Easy Dinner Ideas for Working Moms and Dads

By: Carolyn Coleman 

I think figuring out what to make for dinner is one of the biggest issues for working moms. For some, the effort it takes to coordinate family dinner isn’t worth it or even possible and I totally get that. I feel like I spend most of my evening preparing dinner and then cleaning up afterwards. This by far is my biggest challenge. I was getting to the point where I despised food shopping and cooking dinner.

One night recently I cooked a steak, baked potato and spinach for my son, when he sat down to eat he said, “Mom what’s the occasion?” and I answered that I actually had time to prepare a meal. He was very thankful and at that point I realized I was thinking about the dinner process too much.

I’m amazed at the fact that my husband’s cooking skills have completely vanished because he used to be a great cook and actually enjoyed preparing dinner. Yet somehow all the dinner prep responsibilities have fallen on me. This can be really frustrating because my son is somewhat of a picky eater and because my husband doesn’t eat pork or beef and will only eat brown rice and whole wheat pasta.

So with my son’s busy high school basketball schedule and me thinking I need to attend every game I have managed to come up with a few (easy!) meal selections that will satisfy everyone:

Purchase a roasted chicken from deli, make a few sides to go with that and the leftover chicken can be sliced and make sandwiches for lunch the next day.Unknown

Prepare a lasagna or pasta meal on the weekend that only needs to be popped in the oven one evening.

Unknown-1Your crockpot is a great tool to cook a variety of yummy meals- from chili to fajitas…the possibilities are endless! 

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I have found that preparation is key for dinner, shopping ahead of time and having somewhat of a weekly menu, helps to eliminate the nagging question of” what’s for dinner tonight.” Now that we share the food shopping responsibilities and both come up with dinner ideas, our evenings are a bit more organized. I’m happy to admit that I have come full circle and I now enjoy dinner time with my family again!

 

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New Year…Healthier You

By: Rachel Ventura 

Unknown-1With the New Year having just passed, many are thinking about ways to be and get healthy. Although for some it is short lived, I love the sense of determination and motivation this time of year! It pushes me to look for new and exciting ways for my family to be healthier. Here’s what we’ve been up to…

Generally, my family and I eat pretty well, but we could of course do better. A few months ago, we took a 5 day clean eating challenge and we really enjoyed it! The goal of the challenge was to eat healthier and cleaner. It was weird at first not to be eating packaged and processed food. I never thought anything of it when I would grab a pack of “100 calorie something” as a snack. While it’s definitely a better choice than some things, it’s not really not the best for you. Not to mention the fact that it pretty much has zero nutritional value. Not really the type of thing I want to put into my body.

So the challenge included lots of fruits and veggies, lots of healthy protein, whole grains, things like that. It felt so good to be eating a very balanced diet consisting of things from the earth, that hadn’t been tampered with and processed. Thinking about the amount of processed food we all eat, makes my stomach a bit queasy, even though I am an offender! We eat processed food all the time, sometimes without even knowing it.

Next week we are starting a new clean eating challenge. This time it is for 7 days and includes a crock pot recipe each night. Sounds perfect for this busy family! We are so excited to get started!

Another thing I can’t stress enough is the importance of water. Most people do not drink enough of it, and it’s really so important! I never ever used to drink water until my first pregnancy. Once I started, I realized how much better it made me feel. These days, I drink at least four 20oz glasses of water every day, if not more. Other than the many trips to the bathroom, I love all the benefits, my skin is clearer, I feel fuller, and I know what I’m drinking is healthy for me.

Keeping the kids busy and exercising can be tricky during these cold winter months. One thing we really enjoy doing together as a family is yoga. There are lots of videos available at Target and Walmart, or you can even find yoga workouts (and many others!) On Demand. Each night, before bed, we do a gentle yoga video. It’s a great workout and also very calming. My kids love it, and so do I!

I also try to take the kids to an indoor activity of some sort at least once a week, where they can run around and be active. Our favorites are Launch Trampoline Park in Norwood and Kidsports in Stoughton. This of course can get expensive, so we try to watch for coupons and daily deals of any sort. Additionally, any day that is even close to 40 degrees, we bundle up and hit the playground! It’s one of my favorite times to go because we usually have the place to ourselves!

Now my husband and I have decided to kick it up a notch. We are both healthy and are actually happy with the number on the scale, but we both want to be in better shape. Tone it up some. My husband tried P90X in the past, and got really good results. But the workouts were very long. Not something we really have time for. When he heard about P90X3, he bought it right away.

I didn’t even know he ordered it till it got shipped to the house. I read the manual and was surprised to see it was 30 minute workouts. I had been doing a 25 minute workout On Demand each day, but I didn’t really like it. I also tried to use the elliptical we have downstairs whenever I can, but even though it’s just downstairs, it’s sometimes tricky to get in a workout with the kids. I figured I would give this P90X3 a shot!

