Saturday, March 29, 2014

Budgeting time

I was a soccer mom today, which I really enjoy. I like hanging out with the other parents. I like cheering on Zozo and her friends. However, when the game is at 7:15 a.m., and I have to have her there by 7 a.m., and it's at the indoor field furthest from our house...I maybe don't enjoy it quite as much. (Don't worry. I soothed myself with a quick stop at Starbucks.) (I also don't like the smell of indoor soccer venues, which is much discussed among parents and for which the only solution would be to blow up the building and start again. But that's a topic for another post.)

We came home to an empty house; M was still at his ACTS team meeting. I pulled out my favorite recipe books and used my iPad to navigate to my favorite recipe site, gathered a pencil and a pad of paper, and started meal planning. Normally I am not this organized. Normally I have a rough idea of what I want to make for the week, and what I'm capable of making due to our various schedules, and I hit the grocery store and kind of wing it.

Since I'll be cooking this weekend for two families, though, I needed to be more on the ball.

I learned that my parents aren't eating correctly. Most of my mother's meals consist of doughnuts and ice cream. This is not good.

My mother was an excellent cook. She made all our meals from scratch when I was growing up, and most of the time I preferred her recipes over the meals I ordered at restaurants. She had the best pasta sauce, the best chili, the best stuffed peppers. With her memory issues, she can't cook any more. She can't stay focused enough to follow even simple recipes, much less the full spreads she used to make. She'll stick a cup of coffee in the microwave to warm it, and then find it there hours later. Dad is a breakfast man. If it's breakfast food, he can nail it. Other than that, and deep frying turkeys, he stays out of the kitchen beyond nuking stuff, and there's only so much bacon, hashbrowns, eggs over easy and toast one can eat. All of this is adding up to a lot of meals out, and doughnuts and ice cream when they stay home.

So I sat down this morning and went through recipes that I thought they could handle once I assemble them, given directions like "microwave this" or "bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes." Lots of veggies, lean meats, etc. Low on garlic because Dad doesn't like it, and no mushrooms because Mom hates them.

Zozo was hanging out on the couch, looking through magazines. After awhile she started sighing. Loudly. I suggested she get her American Girl book and read, in preparation for an upcoming book report. She fetched it, grudgingly. I finished my list and was about to tackle the budget (which should henceforth be called the f*cking budget; see post from yesterday) when I saw her looking dejected on the couch.

"What's wrong, Zo?"
"I want to snuggle."
"Oh, sweetie. I want to, too. I just have so much to do right now."
"I know, Mommy. It's just that you're being just like Dad."

M has been putting in some pretty incredible hours for work. He just got a promotion and is handling a zillion transition details. He's been working for hours each night, and when he's not doing work work, he's doing ACTS team work. He's at his computer or his iPad most of the time when he's home. It's where he is right now, and we simply have to ride it out.

However, Zozo shouldn't have to lose both of us at the same time. I stopped what I was doing and we snuggled on the couch. As we laid together in silence, I thought about how it wasn't until recently that I realized fully what "The Sandwich Generation" really is. It's people who are caring for their children while they are caring for their parents. It's me. It's my sister.

And it's hard.

Zoe has another soccer game tomorrow, this time at a more reasonable hour. M will take her, and I will stay home and prepare a week's worth of food for two houses. Then at some point I'll run them down to my parents and go through them, then try to cram them into their impossibly stuffed refrigerator and freezer. For two people who don't eat well, they always manage to have a fridge full of crap.

I didn't get the budget done today, and I'm okay with that. I spent the budget time snuggling with my daughter on the couch. It was a good trade-off, and I'm glad I did it. Some day she won't want to snuggle with me, and I'll have plenty of time work on the budget. And budgets are most definitely not fun to snuggle with.

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