April 29: Workday Evenings + Dinnertime Alone With 3 Kids

Apparently I'm doing a breakdown of our days, sort of like a mini-DiTL but much more generalized and probably not as interesting. A typical workday morning is here, a typical day at home is here, and now onto a workday evening. FUN!

I get Cecelia and Porter from Lori's at 4:00 pm on my work days. If I have time after my last patient, I will come back to our house, change clothes, drop off my giant work bag, and get Truman from Tony so he can ride along with me.

We get back home from Lori's by 4:30, and if it's nice out we may play outside in the driveway or even on the playground at school for a bit. Sometimes Porter is starving and exhausted from his super social day and will not tolerate anything but his high chair and lots of food. Sometimes Cecelia is incredibly sweet after Lori's, excited to see her big brother and myself, and other times she is quite tired and extra emotional. It varies and because of that, we might just start the dinner process right away when we get home.

At the latest, I'll start making our dinner at 5:00 with Porter in the high chair in the kitchen with me, Cecelia and Truman running around/chasing each other/usually playing pretty nice at this point. They are both incredibly hungry by now so I'll start by slicing up some of the fruit for them, or throwing a GoGurt tube their way. Porter likes to get started with his dehydrated strawberries and bananas (also CC's fave!), or apples, or cheerios. His favorite food in the entire world right now are the Gerber Lil' Crunchies cheese puffs. Not sponsored (I wish!) but this kid could literally eat an entire container of these in one sitting. I reserve these for a Big Dog move when he is especially famished and not tolerating the healthier options I've given him (i.e. everything is thrown to the ground in defiance).

Favorite freeze dried fruits---not nearly as messy as the real stuff, easy to transport, etc.
Dehydrated fruit

New favorite greek yogurt, so yummy!
Greek yogurt

More on what I make for dinner after this little rundown, but my motto when serving three children dinner without my parenting partner? Whatever works, keep it simple, and make it as fast as humanly possible. The natives get very restless and nobody can function when hungry, during the witching hour, after a long day. So: easy and fast always win in my book!

We usually sit down to eat around 5:30 and I'll begin by spoon-feeding Porter either his favorite Greek yogurt, or perhaps one of the baby food purees he deems acceptable. He totally prefers all finger food but he also needs a super full belly so I don't mind feeding him part of his meals, too. I'll alternate between feeding him in the high chair, feeding myself, hoisting Cecelia up and down from my lap as she prefers to sit on top of me at dinner, and asking the big kids to please sit down and eat and STOP GETTING UP TO GRAB TOYS/RUN AROUND!

I have come to realize on these solo parenting evening hours (witching hours) that my children have an internal clock. They can happily feed themselves and sit relatively still for approximately 10 to 15 minutes and after that? Totally a battle to get them to focus on dinner, perhaps because they are full or perhaps because they are over sitting down at the table. If this was a true family dinner with Nate present, it would be more feasible to really push for a longer time at the table. But because he isn't home for dinner four out of the five week nights? Whatever works! If the kids are hungry they will eat and if not, they know they won't get anything else before bed (unless I cave and provide a granola bar or something later, in the name of preventing starvation).

Anyway, dinnertime is getting better on work nights now that I honestly don't care if the big kids finish their meals. If they *do* clean their plates then they can pick a small dessert but it's their choice if they want to eat everything or not. And it's my choice if I want to get all worked up over them not sitting at the table for longer than 15 minutes at a time.

