5 Fun Date Nights (No Babysitter Needed!)

Before kids. Ah the good old days... are gone and dead.  

Before kids. Ah the good old days... are gone and dead.  

When you're busy and you have kids, date night seems basically impossible. It requires SO MUCH PLANNING. Babysitters. Who's driving? You drank last time! We can't be home too late! $460 later you might have a moderately decent time, but date night can be easy and fun (and cheap) again with these awesome ideas. 

1. Video game night: two great choices for couples are MarioKart (duh) and my personal favorite, Diablo 3. Buy some junk food and beer, and game your little hearts out after the monsters are asleep. 

2. Pantry wars: feed the kids their favorite chicken fingers for dinner and wait until they're in bed to make a meal for yourselves. Pick 3-4 things from the fridge and pantry and challenge each other to make dinner Chopped style! Judge your dishes, loser cleans the kitchen! 

3. Outdoor wine pairing: buy a nice bottle of wine and find an appetizer to pair it with (frozen taquitos don't count). After the kids go to bed, put your appies together and sit on the porch or deck. Display your booze pairing prowess to your partner and enjoy!

4. Games night: pick your favorite board game or card game, bust out the fancy snacks (Chicago popcorn helloooooo) and get ready for a little competition. Our favorites are cribbage, Monopoly Millionaire (try not to get divorced), and Yahtzee. We also love Jenga but it's a little loud if you have sleeping brats. Errrr angels.

5. Massage movie night: a sexier take on the old standby. Pick a movie, and take turns sitting behind your partner for a nice shoulder rub. Hand and foot massages are equally awesome, and there are ummm more sensual options too. Pro tip: if your TV is in an area where your kids might be a cockblock, opt for watching on a laptop or tablet in your room. 

Family Meal Prep - Real Life Edition

Family Meal Prep

I hate meal prepping. Almost as much as I hate Smith machines. (Google it). 

I don't like it because it's time consuming, it requires a big chunk of time, and primarily most meal prep plans involve eating the same thing all week and they only feed one person. Well that's great if you're single and you REALLY like chicken and asparagus, but for the rest of us with busy schedules and small kids it doesn't make any sense. Sure you can eek out a block of time to fill all your Tupperware, but that doesn't help much with cook time if you're still running a round the clock restaurant for demanding small people (and big people that can't cook *AHEM husbands AHEM*). 

My solution is a hybrid plan of cooking somewhat regularly, but getting the biggest bang for your buck when you do whip out the pots and pans. It's also a program that feeds the rest of your family and not just you. Pro tip: if your meal plan is so complicated or low calorie or expensive that no one else can eat it, your meal plan sucks. 

So here are my cardinal rules for eating well with a family:

  1. When you do cook, double or triple what you think you'll need. If you're going through the trouble to grill three chicken breasts, grill six.
  2. Keep frozen vegetables on hand. Nutritious and even your husband can make them. Plus they never go bad, so you can keep a variety without worrying about expiration.
  3. Eggs are your friend. Don't just eat them for breakfast. 

Here's what a weeks worth of meals would look like in our house:

Monday

  • Breakfast - Sautéed veggies with scrambled eggs (I like mushrooms). I will also grate some cheese on there occasionally. Time: 10 mins.
  • Lunch - Tuna wraps with sugar snap peas. I add hot sauce to mine to cut down on the mayo and add a bit more flavour. Alfalfa sprouts are also a tasty addition that adds volume without calories. Time: 10 mins. 
  • Dinner - Grilled or baked chicken breast with rice and frozen veggies. Here's where the meal prep happens, so double the chicken you'll need for that meal, and double the rice. Pro tip: cook the rice in chicken or vegetable stock to amp up flavour without adding calories. Time: 20 mins. 

Tuesday

  • Breakfast - Quick oats with dried cranberries. I add extra brown sugar for the kids. Time: 5 mins.
  • Lunch - Leftover chicken breast with sliced cucumbers, hummus, and crackers. Time: 5 mins.
  • Dinner - Sliced leftover chicken breast with leftover rice stir fry. I add fresh sugar snap peas and bean sprouts with a little soy sauce. Time: 10 mins. 

Wednesday

  • Breakfast - Fried eggs and toast. Time: 10 mins.
  • Lunch - Leftover stir fry. Time: 5 mins.
  • Dinner - Turkey bolognese spaghetti. Cook ground turkey, add pasta sauce and a few frozen veggies. Serve over preferred pasta. If I'm watching carbs I eat more meat sauce and very little pasta. Egg noodles would also work. Time: 10 mins.

Thursday

  • Breakfast - Chocolate protein pancakes. I double up so we can eat them two mornings in a row. Time: 10 mins.
  • Lunch - Leftover turkey spaghetti. Time: 5 mins.
  • Dinner - Bacon and eggs. Time: 10 mins.

Friday

  • Breakfast - Leftover chocolate protein pancakes. Time: 5 mins.
  • Lunch - Beef jerky, cut up veggies, sliced cheese, and cashews. Time: 5 mins.
  • Dinner - Beef fajitas. Cook double the steak you'll need and slice into strips. Time: 20 mins.

Saturday

  • Breakfast - Leftover steak and eggs. Time: 10 mins.
  • Lunch - Rolled up tortillas with peanut butter, washed bag salad. Time: 5 mins.
  • Dinner - Frozen thin crust pizza. Because pizza. Time: 10 mins.

