Let me begin by sharing our lovely Saturday evening with you guys. (Last weekend)
About a month ago I had looked them up online to inquire about cheesecake pricing for my mother’s birthday. Did not pay attention to the fact that it was a restaurant as well…. or maybe I did? I really can not remember, as I have slept since then, but have been hungry for cheesecake ever since. Only cheesecake on my brain when I think of Cheesecake Factory….. why would anyone think salmon or pasta or soup or…. you get the idea.
So we arrive at the factory- small children in tote as big boys were both visiting their other parent’s. We had already eaten dinner at home and this really was just a dessert trip.
Well, what do you know? They serve a full menu of options!?!? Seriously? In that case, I might be a little hungry.
One really awesome thing they do there for little ones is bring each child out a plate of snacks- sliced bananas and a couple of different types of sliced breads. As a mom, you just won me over! Nick and Luke LOVED this. This is completely complimentary. You get 10 out of 10 stars just for this alone. (The things that make a momma happy.)
Dinner was delish. Lenny and I shared a salmon and pasta plate that Nicholas nibbled on as well (he loves fish… well, he loves food…he will eat anything that does not eat him first). We ordered the twins corny dogs to share- they were fancy little things. So cute! (They usually share a kids meal since every single time we have ordered them their own meals, more than half goes to waste.)
Then…. I finally got to have some red velvet cake cheesecake! HOLD ME BACK! It was very very good! I even finished it off Sunday morning for breakfast, healthy I know!
This place was all about presentation. I can not wait to go back! I would love to take the big boys too! We need to win the lottery first, but we shall see. The factory is a little on the $$$$$ side. Especially for a family of 14,000.
And thank you to the sweet lady in the fancy dress in the restroom who so kindly helped with washing little one’s hands after a 15 minute potty break. She was so nice! She just jumped right in and wanted to help as we were all crowded around the sink. (Nick and Luke are trying really really hard to go potty like big boys. Doing really well, and the M and M’s as motivation do not hurt.)
Did I mention little Matthew sat in his first restaurant highchair at the factory? It was just so…. sad and cute. He is so big and just growing and I wanted to cry but I held it together and… of course I did not have a camera on me. But take my word- it was adorable and emotional and I am ready to cry again just thinking about it.
So, the meat and potatoes of my post today. (Man, I am funny! I do stand up on the weekends. j/k!)
Last week we started a new afterschool schedule. With all these children it is not hard at all for one little thing to throw a wrench in our gears. If one thing gets off track, before I know it, homework, dinner, showers and bedtime become a feat that could easily grey my hair in just one night. (Have I mentioned I rely on the school year to bring me the perfect structure and balance that I need to endure my day? Wait, my life!)
Let me say, most of the below schedule has existed here in our home for as long as I have been home with the kids, but, it has not officially been posted- with obvious timeslots that everyone is following at the same time as a routine. Well, I think one time we had something posted…. or was that a dream?
Anyway, it is posted in the living room, hanging by tacks, written in colorful markers and everyone sees it as soon as they walk in the front door. I know you are thinking how tacky… but it actually looks nice. It matches the marker scribbles on the walls. Fits right in- and it is the only legible markers tracks in our house.
The children have all been notified that failure to remain aware of this schedule and follow it will result in consequences of being knocked in the middle of next week and they will be so bored when they get there because they will have no one to play with…. so I advised them not to try that. So far, they are sticking to it.
Our After School Schedule:
3:30-4:00- after school snack and help tidy up the living room. The living room is a never ending mess. We clean it up multiple times a day. Actually, we usually vacuum multiple times per day. Right after school cleaning up the living room always needs to be done again to start the next phase of our day off on a good track. A clean living area and kitchen brings me tranquil sanity the same way a massage brings a normal person comfort and relaxation.
4:00-5:00 Free play! It can be outside, XBOX or Wii (we are NOT game junkies, but we try to keep it real- boys really do enjoy games- in moderation of course), tv, reading, whatever they want. They have been in a structured classroom all day long with many restrictions. They are BOYS…. if you are raising a male, or males, you completely understand the importance of that statement- they are BOYS! Not only do they need the freedom to make choices at this point in their day, but they need to be able to get their wild hairs out.
5:00-6:00- Homework. This is so challenging. They have spent their entire school day in a classroom doing work. They are so over it by this point, but it has to be done. They should have a fair share of their wildness out at this point. If Garrett has more than an hour worth of homework, we will improvise the rest of his schedule accordingly. Anthony’s homework is pretty simple- one sheet (a different subject each day) and then 20-30 minutes of reading. This is all done at the kitchen table. Nick and Luke love to pretend that they have homework too. So, they usually sit a the table for a little bit during this time mimicking Garrett and Anthony. It really is so cute. While this is going on I am finishing up dinner details.
