Saturday, January 31, 2015

When Are You Going To The Store?

Meal planning is a full time job for which I need a full time assistant, something Preston insists is not in the budget. I think we could sell his truck and he could just always ride his motorcycle to provide for this urgent assistant need, but he keeps talking about when it's below freezing or raining. Whatever.   

Each meal of the day has its own little idiosyncrasies. I'm going to break it down for you. 

Breakfast:

Preston rarely eats breakfast...at least at home. There are some precious, precious cafeteria ladies who love him so much and make breakfast for him and a few other teachers on Fridays...things like chocolate gravy, scratch biscuits, cinnamon rolls, truffles, lobster, caviar, foie gras... Ok, not foie gras but one time there was lobster. I swear. I am always confused when he uses the term "scratch biscuits." Does that mean they had to scratch at the can to get it to pop open?

The girls, however, want to eat in the mornings, usually within about two seconds of their eyes opening. If I do not have the exact right groceries, breakfast can be a real issue. One girl likes oatmeal, but only if we have frozen blueberries to stir in. If we don't have blueberries, she will lay her head on her arms and moan, declaring that ice cream is the only suitable replacement. I have been known to allow this just to silence the moaning. 

One girl likes cereal, pretty much all cereal, but Preston likes to have a late night bowl of cereal. Oftentimes there will be about a tablespoon of milk left in the jug. He does this so he can justify why he didn't run to the corner gas station and get another gallon when I send him a nasty text about how he has ruined my day and therefore my life; "But I didn't use it all!" Toast, eggs, pancakes, oatmeal are unacceptable to this child. She has been known to sadly and dramatically and with much sighing spoon Rice Krispies to her mouth dry, spilling most onto the floor. You really need something wet to hold Rice Krispies together. It is a devastating start to the day. 

The third girl is a wild card. Some days she wants cereal, but only if there are acceptable kinds, which include Fruity Pebbles or Marshmallow Cereal. We rarely have these cereals, but still she searches each morning hoping they mysteriously appeared in our pantry during the night. (This never happens, but the milk mysteriously disappears - see previous paragraph.) Sometimes she wants pancakes, but only if I do/do not add/omit chocolate chips/cinnamon/bits of apple/whatever she has dreamed up for this morning. Sometimes it's a fried egg, which she likes to cook herself, but should she break the yolk while flipping it, will immediately become the most disgusting food imaginable, totally unacceptable for eating...I made this one for you, Mommy. Can you eat three more just like it before I finally admit I need a little help with the flipping? Sometimes she is too excited/sad/tired/fake sick to eat but then will proclaim her starving status right before we arrive at school, wanting me to produce a full meal from my Magic Mommy Bag. (And sometimes I can. Remember the scene from "One Fine Day" with Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney where she makes super hero costumes for two kids just with the things in her bag? That is the most spot-on scene in all of film making. I can't believe it didn't win any Oscars.) 

Lunch:

Lunch is a little easier because they are prisoners to what I packed the night before after they were in bed and unable to offer their ever-changing opinions on what should be packed. My lunches have seriously taken a turn for the worse in all areas since we started the whole school scene four years ago. In every way - healthiness, variety, creativity. Sometimes I have them help because I would love to turn this chore over to them, but they want to pack things like dry pasta, corn chex, and ketchup. Nothing wrong with any of these items in and of themselves, but together a well balanced meal they do not make. 

After-school-snack is pretty established - one thing they choose, followed by unlimited fruits, vegetables and nuts. This generally meets with little debate and goes well. Praise Jesus. 

Supper:

Supper is a totally different set of issues. I've heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. This is me hoping anew each day we will end the day with a family meal in which we chat intelligently, we are thoughtful and kind, we delight in each others' presence. You know. Like all other families do. According to pictures they put on Facebook. This is how supper goes in my mind:


Note the delighted faces on the children, the beautifully set table, the loving husband so appreciative of the hard work the adorably chubby wife has put forth to make this delicious meal come together. Yes. That is how it will be in the Brooks house as well. We will discuss our days without interrupting one another. The homemade yeast rolls will glisten hot with melted butter. We will politely pass and fill our plates before anyone begins to eat. Everyone, even down to the smallest child, will compliment the chef on all of the dishes served. And so I make supper, eager for what will be the highlight of everyone's day, a magical moment amid the chaos of the rest of life. 

