Tricks of The Trade

by Stefani on 25-February-2008

All mamas have their tricks.

Call them coping mechanisms if you want, but I like to refer to them as acquired skills. Little bits of wisdom in my back pocket.

For instance, you know and I know that there are incredibly busy days in the life of a young family. There are days when you just don’t want to cook, and weeks when you just didn’t manage your time in the grocery store real well (read: three children bickered and begged and hurled themselves out of the basket so you forgot half the stuff on your list).

THAT is precisely why it is good to have French bread and frozen fruit in the freezer, as well as pasta sauce in the pantry at all times.

In a pinch, they translate into not only dinner, but breakfast too!

Pizza Sandwhiches

We named them “Pizza Sandwiches”, but they’re really just glorified grilled cheese made on french bread, with a side of pasta sauce for dipping. (Slice the bread on the diagonal for nice long slices, butter, pile on the cheese (we like provolone and parmesan) and cook on a pan until nice and toasty)

They go really nicely with Disguised Fruit For the Picky Eater smoothies made from the frozen fruit. (+ yogurt and milk)

Disguised Vitamins

Actually, come to think of it, I don’t know if they go so nicely together. My kids just like them together.

In the morning, you can heat up some of that frozen fruit and put it on top of the french toast you make from the left over french bread.

I’ve got lunchtime tricks too.

I try to make their lunches at breakfast time, even though we don’t go to school. That way, I don’t have to dirty up the kitchen again, and I don’t have to hear about how everyone is starving to death and it’s taking me too long to make lunch.

Lunch seems to bring out my children’s inner beasts. There is much arguing, whining, recreating speed eating contests… So, their tricky mama has turned it into read aloud time. We read Farmer Boy over lunches and are now a few chapters into Little House in the Big Woods. It keeps their attention and makes for a pleasant lunch. It works out well because all the Little House books make me hungry anyhow.

A few more tricks come to mind:

– audiobooks for long car trips (Pippi on the last trip to Granny’s house, A Cricket In Times Square for the return trip)

– making clean up time fun by playing the theme to Mission Impossible (so apropos). The idea is that we we all speed clean while the song is on.

– last minute gift wrap (tissue paper, markers and ribbon = Curly Headed Birthday Monsters)

Last Minute Gift Wrap

– Ketchup bottles turned watering cans for enthusiastic gardeners

Baby (Plant) Bottle

You get the idea.

So let’s hear it. What are your favorite mama tricks?

kris February 25, 2008 at 7:18 am

muffins. My kids are starving before their feet hit the floor in the morning. We have “pre-breakfast” muffins ready to go so they can’t beg me for food while prying my eyes open. The youngest loves to bake so it is a perfect momma & boy baking time.

Mary February 25, 2008 at 7:25 am

My 2 year-old daughter is at the stage where she wants to do EVERYTHING I do. When I sweep and vacuum the floors, she gets her “Swiffer” (with the middle handle section removed). It’s just size, and she loves following Momma around. She also loves to help in the kitchen- she loads the dishwasher and drainboard for me. It’s an easy way to keep her entertained while I’m busy with chores, and teaches her responsibility at the same time.

Jade February 25, 2008 at 7:27 am

Does this count… let them play in the kitchen cabinets so you have time to check up on your friends in blog land?

Sarah February 25, 2008 at 7:38 am

I feel completely trick less at the moment, but I sure could use some ideas on how to keep Jack from getting into/tearing up everything right now. Oh my word, he is way worse at 3 than he ever was as a toddler, and now he can outwit the baby proofing.

Sarah Jackson February 25, 2008 at 7:43 am

excellent ideas! We also do the grilled cheese and smoothies more often than I’d like to admit. Oh, and I sneak protein powder or silken tofu into the smoothie to make it into a meal.

I make sure that new books arrive when they’re wrapping up the old ones so there’s a new adventure ahead of them.

I’m sure there are others, but I can’t think of them now.

lina February 25, 2008 at 8:14 am

Great ideas Stef. I have tonnes of these tricks too. BBQ tongs on long journies is one of my favourites. You know, when they keep dropping stuff down the sides of their seats! Smoothies and hidden veggie sauces over pasta are staples in this house.

Teah February 25, 2008 at 8:33 am

Oh, you’re brilliant! So far, I’m just coping with my 17 month old, and one big-boy husband. So…my tricks – make a BIG dinner, pack it up for his (or her) lunches the next day. Everyone has A cup, rinsed, on the counter – saves my dishwasher space for all those baby plastic bowls I seem to accumulate during the day. When the baby just can’t calm down, and I’m starving, and dinner needs to get done NOW – stick the baby in the crib. Crying for 10 minutes won’t kill her…but sticking around me when she’s that whiny might!

erin February 25, 2008 at 9:35 am

we are finally at the point when they say they are hungry, i can say, “make yourself a sandwich.” i love it. and actually, so do they! now if i could just get them to set the table without complaining….

erin February 25, 2008 at 9:37 am

i just thought of another…

most sunday afternoons i take the girls swimming. they shower at the pool, put on pj’s for the drive home and are good and worn out by bed time. in the summer, we do this even more often. works like a charm.