For all of the chaos that dinnertime with three kids and one parent brings, there are a lot of really fun moments, too. This is the time of day when we really get to discuss what each of us did while we were apart. Truman will tell us about his favorite parts of school (library day? learning center? fifth grade buddy day?) and about what he and Tony did (played soccer, went to the hardware store, played in the basement, etc). Cecelia tells us about Lori's and Porter just squeaks and tries to add his two cents where appropriate. The big kids usually get very into potty talk at the dinner table and I used to ask them to save it for later but a little poo-poo-pee-pee discussions never hurt anyone. Plus, Cecelia and Truman both have the most amazing belly laughs that usually emerge when a 'booger butt' comes flying out of the other's mouth. So yeah, it's hard not to chuckle at their 3 and 5 year old humor sometimes;)

I usually start cleaning up from dinner by 6:15 and then we head upstairs for bath time. All three kids get a triple bath on Mondays and Wednesdays but that will probably change now that the big kids have soccer on Mondays. Porter could actually use a bath every day but meh, two or three times per week seems like enough for my dirty bird.

I'll take Porter out of the bath first around 6:45, to end his love affair with violently splashing the entire bathroom. He gets his jammies and starts his bedtime bottle while laying on Truman and Cecelia's rug. Then the big kids come in and get dressed, entertaining their baby brother further by getting all of their remaining energy out for the day. Porter sometimes stays up a bit after his bottle if he's in a good mood, so that the baby can see his daddy before he passes out for the night. (Porter, not Nate).

Usually I lay Porter down around 7 or 7:15 and usually Nate texts me to say he's leaving work around 7:15-7:30. Occasionally he doesn't get home until 8pm on these nights (Fridays are actually closer to 6pm) but luckily it's more like 7:30 when Nate typically comes home after his late Mondays and Wednesdays. It's always been like this---his latest nights are also my work days. But he will have new summer hours starting next week and things are going to change a bit! See what I mean about things changing as soon as you feel settled in a routine?

Once Nate is home around 7:30 or 8 Truman is usually nearly passing out from exhaustion and CC isn't too far behind, but it's not a question: they have to wait up for daddy to do bedtime. If Porter happens to be awake he may sneak in on the action, but more than likely he is already asleep. Nate takes over bedtime responsibilities and does 3 books, teeth brushing, and 3 songs. I come in and make up 2 stories for the big kids, take CC to the bathroom one more time, and kiss them both goodnight.

Then from about 8:30-10:30 we have the post-kids-bedtime glory of watching Lost, loving on the internet, and actually conversing as husband and wife.

It should be noted that as I'm typing this up, we had a 'wild card' night when things derailed quickly. Everything was awesome and happy and LALALA EVENINGS ARE FINE when all of a sudden, everything fell apart. I'll blame it on bath time, because the kids were splashing an absurd amount and I was scared Porter was going to tip over and I yelled too much and ended up cutting bath time short because it was ridiculous. Then the big kids turned off their ears and weren't listening to me, which was fantastic, and Porter vomited all over me to the point that it was literally the most puke I've ever had the pleasure of wearing. And that includes my college years, so you know this was bad. Cecelia got a few time outs, voices were raised, and yeah--just a tough evening when everyone was cranky and we all apologized to each other at the end, so that's good. Thankful there is always tomorrow to make amends. Also thankful for wine.

Therein concludes my mini-DITL, otherwise known as 'what do you do all day?'

But I also wanted to touch on a few meal ideas in the same vein of doing whatever works, as quickly as possible, to keep everyone fed while in survival mode with three kids and one parent. Holy cow, I am literally the opposite of a food blogger and I doubt anything I can write here will be particularly inspiring but maybe some of you would like a few simple recipes/ideas, too?

First and foremost, meal planning works very well for our family. Nate and I stand in the kitchen on Saturdays and go through the fridge, and decide what we want to eat for the week. We also make a running list on our phones (the 'Reminders' app) throughout the week for groceries that are running low. So if I grab the last gallon of milk from the downstairs fridge, I immediately add 'milk' to our list. Same for anything else that runs out mid-week, so that when we meal plan we are really only adding to the list of basics we already need.

Since I returned to work after Porter, we have been relying heavily on our freezer meal stash. See my freezer meals post for details, but it's bee awesome to pull at least one meal per week from the basement freezer. I hope to continue a few big batches of freezer meals throughout the spring and summer.

