A change of scenery

Once a year, we go to Naples for work. As that’s where mom and dad are while it’s icy cold at home, I always bring the kids and babysitter with so we can bomb around and enjoy the sunshine. This year, that felt more complicated as Tess is in first grade and she and Remy have a lot more going on in school than in years past. We decided to split the party, so Dave stayed in Milwaukee with the Bigs a few more days and I came down with the Littles.

All of us seem to be a bit shellshocked by how much quieter things are with only half of the family. Remy has voiced feeling alone without the rest of us at breakfast and dinner, and the Littles keep asking where Tess and Remy are. It feels weird to know they are in a blizzard as we enjoy the sunshine.

As fun as it is to come to Florida, it’s also great to get a change of scenery to help change our mindset. Over the last few years, we’ve had great strategic discussions down here, and the shock of palm trees and porches after sweaters and snow tires can’t help but jog all of our brains! This year more than ever, I welcome the opportunity to revisit, re-envision, and catch up on some of the bigger picture thinking that sometimes skips us in the day-to-day grind.

It’s also amazing to get quality time with my parents. The older I get, the more delighted I am with them as advisors, as friends, and as people who make me laugh more than almost anyone I know. They reaffirm my faith that life gets better and better, and that we can all grow and change at any age. Watching my kids lean on them and love them is such a gift. That said, our 2 AM night of crying with laughter on the porch was followed by an 8:30 PM bedtime for me.


When dinner is a shit show

Some nights, we know it’s gonna be a rough one – when you walk in the door to the sound of multiple screeching children, for example. Other nights seem shimmery with potential, until they tumble over the edge of the cliff into utter insanity. We recently had one of those. And because our day today was so blissful, I’m going to share a less idyllic moment.

We planned a special dinner. Nothing major! But a cut above the usual. And it seemed the most friendly kid meal in the world – baked chicken cordon bleu with green beans. We let the kids watch a show while I prepped the beans and Dave learned how to make the chicken. Everything went swimmingly, so much so that we even made the sauce! When tv time was over, the kids restrained themselves and said a simple thanks. Suddenly, it shifted. One kid started doing everything naughty that crossed their mind, including calling everyone in the house “stupid” – a forbidden word around here. And then our peaceful evening became a race to fend off disaster. We did not succeed.

On a night where I was worried about running out of food (because it was so good, I assumed they’d all want seconds), no one ate dinner. Two kids asked to go to bed, one kid lost their mind and was dragged up to bed, and the last kid methodically plugged away at green beans until they merited the tiniest dessert imaginable. Because no one was really good that night.

We struggled through bedtime, and got everyone calmed down. We talked about how it’s hard to be good when we’re tired, and that we all make mistakes. We sang songs and said I love you. But I was so sad. I’d allowed myself to envision a fun night, with chatter about school and adventures. The reality of our family? When someone goes off the deep end, the rest usually follow like lemmings.

Sometimes our kids astound us with what they can do at these ages. (That was the previous night, when Tess peeled all the potatoes and the kids were dreamy.) And sometimes we feel the reality of five kids six and under.

We often get asked how we feed this many little mouths, and my answer is “planning, planning, planning!” As my cooking resources migrate online, I decided to share some of our favorites with the universe. If you’re interested, check out www.cooklikelove.com. You can even recreate our pretty dinner of that evening, without the background screaming!

In the meantime, today was dreamy. We had pancakes and fruit salad, spent most of the day at the pool where someone else made lunch, saw friends and heard friends perform on stage, cheering them on from the audience at the biggest music festival in the world. Here amazing and it was badass. Love our peeps! Did I mention my parents came with? So the rough nights are legitimately rough, but the good days are out of this world.