Notes from Home

5:45 am September 16, 2013

Early Monday morning, just before sunrise. A moment before, the sky had been a beautiful blaze of color. It faded away in the 90 seconds it took to get the camera…

A fitting metaphor for the last two weeks around here – always a moment behind.

Angel’s school year began the day after Labor Day (September 3rd). She goes Monday through Thursday mornings, 8:15 to 11:30. Auntie Sarah has to leave for work by 8:30, so most mornings go kind of like this (or we hope they do):

5 am, Grandmom is up and in the shower. 20 minutes later, pour coffee and let Sweet Cleo out (Grandad has been up since 3:30 or 4, but she waits at the foot of the bed until I get up.) Drink coffee, watch local morning news. Read newspaper. Enjoy the silence.

6 am, put away last night’s dinner dishes to clear the drainboard. Wash dogs’ bowls. Make Cleo come back in the house and eat breakfast. Let Cleo back out the second she finishes so she doesn’t make a pest of herself asking. Get breakfast together for the kiddoes. Begin to hear the first rumblings from Upstairs, where Niko, Sarah and Rufus are getting up and around. Wonder if Angel is going to wake up on her own. Go in at 6:45 and wake her. Again.

7 am, Grandad and Cleo go for a walk. Angel is at the table. Niko, Sarah and Rufus spill down the stairs. Sarah makes breakfast for all of them, and sits with the kids while I take her dog on a walk around the yard. Enjoy another 15 minutes of peace. Breakfast for everyone finished by 7:30, then off to get dressed, shod, pottied, tooth- and hairbrushed. If all goes well, there will be a few minutes of tv-time before we leave the house. If not, there will be a few minutes of loud complaining before we leave the house.

8 am, and the daily discussion of whether or not a jacket is necessary begins, usually followed by why it isn’t cold enough to wear the fuzzy purple coat yet. At 8:10, we’re in the car, having kissed Mommy/Auntie Sarah goodbye and waved her car out of the driveway. 8:15 is drop-off time. Niko loudly voices his displeasure at leaving his cousin at school (or not being allowed to go to school himself – it’s not quite clear what his complaint is).

From this point, the schedule diverges according to the day of the week. Mondays and Thursdays, we go back home to play. Tuesdays are Grocery Days. Wednesday, Miss Sophie the babysitter arrives at 9 so I can (in theory) have some time for myself. She’s very sweet, but not terribly authoritative. I try to make lists for myself for those days, and prioritize the chores. Doesn’t always work.

So the first half of the day has a routine of sorts now…but it’s tenuous. One gear (read: child) breaks down, and the whole thing can be thrown into chaos. Our weak point appears to be breakfast. Sarah and I have tried all sorts of things, but very few are working. Banana muffins were a hit for a few days. Yogurt has lost its appeal. No one will TOUCH oatmeal, even with copious amounts of honey or maple syrup….

I’m running out of new ideas, and I need your help. What are some healthy, easy-to-eat morning meals that don’t involve cooking in the morning? Batches of baked goods that can be done ahead, things with fruit? I don’t want to go the Cold Cereal route again…

Maybe, just maybe, I can get back to blogging soon….


52 thoughts on “Notes from Home

  1. What about breakfast burritos? I make those ahead of time and put in the freezer and microwave in the morning. These worked great for my boys when they were older. Not sure the little ones would like them. My granddaughter wouldn’t eat fruit unless she could put it in dip (aka yogurt) although you did say yogurt was getting old, she wouldn’t eat it either until I told her it was dip (she loves ranch dip and cheese dip which is why I went with the dip theory). When my boys were little, I got them to eat sweet potatoes by telling them it was Halloween food. Maybe just renaming things? It’s so hard at that age to get them to eat right. Hang in there and hope you do find time for yourself–you need it!

    • Niko’s current breakfast obsession is a Thomas’ corn English muffin – which he takes 2 bites of and announces he’s finished. God Forbid we run out of them, though! Still, I want to have them eating things that will get them off to a good start, without all that Processed Crap. We do dips and sauces with dinner every night for their meat – branching out beyond ketchup has been fun for everyone!

