The Crock Pot, and thoughts on transitions and evenings

I got a Crock Pot for Christmas, and tried it out for the first time yesterday. I was quite happy with it. I chopped up some veggies, stuck in rice, chicken and stock, and at dinner, I had a hot, nice meal waiting for me. I had more of the meal as leftovers for lunch today, and have enough to take me through tonight (and likely tomorrow lunch, too, if I’m not sick of it). The genius of the slow cooker is not so much that it saves time. It may, but it probably would have taken me less time just to cook a frozen pizza. The genius is that it moves the task of making dinner from a time when you have a lot of things going on (6 p.m.) to another time of your choosing, when you have less. I definitely plan to use it again — though I need to figure out a way to keep stuff from sticking to the sides. I lost 10 minutes of my life last night trying to scrape the residue off the inner stoneware part.

The Crock Pot philosophy — moving tasks from high-demand times to low-demand times — is one tenet of productivity. Here’s another I’ve been thinking about today: figuring out how you can use small bits of time by minimizing transitions. Ruth finished eating at 11:18 a.m. I knew that my sitter would take off to pick up Jasper at school at 11:55 (meaning I needed to be around for the other two kids). I managed to get my running clothes on by 11:21 and be out the door for an incredibly quick (and cold) 2 and a quarter mile run. Back at the house at 11:45, I jumped in the shower and was out at 11:52. Three minutes to spare! The key to this is having one’s exercise clothes readily available, plus all outdoor gear, and knowing exactly what you need to do to be out the door. Otherwise, I would not have exercised today, as the afternoon is pretty booked.

Another time management dilemma I’ve been thinking about: how to spend the evenings when I have all three kids. I pretty much have to put on the television for half an hour for the older two while I’m getting Ruth down. Dinner goes from roughly 6-6:20 or so. So I have about an hour before I want to put on a show for the boys. What should I do with all three during that hour? Last night I tried to read a lot of stories, which worked pretty well. We could try art projects, too, but the challenge is figuring out something that can be done while juggling a baby and possibly feeding her. Suggestions are welcome.


19 thoughts on “The Crock Pot, and thoughts on transitions and evenings

  1. I believe Reynolds makes a disposable crockpot liner. The money spent would certainly be worth the time saved.

      1. I believe you can also spray it with Pam. That works for me. I have never tried rice in it before, but will put a beef roast or stew meat with cream of mushroom soup. Yummy over noodles or rice (cooked separately).

        1. A healthier alternative to Pam is MISTO olive oil (or any kind of cooking oil) sprayer. You get the novelty of a spray can, but get to use your own oil and it’s refillable.

  2. I did a lot of reading to my 2-3 year old while nursing twins. With a 2 and 4 year old, I recommend the old Disney books, the Wonderful World of Reading ones. (I like the old ones better than the new ones, generally.) Madeline, the Little Engine that Could and Ping are also favorites.

    When the weather gets better and the days longer, I recommend a swing set and a sandbox. Your post on sleeping in the extra bedroom leads me to believe you’re enjoying what I do about suburban living. We have a fenced yard and the freedom to send my kids out to play is a nice thing.

  3. I would suggest Play Dough and Moon Sand (have the boys play with at the table on cookie sheets to make cleaning up easier). Is your younger son old enough for early board games and puzzles yet?

  4. my 4 kids range from 8 mos to 5 1/2 years… a few things I have found that work when you have a baby to juggle & toddlers/preschoolers to play with:
    — hot wheels/other small toy cars
    — lincoln logs
    –play dough is good, though a mess to clean up. I usually don’t have the energy for it at night.
    — verrrrry simple, low-mess artsy-crafty things like pipe cleaners and big beads to string on them, stamps and (washable) ink pads, glue sticks and paper pieces.
    — my little guys love doing “school” – letter/number flash cards, saying & singing the alphabet, practicing letter sounds, writing/drawing on special lined school paper
    — this can require a bit of clean-up, b/c inevitably some of the gravel spills, but a quick sweep isn’t a big deal in my opinion: a plastic tub with some gravel in it and small toy tractors and trucks. I just did this for my 2 1/2 year old and he loves this. I used slightly larger gravel, so it’s easy for him to pick up the rocks that get out and put them back.
    — these paints are awesome and no-mess:
    — Music is one of our faves, and has the bonus of entertaining a baby who is getting a bit fussy. We have kid instruments (shakers, toy drums, tamborine, etc) and sometimes I play piano or guitar or we just sing if I’m bouncing baby. And we dance, of course… 😉
    — my kids love cleaning — I give them a spray bottle with water and just a squirt of Dr. Bronner’s soap (non-toxic). They get a sponge or an old rag and attack windows, doors, walls, baseboards, whatever. Sometimes something actually ends up cleaner…


    1. @Annie- Great idea! One challenge for us is that they’ve often been playing in the basement all afternoon with the toy cars and the like, so it’s less exciting once mom is off work. But stories are always fun, and I am hoping for more outdoor time once it’s warmer/lighter. And making music together is a great idea. I am thinking a dance party could also be fun.

  5. An easy craft project is creating patterns with dot markers on round basket-type coffee filters. The ink bleeds through, creating neat patterns. When my kids were young we would tape a few in a sunny window. They are 10 and 13 now and still pull out these same craft supplies sometimes!

  6. One more idea…Can’t recall how young your older kids are, but if you have an older digital camera that you don’t care all that much about, practice taking pictures together. My kids love it!!!

    On the crock liner, I might be a bit of a Debbie downer, but do you want to cook your food with all that plastic leaching into it. I think soaking or even 10 minutes of scrubbing is WAY better! But that’s just me – I’m a bit of a nut with health and no plastic…So feel free to ignore the suggestion 🙂

  7. Do you use a sling or other carrier for your baby? My son just turned one, but I found if he wanted/needed to be close to me while I was caring for my step children, I could wrap him up in a Sleepy Wrap or let him sit up in a ring sling (I used a Maya Wrap) and he would get part of my attention and the older kids would get part too. Happiness all around.

    1. @Vicki – yep, we are big users of the baby bjorn! It is sometimes the only way Ruth will nap, and it leaves both hands free for doing stuff for the others. Of course, it makes it difficult for the grown-up wearing her to sit down or move normally, but hey… Maybe I’ll hunt down my slings too. Neither of my older kids ever got into the slings (they kept popping up) but maybe she’ll like it…

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