We are 2 weeks in and we both LOVE it! The workouts are great! I love that it’s something different each day. On the 4th day, I did 80+ pushups and 80+ pull/chin ups. I had never felt stronger in my life! I’m proud each time I finish a workout. I know I am doing something great for myself and best of all it pushes me to eat even healthier. Both things give me more energy throughout the day. I’ve already lost some inches around my belly, and I just feel good. Strong. Healthy. I can’t wait till the first 30 days has passed, so I can measure and take my 30 day pictures and see the difference. And then after 90 days? Oh boy. Exciting stuff!

What are you and your family doing to be healthy? Share it here, I’d love to know!

Posted in family activities, family health, fit, Rachel Ventura, yoga | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Working Mom

By: Jessica Aldred 

As I delivered my first son, some 6 ½ years ago, I quickly realized that I couldn’t bear the idea of going back to work full-time and only being able to spend mere minutes of quality time with him each day. Fortunately, I was able to leave my full-time corporate job for a part-time job closer to home that allowed me to bring my baby along too. Over time, I often wondered how one went about landing one of those coveted work from home mom jobs. Even more so, I wondered, are they real?

As the years went by I met an amazing group of mothers that I’m proud to call my friends.woman-41891__180 Every month, we make time to meet for dinner (kid free!) to catch up.  This is the group I’ve shared many of the trials and tribulations of motherhood with. We’ve supported each other as each new baby arrived, as each fundraiser came and went, and as each of our children entered school. As I got acquainted with these mothers, I came to find that one of them seemed to have found the coveted work from home opportunity I was after. For all intensive purposes, I stalked her for the job. While she knew me as a mother, she didn’t know me on a career level. Regardless, she took a leap of faith and recommended me for a position. I jumped on the opportunity and landed the job. I had found the holy grail of jobs for mothers of little ones!

Three years later, with three little boys tugging at my legs, I’m happy to say that I’m still employed by this amazing company that allows me to keep my career moving forward while putting my baby down for every nap, making it to every soccer practice and getting dinner on the table by 5. That said, I do have a job and the concepts of stay-at-home mom and working mom are not so easily combined.

While it’s great that I can be there for just about every moment of my children’s lives, or be available to let the repair man in, or cook a turkey on a week night, it’s not so easy to maintain good quality standards, timeliness, and attention to detail to my work while refereeing a wrestling match. As a mom, I’m the go to for many things that occur, so even when I’m “working” there’s still the natural inclination for my children, or even my husband, to distract me. What’s worse is that I make my own hours. I can work while the kids sleep, while they’re at school, or anytime I have some child care assistance. It’s amazing! However, I also sit at my desk mulling over a difficult situation while staring at a basket of unfolded laundry, watching dust bunnies roll across the floor, or listening to a fight breaking out downstairs.

It’s the ultimate struggle for work-life balance. How do you balance working 25-30 hours a week while still maintaining all your duties as a wife, mother, housekeeper, chauffer, chef, nurse, etc.? How do you balance this amazing opportunity to be there for your family as only a true stay at home mom can, while still contributing to your household financially? I’ve faced this balancing act for years now and have found evolving ways to make it work. There are days where I’ll work into the wee hours of the morning, or others when I will hide in my room typing away while my family thinks I’m “sleeping in,” or when I’ll enlist the help of family members so I can steal a few precious moments of quiet to productively get my work done.

There’s pro’s and con’s to my current work status that present themselves daily, however each day as I ask myself “Is it worth it?” the same answer resounds in my mind. YES! YES! YES!

Are you a working mom? If so, how do you balance these day to day struggles?

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We Challenge You to Step Outside this Season!

By: Martianne Stanger

Brrr. Am I the only one that feels like it’s been really chilly outside lately? Chilly, yet refreshing.

In fact, with layers of clothing and a thermos full of hot cider or chocolate in hand, the great outdoors at this time of year can be quite inviting!

Trust me on this.

My family and I have been hiking on the blue hills….

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building shelters in the woods…

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playing polar explorers in a shallow layer of snow…

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warming ourselves by our backyard fire pit…

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scaling dirt ledges in the neighborhood…

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And most importantly, breathing in the crisp, refreshing air with gratitude. Even on the coldest of days, we’ve still managed to spend some time outside- even if it’s just running three times around the circle and then back inside where it’s warm.  On the more temperate days, we’ve enjoyed hours of prioritizing exercise and playing in the invigorating winter air.

Like everyone, we are busy – perhaps too busy – and often overcome with tiredness or stress. However, we know we still have choices. One of those choices it to prioritize and “pause.”  Believe me, there is nothing quite like pausing for a moment in the great outdoors. Even when temperatures drop, time outside can be incredibly restorative. As little as five minutes out in the fresh air can reset the mind and fortify the body.

Won’t you join us? It may be chilly out there, but it’s invigorating, too. Go on, layer up, step outside and breathe in the clean, crisp healing air of the season!

Posted in Family, Martianne Stanger, Winter Activites | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Chicken Taco Bowls

By: Kathy Trainor 

Next time your family is craving some Mexican food, give these easy chicken taco bowls a try!

