I love September; it’s a month filled with promise and excitement, hopes and dreams for the school year to come, a month that gives you a chance at a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning.
As I started to plan out our weekly schedule for the fall, I realized just how quickly and easily it would be to fall into the trap of over-scheduling, a trap that is as shiny and exciting on paper as it is excruciating in its consequences.
From sports, to arts, and everything in between, our kids today have a veritable buffet of activities to choose from – and of course, there are competitive streams for just about every activity too, just in case you want to take your training to the “next level”.
After a summer that has been nothing sort of spectacular – a summer in which, aside from short stints in camp at the very beginning and end of the summer, we have had no set schedule – I am in no hurry to bring to an end how we are all feeling right now.
So this year, as I started to plan out our year, I did something different – I spent some time alone with each kid this week and discussed what goals they had for the year, and what it was that they really wanted to do with the time they weren’t in school. Their responses fascinated me. And gave me some pretty clear insights into their personalities.
After we talked about goals, we talked about how they could go about achieving their goals, and what activities they really wanted to be involved in this year.
Next up, I spent some time reviewing my goals for the school year and what I would like to accomplish. I asked the Husband to think of what he might like to do/accomplish this year. And most importantly, what we, together as parents, hope for/want for our kids and our family this year.
And then I got down to work reconciling everything we’d all like to do with how much time we have, how much driving in circles we’re all willing to put up with, how many disrupted meal times are acceptable to us, and how much family time we’re willing to give up in order to feel a sense of accomplishment come June.
With both kids in full day school, I’m extremely lucky this year in that I’ll be able to finally tackle some of those goals that I’ve talked about for ages, but never really turned my attention to (hello pull-ups and six-pack abs . . . . oh, and training for that half marathon I signed up for . . . looks like the Coach is going to have fun training me this year). But, there are lots of other things outside the gym that I want to try. Have I mentioned I took a knitting class this summer – it’s somewhat addicting – and I’d like to master a 3rd stitch, maybe. . . And there are about a million recipes I’d like to try. And then there are all my photo book projects that need attention . . . the list goes on. But these are all things that can be scheduled in around my gym training and dropping off and picking up the kids.
Where things get tricky is the after-school time slots.
So here’s what I did. I made an excel spreadsheet that listed each of the days of the week and had half hour time blocks from 7:30 am through to 8:30 at night (when the kids should ideally be in bed and asleep – given that they’re still waking up at 5am).
Then I put in all the “must-do’s” into the schedule. For now, piano lessons are a must-do – which isn’t exactly a hardship since both the kids love piano. The lessons that have already been co-ordinated with skating coaches also went into this calendar. And from there, we could figure out if the other things the kids wanted to do were do-able and/or reasonable.
My criteria for do-able was simple – given the pick up and drop-off schedules for each of their schools, traffic patterns, and must-do already-scheduled activities, could I reasonably be able to get the child to the activity they were requesting. My criteria for reasonable was slightly more complicated – but not much – a) would the child suffer enormously by not participating in the activity; b) would the rest of the child’s life be affected if they didn’t participate in the activity; and c) did the timing of the activity reasonably work with our evening/weekend schedules.
The working schedule that we’re left with is one that makes us all happy. The kids are going to be doing some great after-school things. The amount of time I’ll be driving in circles has been kept to a bare minimum. While dinner will be shifting from our norm of 6:00 last year to 6:30 this year, we will still be able to eat as a family in the evenings (a priority for the Husband an me). And of course, there will still be sufficient time, in the evening and on the weekends to get homework done, and do everything else that we like to do.
While the kids aren’t going to be doing everything they want to (it looks like my daughter will be giving up her tap dancing career, and I’m not sure just how much golf practice my son will squeeze in), I also know, as their mother, that they will be better rested, and consequently happier little humans than if I had gone along with all of their extracurricular requests.
And I’ve never heard of a kid who’s complained about being too happy or well rested.
Now on to the bit about peach crisp. I’ve mentioned in previous years that I have a mild obsession with peaches at this time of the year. It’s like I see a basket of peaches at a farmers’ market and I loose any sense of reason (and completely forget that my kids don’t enjoy fresh peaches) and buy the largest basket I can. This year has been no different. After our last trip to a farmers’ market, I immediately made a massive peach crisp. But STILL had a dozen peaches left over, which I had put into the fridge for storage. This particular batch of peaches was perfect in that none of them were overly ripe. Which lead to my latest great discovery: Slightly unripe peaches make the best peach crisp. And by best I mean slightly underripe peaches lead to a thicker, less watery crisp.
Summer Peach Crisp
For the Fruit:
- 12 just under-ripe peaches
- scant 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups blueberries or raspberries (totally optional)
For the Topping
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 stick COLD unsalted butter cut into small cubes
- Preheat the oven to 350 and generously butter a 6×9″ pan.
- Slice the peaches into eights and peel each slice (I find it easier to peel them once they’re sliced than to peel the peaches first. If your peaches are riper, you can certainly submerge each peach in a pot of boiling water for about 1 minute, and then immediate immerse them into a bowl of ice water – this will make the skins very easy to peel off.)
- Combine the peaches and any berries you might be using with the sugar and flour. I usually use a flexible spatula to do this so I don’t bruise the fruit too much.
- Pour the fruit into the prepared pan.
- In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients. I use my fingers to mash the butter up a bit and really combine it with the flour and sugar.
- Spread the topping evenly over the fruit.
- Bake for 35-60 minutes – the length of cooking time will depend on just how ripe the peaches you used were – cooking time will be shorter the riper the peaches are. Just take a look at around the half hour mark and judge accordingly.
- This is a dessert best served warm with vanilla ice cream!