  2. Hmm, I had a pair of kids when i was nannying who were horrors to feed. So we started to make our own muesli. Into the big roasting dish went two cups of oatmeal and i started it slowly roasting in the oven, I had lined up all the jars and packets along the counter and the children themselves chose what else went in. nuts, seeds, dried fruits , what ever they liked. At the appropriate time these were added to the roasting oats (fruit last) then honey to make it sweet. Cooled and ladled into jars. Having made it themselves they were more inclined to eat it. It was always heavy on the fruit and pumpkin sees if i remember rightly!
    Now here is the secret. In the morning set the tables with everything in miniature. The muesli goes into the tiniest of bowls. Really tiny. Add a strawberry on top, or one slice of peach on another miniature saucer with a teensy weensy fork. Milk to pour from a little jug. Little ones really cannot eat a big amount at one time. So shot glasses for the orange juice, tiny dipping bowls for the muesli. I made pound cake with 10 eggs and honey and placed tiny slivers beside their bowls, so they unknowingly ate eggs. Or home made french vanilla icecream (which is an egg custard ice cream) in another little dish. Why not icecream at breakfast, it is milk and eggs and honey after all.. I would tell the scandalised parents
    I often read to them as they ate, so engrossed in the story they would spoon food into their mouths without argument. This calmed breakfast right down, the reading took the sting out of it. We all calmed down
    It is easy to set up and completely non threatening. Faced with a bowl as big as your head and the command to eat up quickly or we will be late (even in the gentlest of tones) causes trouble every time.
    Now part two! The car. When I had finally got everyone into the car, I would hand them their pkt of raisins, or cut up apple in a plastic cup and a small peanut butter sandwich, wrapped in grease-proof paper. They had a box between them in the car with books and car toys, and their car food and a bag for the rubbish. Car food has to be two bite food so there is no mess.
    These two stages happened every single morning. After a while they would ask for seconds but I only every served the smallest portions in the world so there could be lots of claps and cries of well done when they emptied their bowls. It is a training time. So be careful. Get way ahead of them.
    Your bigger feeding time will be after school when she is starving, so don”t worry about the portions.
    I would also suggest you get them up 15 minutes earlier, give yourself more time to get them dressed and fed.. take the hurry out of it.
    Hope this helps. It turns breakfast on its head. But a calm organised morning is a jewel to start the day on.
    Love love


    • Taking too long isn’t the problem – they have a half-hour, and I have it ready and waiting when they get to the table. It’s the “one bite, I’m done, let’s go play!” We do the Tiny Dishes thing already, and when I make a batch of muffins, they’re mini’s. Those are popular for a day or two… “Too Crunchy” is off the list right now, along with “Too Mushy”, so no granola/muesli or oatmeal…
      The trip to school only takes 5 minutes – no snack required. Angel has a snack during school, so she isn’t ravenous when she gets home. Lunch is the one time I know they’ll both eat well, even if it’s the same sandwich every day for a month. there’s always plenty of fruit to go with it!
      Love the ice cream idea – no different from yogurt with honey, when you think about it 😉

  3. My kids used to like their cereal with hot milk or hot apple juice, but then grumbled that I wouldn’t buy the sugary or chocolate cereals for them… I hope you get time for blogging, and a little more time to sit or walk by yourself soon.

