… of us.
I am really trying to be better about making real dinners for the boys. It’s super important to me that we have regular time together that does NOT involve homework, technology, driving around in the car, or sitting in bleachers. It’s true that our “new” life is settling into a routine…. But just like every other parent out there, managing the lives of three boys (plus me) is hectic more days than it’s not. And, as everyone knows, family dinner time is often the first casualty of a hectic day.
You gotta just keep on keepin’ on, right?
Here’s a little summation of a recent week where I managed to cook a meal that we all sat down together to enjoy — for three nights in a row! And, yes, thank you very much, I DO count heating up leftovers (of homemade food) and microwaving a bag of frozen vegetable (organic) as “cooking”.
The exciting choices I made? (I know you are dying to know — recipes at bottom of post):
Night 1: homemade mac & cheese
Night 2: Grandma Fran’s lasagna and Italian bread
Night 3: leftovers!
Or — as middle son responded when I said “It’s a Smorgabord!” — “You mean, ‘mustgo’?” (That’s what the school cafeteria calls the lunch selections right before a long school break.) So, ummm, yeah “Mustgo”. I argued that “smorgasbord”, being European, automatically makes leftovers sound more appetizing than “mustgo”. No one was convinced.
Anyway. Yay, me! I cooked. We all sat down together to eat. Happy, healthy family time. La la la!
Not so fast…. Lest I falsely lead you to believe that it’s all a big bowl of locally grown, organic cherries over at the Real Food for 5 abode, here’s a peek behind the curtain.
Night 1: All chatted relatively pleasantly; middle son not a big fan of mac and cheese, so he had to make it through the night on a stomach full of applesauce and broccoli.
Night 2: Lasagna was a huge hit with oldest and youngest boys; middle guy, not so much. Which compelled oldest to berate middle son with charming conversational nuggets such as “what the heck is wrong with you?”, “who doesn’t like lasagna? and “are you an idiot or something?” Which led me to give a lecture on no-name-calling and then have to tolerate a lot of eye-rolling and some “humphing” back at me. But we all calmed down, managed some civilized conversation until we’d finished eating, and (to the best of my knowledge) only a very little bit of brotherly under-the-table punching occurred.
Night 3: Oldest in foul mood (teenager). Youngest “not hungry”. Middle only wants to eat bread. Each boy on each other’s case with a barrage of “Chew with your mouth closed!”, “You are so gross!”, “Stop telling dumb jokes – you are NOT funny!”, “Stop looking at me!”, “Ow! Mom, he just kicked me!”, “No I didn’t, you big tattle tale!”
Until… “Stop it! All of you! Stop talking! Just go away! I don’t want to hear another word from any of you!” (that would be me… not my finest parenting moment…)
They fled the table — gladly, I am sure. And were happily laughing and playing Legos together in about 2 minutes (ugh, they are so annoying). And I sat there by myself, tastelessly shoveling in my dinner, fighting back tears and wallowing in self-pity. “Why, WHY, is everything so hard?” Heavy sigh.
Here’s how low I was — the only comforting thought I could muster was, “Well… boy, will they’ll miss me when I’m gone. They are going to feel so bad about how hard I worked to try to make nice dinner times — and they ruined them every single time!”
Good lord. I’d hit the rock-bottom sentiment of “they’ll regret this when I’m gone”? I mean, seriously, how more pathetic can you get?
Then out of the blue, a long-forgotten little episode from my young(ish)-motherhood days in DC popped into my head.
I had gathered up all three boys for a pre-playground trek to the Starbucks on Pennsylvania Avenue — steamy DC summer day, pushing the two youngest in the double-stroller with the oldest “riding” his scooter along (which meant mostly I was dragging it along next to me as I pushed the stroller because his legs were “tired”). This was a pretty frequent outing for us and I was quite adept at navigating a double-stroller into a crowded urban Starbucks. It was a big help that the homeless guy out front would watch the scooter for a buck. As the boys and I stood in line to order, the well-dressed lobbyist (I knew he was a lobbyist because Congressmen and government workers can’t afford a bespoke suit like this guy was sporting) eyed me up and down (I’m sure I was quite a frazzled sight) laughed and said, “I was one of three boys. We gave my poor mother hell for years. I mean, HELL. Let me buy your coffee. You are a saint.” I don’t recall if I accepted. I hope I did. And I hope I managed a half-sentient polite reply of appreciation…
So — where-ever you are, nice lobbyist guy — 7 years later, sitting at the table in my far-from-DC suburban kitchen, you made me laugh. I wiped the tears from my face and blew my nose and thought, “Well, at least someday maybe they’ll make some poor mother’s day and buy her a coffee.”
Oh, yes. Recipes:
Whole Wheat Italian Bread read about here.
Whole Wheat Lasagna (with Fran’s “gravy” and cheese filling recipes) here.
Whole wheat mac & cheese here. Here’s my current fave raw milk cheddar (from Meijer)