OMSH February 25, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Take snacks IN the car to pickup kids from school. They are at their whiniest then and a snack does the trick quick.

I get 20 extra minutes sleep in the morning by doing this. Gather son’s clothes night ahead, put at end of my bed, husband wakes him up and they shower together, wet boy crawls into my bed, snuggles, and then we dress and get up for breakfast together.

Who is going to pray over dinner was such a bitter argument (prayers – arguing over PRAYERS), so now, both bedtime and dinner prayers are sorted by days of the week. M,W,F my oldest, T, Thur, Sat, my middle. All day long Sunday my baby.

Valerie February 25, 2008 at 1:15 pm

What a great idea – so simple and yet I’ve never thought of it before. I grew up on the grilled american cheese sandwiches and tomato soup – which my kids are not crazy about, but they all love spaghetti sauce – and they especially love to dip. Give it a fun name and we have a winner!!

I just told them about it, and they can’t wait to try it – Thanks!!

kristin February 25, 2008 at 1:33 pm

oh, i loved this…

do i write that every time?

Sally February 25, 2008 at 1:34 pm

HA! I had one of those days today and handed my one a big roll of sticky
tape (cellotape)to do what he wanted.risky I know.
I also get my boys in the kitchen making sandwiches at that mid morning snack time. That way I know they will eat most of the lunch while preparing and then won’t be starving at proper lunch time.

emily February 25, 2008 at 7:48 pm

whole wheat flour and oats in chocolate chip cookies. tofu in lasagna. soap and water first thing when we walk in the door from anyplace. shoes off at the door, always.

it’s funny how tricks become so much a part of life that i can’t even call them to mind anymore. but there’s a few.

an excellent question. love all these answers.

kate February 25, 2008 at 8:05 pm

love this – will have to keep reading comments.

I adore a mom trick – and yet, drawing a blank on the ones I rely on. Easy one, frozen spinach in the smoothies – you can’t taste it as spinach until it’s thawed, and it makes it green.

AMBER February 25, 2008 at 9:16 pm

You are SO onto something! I have lots of little tricks, too, and I have been meaning to post my ticks/tips for my bento lunches (I make a few keep-on-hand items over the weekend for the week ahead). Wouldn’t it be wonderful to compile ALL of our Mom tricks??!

I love your pizza sandwich idea! My kids would love them. At first, when I saw the picture, I thought it was grilled cheese sticks that were dipped in a fruit sauce and I thought of a sandwich my kids made at a cooking class they took last year–it was a French class and they made sandwiches with grilled French cheese and a berry jam on it. They loved it…;-)

Beth H February 25, 2008 at 9:39 pm

Don’t forget the fact that you can make a box of brownies with a can of black beans(including the water they come in)!!!!! YUP, just throw it all in the blender, pour it in the greased pan and cook. Super quick for a unplanned dinner with friends.

oh and even though my baby is only 2 I’ve got a few more up my sleeve….like clean the bathroom while he takes a bath.

Theresa February 26, 2008 at 12:26 am

Good tips… When the kiddos were toddlers we would pretend to cross the street, hold mommies hand, stay close,ect while at home, so that when we were on a walk they would be familiar with the phrases and it would be really natural for them to just do it. It worked.

When afraid to go down a dark hall to use the bathroom we would play “marco-polo” I’d be at one end of the house they would be at the other and we would say the words back and forth (they don’t even know it’s a swimming game) now that they are older, when we are in a store they may browse one way opposite of me, I just say marco, they say polo and we “find” each other.
This is fun, I love being a mom and finding ways to “trick” the kids….

Jill February 26, 2008 at 11:28 am

Here was my trick this week. I loved it so much (and so did my gang) that I will be pulling it out again!

Taimarie February 26, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Just gathering up tricks as my little guy grows, (taking notes!) Right now it’s kids music. The good stuff that I can stand to listen to as well. He loves it and I can get lots done while he’s listening. And we build up our own family song list of singable songs, which also come in very handy.

molly February 27, 2008 at 6:11 am

i love the read alouds at lunch. I’m adopting that trick right away b/c even my girls turn in to crazy monsters at lunch time. what a good way to settle them down.

loved reading all these tips, stef!

kcb February 27, 2008 at 6:20 pm

These are all great!

I send my guys out to hunt dandelion blossoms to feed to our rabbits whenever they’re getting peevish in the house.

We’ve also started parking in the driveway so the garage is like a large, attached “outdoor” room where they can do building projects, ride scooters and work with tools without being out in bad weather or in the house making a mess.

I’ve also learned not to see dirt in my house, which is useful for my peace of mind!

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