This is reality:


I would like to take the time to point out some things in this brilliant clipart. 

1. Obviously, the mom has had it. I mean, she appears to be exploding. My cousin calls this hour before supper "the witching hour" what with its homework, whining children, last minute meal prep, dogs barking, Husband calling to say he will be twenty minutes late, prompting rage from Wife who is truly teetering on the brink of a total nervous breakdown, and general witchiness of this hour.

2. Something is burning on the stove. Of course. Because the children have distracted the mother trying to get her to sign papers, listen to them read "the cat sat on the mat" five hundred times, help them find middle C, and negotiate a peace agreement over whose turn it is to feed the gigantic dogs everyone wanted so much, so she cannot possibly keep up with the burning green beans. My stove is encrusted in things that have boiled over and never been scraped off. My family thinks the smell of something scorching is the call to supper.

3. Two children are crying. Something tragic has happened. Like a Lego tower was knocked over. Or Barbie's shoe was flushed down the toilet. Or they are wishing they had been born into a family where the green beans aren't always served blackened.  

4. One child is apparently tattling. We have one of those. 

5. One child is apparently taunting. We have three of those.

6. There is a mess on the floor where a child has spilled a drink. This happens at every every every single meal. Preston still acts disgusted and surprised by it. And he always, always mutters under his breath, "Every meal!" 

7. There is no husband in sight. The girls helped me pick this clipart, and when I pointed out this fact, Preston defensively goes, "He's probably at work earning the money for that meal." Or he's lying on the couch. Watching football. Which is what the girls and I agree is probably happening. But Preston says that can't be true because I don't cook on Sundays which is when football is on. It's becoming a whole thing. The middle girl said, "That looks exactly what it's like before you get home, Daddy." I thought I was being facetious, but I guess not. Ego blow.

I pretty much try to give the girls what they want for breakfast and lunch, balanced and within reason, but at supper we have a "We do not negotiate with terrorists children approach."

These are the rules:
1. You must try at least one bite of everything offered. If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it all, but you must always give it a chance. 
2. That is the only rule.

One time in very recent history, a kid sat at the table for 45 minutes after everyone else moved on over a bite of broccoli, sobbing over our meanness and how she really can't even look at broccoli and can't believe we are asking her to put it in her mouth. Finally, she put the teeniest of bites in her mouth and promptly began gagging and choking. I gave up. I told her to forget it. I can't stand throw up, and it looked like it was imminent. She won. Whatever. I guess we don't have any rules. 

What to make for supper can be a real problem, too. I beg people to give me ideas of past suppers they have liked. I will do, make, buy anything! I get in a rut and have no idea what to make. It's like everything I've ever cooked is no longer stored in my brain. I get desperate for ideas. I want them to like supper. But they will tell me a meal to make, I'll make it, and then all of a sudden it's the worst food ever. 

True story: 
For one child's birthday meal she requested spaghetti. Crazy easy. I got this. At her birthday party, she barely took anything on her plate and then said, "I don't really like spaghetti, Mommy."

The family gathered around the table to enjoy a warm meal at the end of a long day is such an appealing picture, and we continue to be devoted to the idea of family supper time being extremely valuable, so we try to use the time for good things like praying for families we don't see very often by going through our stack of Christmas cards and praying for the family on top, discussing our days by telling our "woo-hoo" and "boo-hoo" (or "peak and pit" or "sweet and sour," depending on which girl you ask) which is the worst thing and best thing about our days. We try to teach table manners, not interrupting, and all that good stuff. We discuss what's happening at school, how to handle drama situations (who knew there was so much drama in the life of a little girl?), how to love each other better and be a little more like Jesus. 

But then someone belches, food falls onto the floor in massive quantities, water is spilled and butter ends up in someone's hair. Tears are shed. 

But then I dry it up and start the menu for the next night.   

Grace for today and all your mealtimes,
Martha      



2 comments:

  1. I too consider One Fine Day to be an underrated gem of a movie. One of my favourite scenes was where she was discussing the building model with the architectural client and the client shook his head saying he needed the see the building with cars in front of it. Single Mom Michelle opens up her magic Mom handbag and takes out a plastic bag of her son’s minature cars and holds it up, saying simply, “Cars!”

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    Replies
    1. Yes! I forgot about that! That is a great scene. I could produce a whole town from my purse right now!

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