Our meals for the week usually consist of one freezer meal, one leftover/fend for yourself meal, and always pizza on Friday nights. Remember, Nate is not home for dinner Monday through Thursday right now and even pizza on Fridays can be iffy if he gets off late so EASY is key for me!

Also, really should have thought about this post more than a day in advance so I could actually have pictures to correspond with each meal but OH WELL.

This week:
Mon-Hot Ham and Cheese on a pretzel bun. Seriously obsessed with this one lately. Pretzel buns make everything amazing, we get nice deli ham each week anyway, and then we use provolone cheese. Heat it all up in the oven, add mustard, and voila! I usually make a side salad with this one, or else fruit or something. No picture but you can imagine that it's very tasty, yes? I will show you one of the mixed bagged salads that we really like a lot---prefer the ones that come with dressing and croutons but this was good, too!

Dole salad blend

Tues-Chicken Fajitas. Really good, fairly easy. Nate got home abnormally early this night so I had him grill the chicken breasts I was thawing on our gas grill. I do *not* man the grill alone, totally not my thing, so I will use the Foreman if needed. But the big grill makes the meat taste so much better so this was a bonus! I also had the forethought to quickly defrost even more chicken breast, and asked Nate to grill it for the next night's dinner. We sliced up bell peppers and onions, used flour tortillas, made guacamole on the side, and seasoned the meat with our Penzey's 'fajita' seasoning. Loved it, will probably make these a lot this spring/summer. Served with chips and guac. Truman even tried the chicken breast and deemed it 'gross'. Typical.

I had two of them, but forgot I was trying to take pictures of dinners and ate one before I remembered. ;)
Chicken fajitas

Wed- BBQ Chicken Quinoa Salad. One of our favorite summery meals, haven't made it in forever but we remembered it randomly last weekend when meal planning. My original pin on Pinterest had been removed (!!) so I had to scramble and found something similar. But really, you can add anything to this and it will still be good. We used grilled chicken breasts from the night before, and I also made the quinoa the night before. Then the night of this dinner, I pulled out canned corn, canned black beans, chopped up some tomatoes and avocado, added mozzarella cheese, and also BBQ sauce. DONE. We used to also have ranch dressing in there with the old recipe but I went without and it was awesome. The little kids actually did eat some of this, too.

Bbq chicken quinoa

Thurs-pizza. Usually frozen pizza, no shame. We have a small size cheese for the kids and then Nate and I split a bigger 'fancier' one with leftovers for lunches on the weekend. Also have a side salad and beer, duh.

Friday-traveling this week, but usually would do pizza here and leftovers Thursday night.

The week before:

Mon-Chicken enchiladas from the freezer stash with avocado and sour cream, chips. Love these so much, never gets old.

Tues-Hot Ham and Cheese with fruit and chips. Apparently this is becoming a weekly thing.

Wed-Falafels. We like the frozen kind from Trader Joes, I make Tzatziki sauce (cucumbers and dill with plain yogurt), add feta cheese, hummus, and avocado all wrapped up in a tortilla. Sometimes we will splurge and buy sprouts but they go bad so quickly. And recently I decided falafels always feel like something is missing, thus the addition of feta, hummus, AND avocado. Really like this version. Serve with fruit. Would have been a very nice picture for you, huh?

Thurs--Tilapia, frozen kind from Target. I got wild and wanted to bread it and it turned out alright with breadcrumbs and an egg to help them stick. Pan fried was the method of cooking but we also like to bake our fish. Steamed fresh  asparagus with garlic and parmesean, and frozen scalloped potatoes from Trader Joes were our sides. This was a night when I waited to eat with Nate when he got home, so we made this together around 8pm once the kids were asleep. Very good with red wine even though I know white is supposed to pair with fish. Love me some red wine!

Friday-frozen pizza

Other go-to favorites:

-Chicken Stir Fry--soy sauce, mmmmmm.

-Au Jus on pretzel buns--roast beef is so freaking good. And I love sandwiches, obvi.

-Nachos-beef with taco seasoning, avocado, black beans, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream.

