But when I finally got things underway, it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought. I worked in a few of our staple meals that I knew would be easy enough for me to prepare without stressing myself out in the process, then I would prepare a grocery list so I'd be sure to have everything I needed to survive the week without fail. And I found the perfect meal planner here and a plain and simple grocery list here.
Now I've been doing it ever since and I love it. In fact, everyone in our house is so used to it that the husband will often wake up before me on Saturdays, get the babies up and consult the meal plan to see what he needs to make for breakfast! Or my nanny will check to see what she needs to prep for lunch. Or my mom will give me the evening off when she's over on Wednesdays and either make what's on the menu or bring the entire meal so I don't have to cook at all. It's genius! And it's a wonderful solution for our family.
Sometimes we still get bored of eating the same things on a frequent basis, so I've been pinning tons of recipes to my Food board on Pinterest, or my Healthy Eating board as well. And I often pull recipes from the latest issue of Rachael Ray Magazine once I've had a chance to read it. (You can check out all the recipes I share on my blog here.) I limit myself to no more than two new recipes in a week so that I'm not adding stress to myself during meal times and don't have to think very hard about dinner too often! Dinner time is easily the more strenuous meal time in our house since the quads are getting anxious, I'm getting really tired and the husband usually isn't quite home yet.
I have to enter a couple disclaimers real quick though! I normally grocery shop alone because I enjoy it and count it as "me time." I prefer to shop at Tom Thumb so I can my Starbucks tea, fresh flowers and avoid crazy crowds, but now and then I'll do some bulk buying at Costco—I've taken the kids there by myself once so far! And my fridge and pantry aren't really organized, they're simply crammed full of everything I need. So lest you think I'm far too prepared with my list and meal plans.... ;)
When things don't go according to the original plan, I just resort to Plan B. With quadruplets, or kids in general, you always have to have a Plan B! If meal planning doesn't get done until Monday, fine. If I get too worn out and need the husband to pick up fried chicken one night because I don't have the energy to cook, fine. If I need to switch around a dinner or two on my meal plan because it ends up working out better, fine. I try to plan meals that are healthy and incorporate lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and some weeks are certainly better than others. Our goal is always to be health-conscious, but my kids still need some fatty calories to keep them climbing the growth charts and sometimes I get tired of trying so hard in so many areas and go with an easy meal option on occasion instead. Everything is flexible!
After months of successful meal planning, I launched my new Tyke Bites series on the blog and began sharing what a random day of meals looks like for the quads. Some are more creative then others, all meant to just put some meal thoughts out there and give new material to other moms while getting advice on more meal ideas for myself in return! I've really enjoyed it and I kid you not that after I've given the kiddos their plates of food then walk up to the quad table with my camera in hand, Harrison smiles and pushes his plate out in front of him and waits for me to take a picture. He has caught on, haha!
The brand spankin' newest thing I've added to our schedule is a morning craft or learning time. I have been mulling over our daily schedule and how we do things for the past few weeks, as the quads really do require more interaction, more supervision and more activities to keep them occupied. (Or to keep them from pulling each other's hair or pushing each other off the slide.) I typically feed them breakfast then clean them up and usher them into their play room for play time, while quickly moving on to cleaning and laundry and other things I frantically feel need to be done. But all the while, I have to dart back and forth between my task at hand and the play room, refereeing bicker-fests or relocating toys or offering a drink or changing a dirty diaper. It has become totally exhausting and I truly feel that I'm not accomplishing much at this rate.
For the meantime, I've decided to try adding a little more structure into our mornings—and try to worry less about the undone laundry, dishes, etc.—and just focus on the kids and promote crafts or learning activities that will keep them more engaged. Then we'll do lunch and naps, which is when I can catch a small break, and the afternoon can be devoted to free play time in the play room along with a few episodes of their favorite TV shows (currently these include Bubble Guppies, Team Umizoomi, Paw Patrol and Dinosaur Train). I always want to read more with them in the afternoons and continue to review flash cards after dinner, but I'll take things one step at a time. We just started this new approach today so I'll have to report back on how it's going and what I learn!
I wanted to create an easy planner to write down what craft or activity we'd do each morning so I didn't have to stress to come up with something and could just consult the schedule, exactly like I do with my meal plan. I found a nice pre-made pdf and printed out a couple copies then went to work. I've kept things pretty simple: we're doing one literacy-based craft a week on a morning that we're home and I don't have physical therapy or anything else going on (for instance, this week we're making paper plate lady bugs and reading a book about a lady bug to coincide); coloring counts as an activity and is one we can easily do on their play table in the play room; play-doh at the quad table, chalk on the front walkway or playing on the play ground in the backyard all also count as activities, as they are easy and quick to assemble! This way I will be more focused on the kids, what they're doing, what they're learning and hopefully feel less distracted and scrambled and more streamlined and prepared.
Got a great activity for us to try or a tyke-friendly recipe you love? Please leave your feedback in the comments section, I love hearing from y'all!