Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cereal Was Our Ham

We recently discovered a case of our own "cutting off the end of the ham," which, when corrected, has helped our morning routine.

A young woman was preparing a ham dinner. After she cut off the end of the ham, she placed it in a pan for baking.

Her friend asked her,"Why did you cut off the end of the ham"?

And she replied ,"I really don't know but my mother always did, so I thought you were supposed to."

Later when talking to her mother she asked her why she cut off the end of the ham before baking it, and her mother replied, "I really don't know, but that's the way my mom always did it."

A few weeks later while visiting her grandmother, the young woman asked, "Grandma, why is it that you cut off the end of a ham before you bake it?"

Her grandmother replied, "Well dear, otherwise it would never fit into my baking pan."

What was our ham? Eating cold cereal for breakfast!

NO CEREAL without special permission. WAIT for hot breakfast.

Because I have an infant, I currently am not the first one downstairs in the dark of the morning like I am when my babies are older and through toddlerhood. Instead, I wake, change baby's diaper, nurse baby, pump, change baby's diaper again, and by then an hour has passed. During that time, my four kids would run downstairs unsupervised, tear into the boxes of cereal, eat a bunch of it, and I'd come downstairs to find bowls of soggy remnants spread all over, milk spilled everywhere, the jug of milk getting warm on the counter, and kids playing (and fighting). No morning chores had been completed and, most importantly, the kids were in a mindset that this was now their Playing Time, not Mama's Morning Routine Time.

I would interrupt their play and rope them into morning chores (e.g., emptying the dishwasher) or family prayer time, and they'd fight me because their mindset was a post-cereal mindset. Then I'd cook a hot breakfast and the kids weren't hungry enough to eat it and it would go to waste. So, we'd start school instead and within a half hour, they were all famished for real food, thus interrupting our attempt at schoolwork.

By then my eyeballs were swirling in my head and steam was coming out of my ears.

All of this, I came to see, could be traced to the cold cereal.

And the cold cereal was our 'ham.'

For two years until a couple months prior to Thomas' birth, I woke up first around 6:00, crept silently downstairs, and exercised. While I was working out, the kids would each wake up and they were allowed to eat cold cereal in order to tide them over till I cooked hot breakfast, which was delayed due to my exercise. There was a reason for eating cold cereal.

Now, there has been no reason to eat cold cereal for about four months. So, I declared a new rule by fiat and I designed a sign with the nearest piece of construction paper and marker that wasn't dried up, which I posted in the pantry: NO CEREAL WITHOUT SPECIAL PERMISSION. WAIT FOR HOT BREAKFAST.

This change has significantly improved our mornings. The children did come to understand the reason why they had been allowed to eat cereal and that the reason is currently not occurring. Now, for two weeks, the 8-year-old empties the dishwasher first thing without my asking. The kids play fairly nicely together. As soon as I come downstairs, I am making them hot breakfast, which they are ready to eat because they're actually hungry. Slowly, slowly our morning routine is getting faster so that I can again reach my goal of always starting school by nine o'clock in the morning.

We probably all have 'hams' that need regular review to make sure we're doing what meets our family's needs now, not the needs of the past.

So, what's your 'ham'?

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