School is back in session. The kids are gone and you finally have some alone time. Joyful with the prospect of dropping off the kiddies at school, and not having to pick them up until after 3:00, you wake up each morning relieved and excited. Sure you love them to a million pieces, but coming from a full stint of a winter vacation, where the days were filled with countless games, trips, holiday rushes and headache causing screams; a vacation for yourself, is much needed. You embrace it, happily. But not too happily, lest someone thinks you a bad parent for finding relief in quiet solitude without your little rascals. And what will you do now with all this free time on your hands? I’m sure you’ll find ways to entertain yourself, and relax. Leisurely activities of lounging around. Coffee filled mornings, catching up on your stories. It isn’t so much that you need to find things to do, for there is always plenty to do around the house. Your relief comes from the idea that you have the house to yourself, and that although you have to do household chores, such as cleaning, grocery shopping and cooking, you do these tasks on your own time and at your own discretion with naps scattered in between.
Simple tasks that you once dreaded, like grocery shopping and cooking, now become fun and joyous. You allow your creative and inventive juices to flow in the kitchen, and why? Because you don’t have to worry about what the kids are doing or fighting about in the other room. Or have to hurry and make a quick dinner because you’ve spent the day entertaining them. No. Now you have the full day to go to the market by yourself without the constant “Can I please have this please? Pretty please?” You can plan out a nice supper and actually take the time and effort to make a healthy, delicious and substantial meal for those you love. As different ideas and recipes come to mind, you start to struggle. The last thing you want to do is spend all your alone time, in the kitchen slaving away over a hot stove. In fact, you want to avoid a compartmentalized meal, with a main dish and multiple sides. Who has that kind of time? Suddenly the lightbulb over your head goes off. An all in one easy meal is the path you need to take. You’re sure of it. Preferably one that takes minimal work and less clean up in the end. Because of course, you have clean up duty as well. What is it going to be? Bingo, Shepherd’s Pie. Suddenly a smile takes over your face. And why does the prospect of this Irish dish cause you to smile and jump for joy, on the inside of course, on the inside? Because not only is it a one pot wonder meal, but it has the protein, the vegetable and the starch all rolled into one. Or should I say, all layered into one fantastic dish.
You make the pie in no time, and with such an ease that would make other stay-at-home-parents jealous. The kitchen is all clean, and dinner is waiting to be heated and devoured by the troops. You step back admire your work and go into the living room. There you take a nap, a little afternoon siesta if you will. You nap like a baby. No, like a cat. Better yet, let’s make that a baby kitten. Yes, you nap like a baby kitten, because you’ve conquered a monumental task and although your free time has come to an end and you’re now parked outside of your children’s school waiting for them to enter the car, waiting for them to fill you in on the first day back at school, you take comfort in the fact that come tomorrow morning, you’ll be free again. Because the best part of them being in elementary school, is that they have to go five days a week. Just wait until college when they make their own schedules and don’t have to go to attend everyday, but you place that thought on the back burner, you still have a ways to go. In the meantime, you start the car and drive down the street toward home, with a smile on you face, the loves of your life in the rearview mirror, and a delicious Shepherd’s Pie waiting to be eaten.