March 05, 2012

I have a plan

Since moving to Texas, especially over the crazy hot summer, we fell into the habit of going out for dinner on Friday nights. Until it got colder (and I use the term loosely), we could sit out on the plethora of patios, sipping our margaritas whilst the children ate quietly around us (in my blissful margarita-hazed imagination). There are several really nice outdoor malls around here, one of which has a splash park and fountain right in the middle of it. We’d dine, walk around, the kids would attack the fountain, we’d hit the ice cream shop and call it a night.

As nice as that sounds, a few things have come up that sucked the fun out of Fridays. First off, Jack is no longer complacent in a restaurant, not that he ever really was. Now, though, it’s more of an exercise in torture trying to go anywhere with him where he’s expected to remain in one place for whole minutes at a time. On more than one occasion I have simply grabbed him and walked, leaving Kurt and the girls to sort things out on their own.

Speaking of whom… the girls. They had gotten to the point where they expected to go out as a given. Not going out brought on a fit, even though they rarely ATE their dinner and often came home in an over-stimulated crying mess. The treat had turned into a belief in their due entitlement and that is a big ol’ no-go in my playbook.

Family Fun Night, not so much.

The major issue, though, is more practical. Simply put, it costs money to go out on the town. Doing it every week, well, that adds up.  With our house in Colorado still lingering on the market, living the Dallas high life doesn’t really fit. Don’t get me wrong, we’re fine, but living in reality is something we should all practice from time to time. You know, in small doses.

So last month I started a new tradition: hangin’ at home. Novelty!  In an effort to find something else fun (and cheap) to do, I started to plan some festivities to ring in the weekend. Right off the bat, I informed the girls that there would be no eating out anymore except for very special occasions, like birthdays or really bad PMS.

To keep it fun, I planned out every Friday with a special “event”. We’ve had a fancy-dress Tea Party with hors d’oeuvres and pink lemonade, Make Your Own Pizza night (that sort of failed, actually, I am not so much good with dough),  Sundae Funday, Breakfast For Dinner, and so forth. Granted, these don’t SOUND very fascinating but to a couple of little girls it has been the bees knees.

Amidst all that planning, in a fit of mad efficiency, I threw caution to the wind and planned out the rest of the time, too. As in, I sat my butt down and made a dinner menu for the whole month, five nights a week. Recipes noted, side dishes listed, grocery lists prepared and EVERYTHING.

I know. I was shocked at myself, too. Feel free to applaud, I’ll wait.

Done? OK. I realize there are fancy people who have been doing this forever, all the time, without even thinking about it. They are more awesome than me. I bow down before them as they tower over me in coolness.  But for me, this is a big thing. BIG. I've struggled with the "what's for dinner" question since settling into housewifely-ness years ago. it's no secret I hate cooking. But for a month now I have not been consumed with panic at 5 PM, staring blindly into an unhelpful pantry. That right there is worth the hour or two of irritation it takes to get it all sorted out and down on the calendar.

I did the whole shebang again for March this weekend and found myself with, get this, more dinners I wanted to try than I had days in the month. We’re in the Twilight Zone over here. I ended up popping on over to April and penciling a few days in ahead of time.

It’s madness and it feels so good. The best part of the whole experiment, though, is the way the girls have embraced their new Fridays. Every week they’re all a-twitter for the Special Event. Just adding all caps (Taco Night! Ice Cream For Dessert Night!) seems to make it a party in their eyes. They’ve lost that little bite of spoiled attitude that was starting to really turn my stomach. For them, the treat is doing something as a family and making a big deal about it— just because. That alone is worth every second of organizational angst I get from having to put it all together.

I’m running low on ideas, though. There are only so many tea parties I can stand. Any suggestions? What’s a fun little tradition your family has?


Robin said...

OMG! I'm blown away. That's SO impressive! Wow! Does this mean you're a real grown-up now? (ok, I'm a little afraid this might come across as sarcastic, but it's totally not!) Wow. Just Wow. You're amazing!

Robin said...

Oh, and for "own pizza" night, try the foccaccia bread they used to stock in front of the deli case at the store. You can buy little round ones, perfect sizes for the girls.

Lisa said...

We have movie night, usually Friday night, but sometimes it's Saturday night. We get a new-to-us kid-friendly movie, usually from tha-Flix, and I pop popcorn the old-fashioned way on the stove, in a huge pot. The kids love watching the kernels pop, and then we all sit down with our freshly popped corn and watch the movie.

Meg said...

We do movie night, too! I think every Friday often morphs into movie night after the "party" bit is over. Any ideas? Someone suggested they might be ready for the Narnia movies, but I dunno. I'm getting tired of Disney, though. Nanny McPhee was a HUGE relief!