Again, thanks to all of you who have taken the time to email me your comments and questions. Funny as it may seem, this public forum has become quite the private club of readers and followers. It feels good to help pass on the "Jedi-esque" skills of the true Superhero Dad to all of you young "Spuddies"!
This question really hit home because I read this letter right before I donned my "Bat Belt" and made my way to the kitchen for the evening feeding of the Angry Pygmies. Take it away, Robert from San Antonio...
"HOW?! How do you find the time to help with homework, do dinner and then get them in bed before midnight??? I have two children, 7 and 10, and on the nights I am in charge I end up tripping over myself the whole evening! HOW, oh Spuds, do you handle the evening dinner schedule?"
Roberto!!! (I am giving you the Spanish version of your name because you live in San Antonio. It's what I do... I give my readers new nicknames as your initiation as a "Spuddy"... deal with it!)
The afternoon rush hour... without leaving the house!!! It's a hard time of the day! But with these simple pointers and tips you can handle it without looking like a "soggy eyed Betty Crocker" and even come across with some "Manly" points as well.
Dinner time will kick your ass and throw the whole night off schedule and out of sorts. Dinners take planning, So for the sake of time I will cover the BIG issue of dinner in this blog and cover some of the lesser chores in tomorrow's blog.
I came into the kitchen with the "Mess Line" mentality! I had NO idea what the kids ate so I spent some time working out the "kinks" of their strange eating habits. I tried to make allowances in some cases and accommodations in others, but sometimes you just have to look the child in their tear-filled eyes and say, "Ya' git what ya' git and ya' don't throw a fit!" BUT the "Mess Line Mentality" has not only made dinner time easier for me, it has also given the kids a little more "control" over their meal.
So how do you adopt a "Mess Line Mentality"? You give two (sometimes three) options for the main dish and two or three options for the side dishes. A lot of the "Car Line Moms" laughed when I said I gave the kids options on what they eat for dinner. I heard comments like, "You will never have any time to do anything but COOK and clean dishes!" or "My kids better eat what I fix or they are going to bed hungry!" or "I have far too many other things to worry about than making two or three dinners per night!" (Wimps and Whiner... ALL of them!)
1. Equipment- Your equipment is KEY to your success! You should have AT LEAST one large cooking griddle but preferably two of them. REAL knives! Do not let your kids see you trying to cut onions and tomatoes with those damned pressed steel knives your wives or girlfriends bought in the 3 for $10 set at Target! Get at least ONE good chopping knife and a sharpening steel to keep it sharp. There is nothing more manly than a good sharp Henckel knife on your counter. Handmixers are AWESOME! You know the white mixer/blenders you hold with one hand? These will save your life! To hell with food processors! These hand mixers have the blender blades, whisk attachment and even a food processing attachment... if you MUST!
2. Options- I don't know if it's the fact that women feel it is "expected" that they cook or that they just lose interest in cooking, but I can only name two or three women who actually like cooking after the third child is born and eating solid food. And if you don't like doing it, you are going to want to be DONE with it... not make it into something enjoyable. Options are easy!!!
You take ONE meat and three sauces... teryaki chicken, chicken alfredo and lemon pepper chicken. You pre-boil the meat and cut it up into a bowl. Then you put the "extras stuff" like veggies into other bowls and you keep your sauces in three bowls as well. Each kid comes to the counter points at the meat, the sauce and the veggie and you put a "kid sized portion" on the griddle and let it start heating up with the chosen sauce and move to the next child! By the time you have the order taken from the third child the first order is done!! You pasta it, plate it and send it off with the kid who is smiling because he didn't have to eat tomatoes but just got broccoli. (Yes I am awesome!)
3. Clean up- Leftovers go into ziploc bags for those times when the child says, "...but Dad I can't sleep! I'm STAAAAARVING!" Don't bother with Tupperware, gladware, or even glass dishes. Ziploc bags are your friend! And use paper plates three or four times per week on the busier nights! Cuts down on the clean-up time EXPONENTIALLY!
4. "Lather, Rinse, Repeat" Each kid has his or her own cup! If they want a drink they make sure their cup is clean, or at least clean enough for their needs. Then just dump a cup of hot water down the griddle and scrape it into the grease collector on the griddle and BINGO-BANGO your dinner is DONE!
Me and the kids can be in and out of the kitchen with everyone fed and the kitchen clean in just BARELY over an hour. But that's mostly because we play the "High vs Low" game every night. You know! Tell me what the "high" point of your day was... now tell me the "low" point of your day.
It's a great game in large families because the kids will use the opportunity to "rat each other out" and it gets everyone focussed on eachother.
So there you go Senor Roberto!!! Now, you can go protect the smaller of us here!