about the nagging breakfast issue in my family.

For a while, we'd been eating almost exclusively cold cereal and milk for breakfast. Cold cereal is great, and it is a big time-saver. But I wanted to give breakfast an overhaul because I felt like we should be eating something more substantial and more filling, and because unfortunately, we were in a sugar cereal rut.

I really had very few food rules growing up, and so, when buying food for my own home, if I found good deals on the cereals I liked and was used to, that's what I bought and served. Cocoa Puffs, Reese's Puffs, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch are some of my favorites.

But I really started to feel uncomfortable with how much sugar the kids were consuming during their first waking hours. I began phasing out the sweet cereals and replacing them with Cheerios, corn flakes (not Frosted Flakes, albeit a delicious option), and Rice Krispies. Pathmark makes a store brand of all of these that bears an O-U, so it depends on whether there are sales and coupons to use, but the store brand is usually the better buy.

RaggedyDad's favorite cereal is Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds, so we keep a boxes few of those around. It's sort of a semi-junky-semi-healthy option. Keeping it around doesn't pose a problem.

For most mornings, though, I started serving hot cereal, which is usually more nutritious and hopefully more filling than what had been the status quo. We have oatmeal usually, but sometimes farina (I know, I know, it's the Wonder bread of hot cereals . . . ) and I serve a bowl to everyone, alongside a plate of toppings.

We call it the "toppings bar" because we're just that crazy. While the hot cereal is cooking, I'll prepare any combination of almonds, dried cherries, raisins, shelled sunflower seeds, chopped dried apricots, and the like on a plate. I used to offer chocolate chips in the beginning of this transition, but I have mostly phased those out unless someone is very insistent. While the dried fruit is sweet, it is fruit, and it's used much more sparsely in the bowls than sugar is in sugar cereal.

Once a week or so we'll have toast or sandwich-maker-sandwiches, or eggs. My father eats a pretty standard Israeli-type breakfast of toast, cottage cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, etc., and I'll serve that once in a while, too.

I'm just glad that breakfast is planned out and is more of a sound meal than it was before! The one challenge I had was cleaning out the oatmeal pot, but I found a solution for it that I'll blog about in the near future.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Taking it to a New Level

It's interesting how our threshold for things changes with time and circumstances. There are things that I encounter nowadays as a mother that would have made me totally afraid, squeamish, shy, or nervous years ago. When the heat is on, somehow you find the strength.

My threshold for cleanliness has also adjusted over the years. I grew up in a household with an extremely neat and organized mother. I've mentioned before that the entire dusting-windex-declutter-etc. routine are typically finished before 6:30 a.m. for my mother. Vacuuming and mopping are daily routines. Dust is afraid to settle on the furniture; it knows that it doesn't stand a chance.

My cleaning personality is by far more relaxed, and yet, with time, I notice that things I hardly noticed before now demand my attention. A little dust and some clutter typically don't get to me. Real dirtiness does, and I never allowed it to get to that point. Plus, more kids simply means more Cheerios in the carpet, ickiness in the bathroom, etc. But it also means that there are a few extra hands to quickly pick up toys from the rug when the vacuum rolls out (2 or 3 times a week around here, not every day!)

A sink left with dishes overnight has never been something I can tolerate, but now I need to finish off by wiping up around and inside the sink. I'm semi-embarassed to admit that for the first 2 years or so that RaggedyDad and I were married, I never made the beds (!) unless company was coming. Now there are several beds to make, and it's one of those tasks that's always done by 8 a.m.

These things became important to me at some point, and I'm not sure why. I do like a neater home, and it's what I'm used to from my own childhood. But RaggedyDad is wary of attempts to get closer to the "obsessive cleaning" mode I grew up with. Not to worry, RD. Our place still has a VERY lived-in feel. Nobody's thinking they stepped into a museum here, unless they were looking for a children's museum-anthropology of the family museum-hybrid.

I do think that my kids will enjoy growing up in a home where they feel a collective responsibility with regards to cleaning up, and also feel calmer knowing that things are being taken care of and not left to hefker-status. That orderliness comes from a neat, clean home, good meals, a gentle routine, security, and love.

Now, excuse me, I see some stubborn fingerprints on a cabinet door.