Sunday

  • Breakfast - Scrambled eggs and hashbrowns. Make extra hashbrowns. Time: 10 mins.
  • Lunch - Bag salad with chopped hardboiled eggs and sunflower seeds. I add cheese and crackers for the kids. And eat some. Time: 10 mins.
  • Dinner - Bison burgers with leftover hashbrowns and frozen veggies. Double up on the bison burgers. - Time: 20 mins.

See how easy it can be? No complicated recipes or sauces or million dollar grocery bills. Consider all proteins exchangeable (eg. swap chicken for beef or pork). Snacks are usually whatever's in the pantry, I keep a decent stock of granola bars, beef jerky, nuts, popcorn, and cheese strings in the fridge.

Meal prep can work for you and your whole family, even while you're trying to eat well. Keep it simple and succeed! 

Download your FREE grocery list for this meal plan HERE

 

Life After Birth - Now What the F#ck Do I Do?

Parenting and Motherhood Goals

For the better part of our youth the path is clear: go to school, get a job, find a partner, buy a house, get married, have kids. Maybe a few things trade places or you skip one or two, but the gist is 'here's what you do when you grow up'. The next step is usually obviously in focus; it's easier to accomplish goals that are clearly defined. 

So I did all that shit. And I did it with gusto. Found a great career I enjoyed, a husband that was loving beyond compare, we bought the house, we planned the wedding, we got knocked up. It was all so fucking exciting because the milestones were huge and everyone cared about them. People asked you about the wedding venue and the dress and then they asked you about honeymoons and ultrasounds and names and genders and birth plans. You and your spouse are a focal point and soon you have tiny focal points of your own.

So you give birth. The baby arrives. You work together (hopefully) to raise said baby and then you move on to the next familial milestone which is generally a sibling or two. You conceive (if you're lucky). You give birth again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

But now. Now you're married. You have kids. You either had (or still have) a career that's moderately satisfying but certainly isn't new, or exciting. All of a sudden those steps, those socially predetermined goals, have all come and gone. What's next on the list? Retirement? Thirty fucking years from now? What the hell am I supposed to do in between now and the early bird special?

It hit me hard. The realization that all of a sudden I felt an overwhelming lack of direction, a lack of significance. Was my life really only about child rearing? Should we have another baby? Does it make sense to have a baby just for the sake of setting a goal or having a plan? I felt like my steady march forward had become a meandering, circular stumble. I felt lost in the midst of what I can only explain as an existential crisis. 

It occurred to me while rolling all this around in my brain that this is a fairly common time for people to get divorced for the exact reasons I mentioned above. There's an overwhelming desire for newness and I can see how one would try to extrapolate that newness from an alternate partner. However, that wasn't the path for me. I was fully aware of the issue I was facing and also aware that my marriage wasn't part of the problem. Sure we'd been together for what sometimes felt like (sorry babe) a million years, but I'd much rather be staring at his junk every morning than some other dude's. 

So, to placate my desire to do big things with my life I sat down to try and figure out what exactly I WAS doing, even if it was little. What I discovered was life changing for me.

For many of us stay at home (or work at home, or not-the-primary-breadwinning) parents, we feel our role is supportive to our partners. They go to work, we hold down the fort. Right?

Wrong.

Our partners go to work in support of US. In support of our families. In support of giving our children the best possible environment in which to thrive. I'm the one with the most responsibility and arguably the most important role in the family; that of the caretaker of our children. Although my job might involve changing diapers instead of budget meetings it is no less commendable. 

All of a sudden I realized that my job as a stay at home parent was full of potential, not only for the growth of my children, but for my own personal growth as well. Because of my role as a mother I was also able to launch a successful business I could do from home. Because of my role as a mother I could take an hour every day to work out. I could have coffee with a friend. It allowed me flexibility that those in a structured workplace simply didn't have. I might not live the most glamorous life, but I do have freedom. I have freedom and I have my kids. What more could I ask for?

I decided that in order for me to avoid feeling the pitfalls of my perceived lifestyle mediocrity, I would set goals for myself that gave me the opportunity to feel excitement again. Over the years those goals have included bikini competitions, photo shoots, weight lifting goals, writing goals, small business goals, home improvement goals, organizational goals, relationship goals, and financial goals. 

I saw the world in a completely different way when I realized my possibilities were literally endless. I saw my at-home business grow to six figures, we paid off debt, I was stronger than ever, and our family flourished. All of this because I decided to shift focus from what my lifestyle didn't provide to what it did. And what a difference it made.

Now on the weeks that I previously thought were mundane, I find joy. I don't just care for my home, I do it well. I don't just care for my kids, I do it well. I give it the time and attention it deserves and I take pride in it because I'm good at it goddammit, and that's exciting to me. 

There are still days that end in tears and cranky kids and wine and fucking chaos, but there is also drive and focus mixed in there. My job as a caregiver might not be as exciting as peeing on a pregnancy test or planning a wedding, but it is every bit as interesting and even more critical to the success of my family. 

Your kids are the ultimate life test. How they function as adults will be largely in part to how you raised them and the character you instilled. Don't get lost in the longevity and strain of it like I did; see it for what it is. The most important, most exciting, most challenging, most fulfilling job on the planet.