After having my children at home for 11 (count them – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 – whew!) days in a row for their school’s Mid-Winter Break, today I got to deliver them to their classes and head off to the gym guilt & responsibility free. We really did have a fun stretch of days together and they played remarkably well for siblings together for so long, but better yet, I had planned ahead and put dinner in the crock pot. That’s right – I had a plan AND put it into action. On a Monday morning. Sweet!

But there’s a catch (isn’t there always?). Today I decided to stretch beyond the comfort of my usual 3 crock pot recipes (which are 3 of about 15 “regular” recipes I use) and try something new out of one of the cookbooks my grandma sent me. My grandmother is an amazing cook who is doing everything she can to help me become better, which is hard from over 1,000 miles away. As of late she’s been clearing out her cookbook stash and sending them my way to help me get ideas. She’s also been known to send cookware and vegetable gardening/canning books, so I really have NO excuse not to improve my skills. Anyhow . . . using a recipe from a “fool-proof” crock pot cookbook, I put together what should have been a delicious Mediterranean chicken dish before we headed out the door at 8AM.

Fast forward to 6PM when the kids and I returned home from my son’s piano lesson. The house smelled wonderful, we were all pleased that we could sit right down to dinner, and my son even set the table in record time. “That looks WONDERFUL!” was an actual exclamation uttered when the dishes were served. And then we sampled the food. My daughter’s first impression was, “I’m not hungry.” My son, always one for the dramatic, said, “I’d rather chew on a stick!” Thankfully he followed-up his rude comment with some constructive, kind criticism, so I didn’t make him actually chew on said stick. Still, I’m thinking this recipe is not a keeper.

The kiddos really did give eating dinner their best shots. They picked out the chicken, which hadn’t absorbed so much of the lemon juice (the recipe called for one-half cup – which we promptly declared to be WAY too much) as the rice had, and followed my daughter’s suggestion to “Just take teeny bites, because then you can’t really taste it as much.” I ate mine to be a good sport with myself. But in the end, it was decided that the steamed broccoli was SO much better than the chicken/rice dish that we’d all just like more veggies. While this isn’t a bad thing, we did need a better solution, though it was getting late.

Enter husband (via phone, leaving from work). “Haha! Sounds like we need to order pizza.”

The man had a plan.  I tried to execute said plan, but the local pizza join was closed. That’s right, at 7PM on a Monday night, they were no longer serving pizza (for delivery OR take out). I honestly thought the guy was joking and called his bluff. He assured me they were closed because their delivery truck never showed today and they were actually out of pizza.

Have no fear, I’ve planned ahead on more than this one crock pot dinner-cooking occasion. I had two frozen pizzas in our deep freezer. The night was saved. And we all got a terrific laugh out of the disaster of a dinner that was Round One. Better yet, my children recognized that I really DID try to make a tasty new dinner. Their post-dinner comments were “Next time you could just leave out the lemon, then we can taste all of the other delicious flavors. I bet then it would be good!” (that’s the smooth-talking boy) and “That’s okay, Mom. You don’t have to make it again.” (out of the mouth of my sweet girl)

So despite the lump of lemony chicken and rice goo left at the bottom of my crock pot, I AM left with a thankful heart at the start of this week (and end of this month). I am pleased that my children were as excited as I was for them to return to school, satisfied that I got in a good workout at the Y, and most thankful for the grocery store trip a few weeks ago when I grabbed those frozen pizzas that were on sale – “just in case” we had a situation arise when they might come in handy.

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