6:00-7:00- Dinner! Need I say more? Yum-o! If time works in my favor, I try to do kitchen clean up during this time as well.
7:00-8:00- Finish up any chores, any homework that did not get done earlier and the rest can be used for playtime. While Garrett and Anthony are doing this, the twins are flooding the bathroom, I mean, taking a shower.
8:00-8:15- Garrett shower and Anthony pack his bag for school. Twins getting ready for bed- p.j.’s and tidy up their room.
8:15-8:30- Anthony shower and Garrett pack his bag for school. Twins still getting ready for bed. This is a task!
8:30-9:00- Garrett and Anthony should be pretty much ready for bed. At this point make it into their rooms and tidy up, etc. Twins in their beds with either a movie going (Disney) or a bedtime story. They are like their father- they love to go to sleep watching tv.
9:00- Lights out- in every single room even the living room. Big kids in bed. They can have their tv’s on if they choose. The big kids are scared of the dark, more so than the twins. Ssshhh, don’t tell them I told you this. So, having a tv on is very important to them. Yes, they have night lights too, but the tv somehow brings them comfort… so I go with it. Maybe they are foolin’ me? Not sure.
In the end this schedule has forced me to stay on track as well. If I get off track they get off track. This means dinner must be done on time! Which leads me to my next topic…. serious, heavy duty, meal planning!
Sunday I sat down and planned our meals for the entire week trying to cook once and use twice, crockpot it as much as possible, and use my homemade gourmet meal class pre-assembled meats. I even used my awesome handy dandy magnetic fridge planner that my sweet friend Kim gifted me. It literally took me maybe 45 minutes to plan the meals and make my grocery list. Off to Target I went to purchase all of the needed items on my shopping list (with screaming tantrum induced twins and a happy sweet little baby in tow). Nick and Luke were so bad at Target on Sunday. We really should shop at Walmart…. we have Walmart toddler tantrums all the time. You know what I am talking about. If not, this is another story for another day.
Sunday- Homemade Gourmet Garlic Basil Chicken with homemade spaghetti sauce over noodles. I made a romaine lettuce salad with black olives and EVOO and red wine vinegar as dressing. (Garrett packed leftover chicken and pasta for lunch 2 times this week. Yes, they have microwaves at his school.)
Monday-– Crockpot Chicken Fried Rice and Hot and Sour Crockpot Soup (but I made it on the stove because I only have one crockpot). You have to check these recipes out. The crockpot lady really has this stuff figured out. Kathy and LeeAnne (shout out to my Camenae friends) this soup is superb! You must make it… TONIGHT!! It is as good as Szechuan’s! You will love it- take my word! You could honestly cut the mushrooms in half if you want… there are a lot in the recipe. (For the chicken that was used in the rice I used frozen homemade gourmet teriyaki chicken.)
Tuesday- Homemade Gourmet Kansas City Cola Brisket cooked in the crockpot all day, mashed potatoes (instant of course), baked beans (Bush’s canned no less) and pillsbury flakey layers biscuits- these are frozen and wonderful!
Wednesday- Crockpot Chicken Chow Mein (using left over chicken I cooked to make the fried rice on Monday). I also had some brisket left over so I tossed that in as well. This was yum!!
Thursday- Creamy Corn and Spinach Enchiladas. Yes, this was in the crock and man was it GOOOOOOD!!!!! I layered it instead of individual enchiladas and she recommends halving the verde sour cream sauce which I did and it was perfect. One of the great things about this is, of course it is easy, but you get to work in fresh spinach which the kids did not notice until Garrett figured it out half way through the meal. And at that point they were like, really? Hum, this is good!
The original plan was to use leftover brisket from Tuesday night, but there was not enough to make another full meal (so I tossed it in with Wednesday’s Chow Mein). Instead, I used some of my frozen homemade gourmet Creamy Tortilla Chicken for the meat in this dish. (I cooked four breasts and used two for this meal and stored the other two in the fridge for another meal.) We made Puerto Rican rice as a side.
Friday- Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas using the leftover Creamy Tortilla Chicken that I sat aside from last nights dinner. This is easy- chopped up chicken mixed with a can of black beans. Place a few spoon heapings on a flour tortillas with a spoonful of leftover PuertoRican rice and top with cheese. Fold in half and bake on a griddle on both sides. You can top with sour cream, guacamole and/or picante sauce. This is always a winner at our house and is a great way to use leftover chicken pretty effortlessly.
Saturday- EATING OUT!!!! Fo’ sure!
I know this is a lot of information and a lot to read in one post, but I really hope it helps someone out there. It is my life at the moment and I know I can not be the only one needing an after school schedule and meal planning strategies and Calgon moments galore! I hope you are laughing, because I am!