-Burritos or Tacos--usually one Mexican meal per week around here.

-'Big Fat Salads'--spinach, lettuce and/or kale as a base. Or perhaps one of the bagged salad blends as a base. Then carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, feta cheese, avocado, bacon, hard boiled egg, and my favorite poppyseed dressing.

-Breakfast for dinner--can't go wrong, might have overdosed on this for awhile there.

-Grilled cheese and tomato soup--another winter classic.

-BLTs--anything bacon = yes. We try to keep bacon frozen for whenever the mood strikes.

-Cheeseburgers--on a pretzel bun, of course! Prefer from Nate's grill instead of my Foreman.

-Brats--we are in Wisconsin, after all. Good from the Foreman, too. Usually have frozen brats as a go-to throughout the year.

Meals for the kids: Porter gets his yogurt and/or baby food plus anything off my plate. Tonight he had avocado, black beans, and corn plus a small cheese quesadilla. Cecelia likes to steal my food off my plate, the exact same food provided to her on her own plate is not as good as mine I guess. I usually make Truman and Cecelia a kid meal that sometimes overlaps with the adult meal and sometimes not. Tonight they each had a part of a cheese quesadilla, yogurt, apples, and Cecelia had some of my quinoa salad. I would love to have all three of our children eat the exact same meal as Nate and I, but Truman is just so picky and I'm just so not up for the challenge of changing that right now. So we blend what they eat with what we eat and it works!

Dinner for CC tonight (Truman's very similar, no way in HELL he would eat a tomato though):
Kids dinner

Truman's lunch the other day:
Trumans lunch

Porter at dinner, a big fan of quesadillas. Also, his diapers tomorrow are sure to be AWESOME!
Porter at dinner

Some of their favorite meals: all beef hotdogs, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, cheese quesadillas, PBJ, turkey breast, breakfast (waffles or pancakes), and cheese pizza. I usually try to get a fruit (bananas, apples, strawberries, and pears are their ultimate favorites) and some added protein served in there as sides to their 'main dish.' And again, Cecelia really will eat the adult meal without issue and so will Porter for that matter. Truman is getting there but he sure does have his routine set on a few different foods----sounds a lot like me as a kid (and as an adult!)

Really like these hot dogs lately!
Beef hot dogs

My lunch the other day when I realized I wanted to do a post like this. Very informative, yes?
J lunch

There is a reason why blackberries are not my favorite fruit for Porter.
Porter loves blackberries

Thus concludes my final mini-DiTL and a food post for you. Very much 'real life' and the opposite of elaborate food blogger, I know!


  1. I always am looking for fast and easy meals, so this was a great post! I like the hot ham and cheese idea; I'll have to add that to our list, along with the pretzel buns, yum! I love the idea of freezer meals too, but haven't had the motivation to make any yet :)

  2. Thank you for this post. It gave me the oomph to print a calendar for May and attempt to meal plan for the month. It seems like I easily get into a rut and forget all the meals I have in my repertoire. I thoroughly enjoy your blog and thank you for the time you take. I only have two kiddos and don't even take the time to document as much as you do. So hats off to you!

  3. Loved this one. Always up for some quick, easy meal ideas! :) And that picture of Porter in the high chair smiling is the cutest!!

  4. Never thought to give my little guy dried fruit -- great idea! Buying some on my next Target run!

  5. Mmm, good ideas! We love sandwiches, too, and our go-tos are Cubans and chicken with mozzarella and pesto ... need to do hot ham and cheese, so easy and delicious! We always do one Mexican night a week, too. And pizza once a week. So then we just need a few more meals to fill it out. And of course the kids get something different - drives me nuts but whatever.

  6. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who battles the witching hour. I seriously need to hear validation from others that it's not just me!

  7. The BBQ quinoa salad looks so good. Max is always begging for more quinoa (he is a healthier eater than me) so I will try that!

  8. love love loved this post!! thanks for the quickie meal inspo!


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