  4. back in from the part one of the chores. Smoothies are also a fantastic breakfast. But once again make them little. Also any children i worked with were told that if they ate their first helping they would be allowed tv before school. If they choose not to eat their breakfast that is fine too, they can read instead or play with whatever but they are choosing to have no television. Have this discussion the night before at bed time,when everything i calm so Angel knows that it is HER choice. (I bet Angel is the instigator bless her heart) She will grasp this very quickly and understand that she is in control over whether she watches TV in the morning or not. It is her choice. But if Nikos gobbles down his teensy portion of eggs and bacon, or muesli and milk, or salami and cheese, or peas and carrots, or pancakes and maple syrup on fridays, or cake and icecream on Thursdays, then toddles off to watch the tele without her, she will have a hissy fit the first morning then decide to eat the following. promise.
    I did love working with kids. can you tell!?.. c

    • Nope! Niko’s the one who wants to take a single bite and go! And at 2 and a half, he’s going through a Not Eating phase. We’re working with him on sitting at the table and waiting until everyone is finished – it will make dinner a much more pleasant experience when he gets that! I think one reason that lunch goes so well is that I’m the only adult at the table then…there’s no one else to act-out for. My kids used to do that – they’d be good for me, or good for my mother when they were alone with her, but put both of us in the same room with them, and it was Let’s See Who Can Get the Most Attention! Just have to get Mommy to a place where she won’t Play Along on that little game 😉

      • ah yes, i can see the problem there, the grown ups need to all be on the same page. I think you are right in saying one bite is enough, but then sit and wait. maybe that is enough for the moment. c

        • He is only little and possibly is trying out his little boy power. One of the things i wrote in my book for Nannies was to have a meeting of the grown ups first. Then you can decide as a group how you are going to handle this. Then you will all do the same thing. The last thing any of you should allow is a battle at the table. Be very non confrontational. Also I forgot to suggest the star chart. Kids LOVE seeing stars going up in the columns next to their names. Give out stars for everything. Eat one bite -can be one star, eat two bites -can be another star, eat three can be another star. and etc. Buy sheets and sheets of stars. I had a star chart for every kid i managed. Oh dear i should send you this chapter. make a few other columns, for taking dishes to the sink, making bed, putting dirty clothes in the hamper. Hugs get stars. Thank you gets stars. Make it really easy to get the reward. But remember the star chart can only last for two weeks maximum. And it is designed to reward not to punish. It is fun. The star chart is fun! c

  5. That photo is lovely, even if it was shot a minute or so late. My two are, unfortunately on a grilled cheese for breakfast kick (somehow even that feels like too much effort in the morning rush). Are Niko and Angel egg averse? If not, you could make “egg cups” – beat 4 eggs and divide into a lined muffin tin. Add any veg you have around and meat/fish/tofu or whatever they like and top with a bit if cheese. Bake for 10-15 min in a 400 F oven.

  6. We’ve been known to make a batch of waffles, keep them in the fridge, and then pan-fry them just before eating. My grandma would make pancake batter the night before and just cook them in the morning (her pancakes had sneaky things like oats and applesauce.)

  7. You are getting some great ideas!! I hope some of them work for you. A good start to the day is a blessing for everyone. My question is…. how will a visiting Great Granny fit into this and not create chaos????

  8. Sounds tricky… I was always happy with toast as a child, but we also often had porridge – with brown sugar on top! We made it with half milk, half water and it was never turned down by any of us. Hope things get easier soon. I do miss your posts Marie! Take care of yourself. 😀

    • Thanks, Cathy – I miss posting. I write them in my head all day, but then they never make it into print…
      The kids ask for toast a lot of the time, but seldom eat it all…I’m just looking for other things they might like better…things that aren’t advertised on tv by dancing cartoon characters 😉

  9. Our kids usually are fine with toast but once in awhile we’ll do up a batch of homemade waffles at the weekend and then keep them in the freezer. Take them out and toast. Makes a very quick breakfast and it’s something different.

  10. Celi, always the people-management goddess, is spot on as ever. I bow to her wisdom! And I still wish you all the fortitude and patience and delight needed and possible in your household, Marie darling!

  11. I was going to suggest egg muffins, but you already have the suggestion. My children loved these and I would fill them with all sorts of good things including meat. Since we live on a farm we always have meat. I grew up with cake and milk for breakfast. My Momma had to go to school because I told the teacher we have cake and milk for breakfast and got in major trouble (in the first grade). To the day she died she always loved cake and milk for breakfast she said what is the different between pancakes or waffles vs cake and milk.