1 ½ lbs chicken breasts,
1 (16 oz.) jar  salsa,
1 (15 oz.) black beans – drained
½ lb frozen corn,
1 T. chili powder,
1 ½ tsp. cumin,
1 ½ tsp. minced garlic,
½ tsp. dried oregano,
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper,
¼ tsp. salt and pepper to taste

Add all of the above to the  slow cooker. Stir. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Near the end of the cooking time, cook two cups of brown rice according to package directions and mix in the slow cooker. After 8 hours of cooking, carefully remove the lid of the slow cooker. Stir with a fork to shred the chicken (it should be super tender and will shred easily). Build the taco bowls by placing rice on the bottom and then the taco chicken mix. Feel free to top it off with sour cream and cheese. Serves 4-6. images

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To have or to have not?

By: Heather O’Neill

I have been blessed with two beautiful boys. They are kind, sweet, caring, monstrous, giddy, stinky, lovable and mine.

And I think I want more.

Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I’m pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to do laundry, cook dinner, and referee the tag team champions of the world. I’ll find myself wondering how on earth people do this with more than two kids?  Then I see the endearing face of a little one on social media, gaze upon photos of my boys in their early days or see the hand-me-down clothes that my 18-month old nephew sports and my arms ache. My stomach twinges. My heart seems unfilled. I long to hold an infant in my arms again.

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It’s not just the baby that I’m missing – but I also think about what life will be like for my boys when they are older. Won’t having more siblings be better for them? They will have each other to lean on when times are rough; and there will be strength in numbers when they are faced with caring for their elderly parents.

And then I think – I have two arms. The perfect amount to cuddle with both of my boys at once and no one is left out. Bedtime has become so much easier when they can dress themselves, brush their own teeth and sleep through the night. There is a sense of independence, not only for them, but for my husband and I as well. It’s nice to actually go somewhere and not have to be on constant watch with a toddler running around.

Am I being selfish?

I feel like I am at a crossroads. I’m not getting any younger so it’s pretty much now or never.

My husband is content with two and does not wish to increase our family. If we were to have more, I would have a lot of convincing to do on his end and I’m not confident that he would change his mind.

Many of our friends and close family members are currently expecting. We are going to have a great influx of babies in our lives over the next 6 months. Am I just longing for what we had? Envious? I’m thrilled for them all and can’t wait to meet their little ones and witness the growth in them as parents and individuals.

I miss being the mom of a newborn baby – as crazy as that sounds! I should rephrase; I don’t miss the sleep deprivation, constant laundry or dirty diapers – but I do miss the snuggles, the naps, the witnessing of the first moments.

I know many women (and men) experience these feelings and that I am not alone in this thinking. I just wish I wasn’t so torn.

Posted in Baby fever, family planning, Heather Desmond O'Neill | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

New Year’s Dedication

By: Jessica Aldred

imgresIt’s that time of year again! That time of year when we make New Year’s Resolutions we stand no chance of sticking with. We resolve to eat better, exercise more and not sweat the small stuff. However, after giving it some thought, I’ve found that my resolutions this year are much different than years past. Over the past year I’ve survived a monstrous 3rd pregnancy and delivered the happiest baby boy you’ll ever meet, I bought a brand new house and sold my soul to pay for it, said good-bye to a fur-baby much too soon and made some really hard life decisions. As I reflect on 2014, I’m reminded that my life revolves around my family. The decisions I make and the trials & tribulations I endure are all for them. So this year, instead of listing a bunch of self-serving goals I’ll forget about in a matter of weeks, I’ve decided to refocus and make a different type of list, more of a dedication to my children and family.

In 2015 I am dedicated to:

  • Letting the dishes pile up in the sink until we have to search for the summer plastic utensils
  • Skipping bath time
  • Avoiding doing laundry daily
  • Taking at least one solid day off of work per week
  • Skipping school
  • Showing up late to an important meeting
  • Screaming too loud
  • Spending too much money

Why, you might ask? Why would I create such a negative list of resolutions? Because I’m dedicated to this little family I’ve created. In letting the dishes pile up, I’m able to snuggle up and read a good book with my budding reader after dinner. By skipping bath time, we’re able to play outside until the sun goes down. Skipping laundry means showing my kids that they’re more important than the constant upkeep of our home. Taking a day off of work means Mom takes a day to decompress and focus on what’s really important. Skipping school speaks to days spent sneaking into those kid-focused locations that are all too crowded during the summer and school breaks. I’ll scream too loud as my son watches his teammate score a goal and is just as excited as if it was him. And finally, I’ll spoil my kids rotten for as long as I can.

There will come a day when my children grow up and realize the stresses of being an adult, of cooking & cleaning, death & taxes, and days stretched too thin. In this moment, I am dedicated to keeping them from these things as long as I can. Keeping the wonder and excitement for each day, that comes to head during these holiday weeks, is something I can’t let slip away without a fight. So, I dedicate 2015 to the loves of my life, the little army I’ve created. I hope that in making these few small changes, they understand that they are what my life is about, the reason I don’t sleep and the reason my heart explodes with adoration on a daily basis. What does your list of resolutions look like this year?

Posted in Family, Jessica Aldred, New Year's Resolution | Tagged , , | 1 Comment