Dear children

As I do my digital decluttering I begin to uncover so many precious writings from the journals I used to write when I was raising you… the one below is one of them and I wanted to share it with you (I did not change anything from the original entry).

It is about my meal planning for the family when you were in your preteens and reading this ‘subjective experience’ about being a mum and homemaker is almost surreal as I look back upon that time and realise nothing ever prepares you for the fortitudes required and one just bites the bullet and rolls up the sleeve and just ‘does it’.

Year: 2010 (the first day of the new school year and Mum is trying to ask everyone for their favourite food so that she can plan a workable meal plan for is an after-dinner conversation)

Mum (asks younger child): What do you want for breakfast?

Younger child chirps: Hoisin sandwich

Mum (trying not to look taken aback (I will tell you why later) then turns to the older child: What do you want for breakfast?

Older child (looking spaced out): Err…….<long pause>…scrambled eggs? (I just cooked scrambled eggs for both that early morn)

Mum (optimistically prods): Scrambled eggs with toast

Older daughter (blank expression): N..o..o. .just scrambled eggs

It is very hard to plan a breakfast menu when you have a child who is an adventurous eater and another who eats to survive. I have realised daily meal planning is most successful if one asks the family members what their favourite food is; the latter is harder if the child thinks eating is a chore.

So, these are their answers:

1) Scrambled eggs with sausage (one child’s favourite breakfast)

2) Savoury sandwich e.g. hoisin sandwich (two slices of bread with hoisin sauce spread on one side and mayonnaise on the other and just slap a ham in between) — the sandwich is REMEMBERED although it has been three years since I last served it to them

3) Cereal – “coco crunch” with vanilla milk (another child’s favourite because it is sweet and my Win-Win breakfast for her because at least she drinks plain milk with it)

4) Red bean bun (brand: Five Loaves)

5) Banana cake (brand: Five Loaves)

6) Pau (yam or char siew) “no vegetarian Mum because that tastes weird” (brand: Khong Guan)

7) Waffles (seldom eat these two years unless I want to give my girls a special treat) – the price has almost doubled over the past three to five years (this one is a tried and tested brand). 

8) Pancakes (only on Sundays) because on weekdays I prepare breakfast foggy eyed – open fridge and pour or open the can and place food on serving plate – that’s all I can manage at 5.30 am in the morning before I crawl back into bed) There is a healthy thin pancake recipe I use made of 50% wholemeal flour and 50% white flour

9) Toast (Currently I am trying to wean my children from eating white bread because it is sugar-laden and adds to weight gain because it contains too much-refined flour) A happy compromise is milk bread because they do not quite fancy wholemeal bread.

Then just when I am feeling mighty pleased with myself I can plan my grocery shopping with a breakfast plan, a child decides to fall sick on Day Three (stomach upset and consequent dehydration).

I am forced to abandon all resolute plans and cook ‘jook’ (in Korean that means ‘congee’ or ‘plain porridge’) and so we have been eating ‘jook’ for the last three days (because that is all she can stomach without gagging at the sight of food).

As for the hubby who is quite set in his ways in food consumption (he likes his bowl of noodles for his daily breakfast which does not quite help with weight loss), I have taken to making vegetable or/and fruit juices daily for his breakfast. I use ideas from this book I picked up at Popular bookstore (a ‘no fail recipes’ series which apparently lives up to its name — a good starter for noob cooks: p)

I blend all the fruit or /and vegetables with a small blender I bought at a sale at Isetan two years ago – convenient and easy to wash (even the younger child has taken to making her concoction of fruit juices with it!) Inexpensive way of making drinks too!!

I should plan a three hundred and sixty-five-day menu so that future mummies and daddies will not find meal planning a chore and ingredients purchasing expensive.

Planning IS essential because it prevents repeated trips to the market or supermarket and one item can double up for breakfast as well as dinner/lunch (e.g. broccoli or carrots can be used to juice as well as double up as a vegetable main)

Fast forward…

The year is 2018 and you are now emerging young adults:)

What has changed?

I don’t plan menus because you all return late and have your meals out. If I plan, it is to cook for a particular meal and all ingredients are to be used up because I try ‘not to have leftovers’. Also, I no longer stock up on tomato sauces, stock cubes or spices. Instead, I buy stock cartons, all-in-one sauce pack so that there is no surplus in the packets (if not, Mum must plan a new dish with the leftover ingredients!) Family life evolves and gives rise to changes with new adaptations.

As Mum mentioned earlier, nothing can completely prepare one for raising a family but keeping at it and overcoming challenges does build up a ‘can-do’ spirit:)

You got this!

Your loving mum