  12. Apple slices and cheese! Turkey sandwiches! Pre-schooler trail mix: Cherrios, raisins, and cheese cubes. Noodles! Peanut butter toast and grapes! Breakfast doesn’t have to be traditional breakfast food.

    • We do lots of dry cereal mixes, for sure! Niko’s just in an “I’m TWO, and I’m not eating!” phase…I was in a childbirth class before my oldest was born, and a pediatrician came to answer questions. One couple asked about their two year old and food…He said, “Don’t worry. Two-year-old’s don’t eat. It’s normal…” and to just wait him out. 🙂

  13. What a wonderful lot of ideas of which I do hope you will be able to pick a few!! Can anyone ‘beat’ Celi for being ultra-practical 🙂 ! Thank God mine little knew they could ‘protest’ 🙂 ! And I certainly shall not add to any ideas: have never eaten much cereal and I am absolutely certain that pickled raw herring, smoked eel, homemade cottage cheese etc with raw onion atop rough rye bread would win anyone over! {Yep, still do and love ~ oh, black coffee sans sweetener added!] . . .

  14. Some wonderful ideas from celi, I was going to suggest making a tortilla/thick omelette in a square baking tin (bake it) then cut into little portions – make breakfast a picnic, much more fun! Stunning photo and I so admire what you are doing – you are an amazing woman.

  15. I’m afraid I am no help with the breakfast things, my kids got cereal or toast, that was it. We don’t do muffins or pancakes for breakfast here, they are snack foods not breakfast foods. Well that is how they are here. For us, eating muffins is like eating cake. I love the suggestions from above. Haha. Good luck with it all. I was never a routine sort of person, couldn’t do a routine if my life depended on it, so we always rolled with the punches, we never knew what the day would bring, we still don’t. Life is full of surprises. I should stop typing, but I just don’t seem to be able to right now, I am so sorry, I am waffling on about nothing now.
    Nice to hear that you need to wake Angel now, I remember when you couldn’t get her sleep and couldn’t get to sleep in at all. She is on the way to be a teenager, few years to go, haha. My girls have to be woken every school morning.

    • I was bad at routines until I married Hubby. He deals with his A.D.D. by enforcing his own routine, and it helped me get there, too. I wish now that I’d been able to do it when my kids were young – life would have been so much less chaotic! And they might be more capable of picking up after themselves… 😉
      Angel doesn’t sleep in every morning, but wants to be later and later as the week goes on. Thursday morning, she had a total meltdown when she had to get up…

  16. There was a post on FB that used eggs plus some other stuff and it was baked in a muffin tin. Each person at the table got their own muffin. I didn’t save it and now I can’t find it. It will come around again and I’ll save it for you….. if you want. You have lots of good ideas

  17. morning Marie! Having read your “notes” and everyone’s responses all I can really say is thank goodness you find a teeny patch of quiet time first thing in the morning – I know I need my quiet time and I don’t have your schedule!
    As to kids and food, what do I know?! Well I was once one 🙂 The classic for us was toast and marmite ……. but I’m guessing that might not go down too well….. or maybe you could think French, and a bowl of hot chocolate with a piece of bread or toast (sans marmite) to dip in?
    Hope all is well with you my friend x

    • Ah, come on – you have nieces and nephews, don’t you? I thought you were one of those Cool Aunties who made pudding for breakfast and things 😉
      Quiet time is so important in the mornings – without it, the entire day is off-kilter. I overslept on Friday last week, and nearly forgot to feed the dogs!
      Things are calming down a bit…

  18. I wish I could be of help, Marie, but I never was one for breakfast and suggesting cold pizza hardly seems right, even when it includes anchovies. Cold pasta works for me, too, but that hardly seems right, too. Come to think of it, this might explain whey there were no sleep-overs at Uncle John’s house. Hmmm…
    I hope by now things have settled a bit for you.

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