Oh, many of you scoffed when I mentioned planning out our weekly menus, but so far it’s made for a kind of calmness in the afternoon that we haven’t had in a LONG time. I refer to myself as the Dinner Nazi, sometimes—I love the family dinner thing, and I will DEMAND we all eat together so that we can have some Quality Family Time. And it’s totally SHOCKING, I know, but that tends to work out a lot better when I’m not running around like a headless chicken figuring out what we’re actually going to EAT during that special time when we’re bonding.
Besides, a whole lot of tormenting goes on at our table, and it just seems more fair if we have something yummy to eat while that’s going on. Call it a balance, if you will. I mean, the kids will be in therapy for years, but they’ll never be able to complain about what I fed them.
When I planned out the week’s menu on Sunday, before I went grocery shopping, I had planned for us to have some sort of chicken, last night. It turned out that chicken was not on sale, but shrimp was, so I made an executive decision to substitute “some sort of chicken” for “shrimp and penne” for last night’s meal. What I had forgotten, of course, was that I’d been planning to have Otto cook the chicken because yesterday was Chickadee’s first day of swim team and I didn’t want to cook.
I remembered to tell Otto I bought shrimp instead of chicken, but I forgot to ask him to cook. Whoops! But it was fine, because my method for shrimp and penne is only slightly more complicated than boiling water, so we came home from swimming and I cooked and we all sat down to our family meal.
[Because I know someone will ask if I don't tell you: Boil a box of penne. While it cooks, heat large saucepan with olive oil, three minced cloves of garlic, and the juice of three lemons. Sautee shrimp in this mixture for a couple of minutes until no longer translucent. Drain the pasta and add to the saucepan and mix it all up. Add salt and pepper and a handful of chopped fresh basil. Voila! See how fancy you can be in 10 minutes? And you get EXTRA VIRTUE POINTS if you buy the whole grain pasta, which I do, because I need those points, man.]
So. First, let me tell you about swimming. Chickadee is a strong swimmer but has never been on a team before. And she went right in there and did everything the coach told her to do, which meant that she swam laps for a solid hour without complaint. I mean, I was exhausted just watching her, but she was a total trooper. I couldn’t have been more pleased with her willingness to work hard; by the time she finished up, I was fairly glowing with pride. You may not have picked up on this (say, if you’re a new reader, or blind), but my darling daughter can be sort of a shirker, sometimes. Yet there she was, giving it her all, focused, determined, all of that great stuff.
Naturally she then got out of the pool and immediately LOST HER SHIT because she was exhausted and her hair was wet and AAAAIIIIEEEEE WET HAIR IS A TRAGEDY! And I had neglected to bring a plastic bag for her wet things and AAAAIIIIEEEEEE THAT WAS ANOTHER TRAGEDY. Etc. Lather, rinse, repeat, as she freaked out over absolutely everything. Me, I think it would be a little easier to just say, “Wow, that was quite a workout, and I’m very tired now,” but what do I know. Coming home and having to go take a shower? SO TRAGIC.
By the time we sat down to eat, Chickadee had settled down somewhat, but I was still a little nervous.
So there we are, eating one of the kids’ favorite meals, and Otto asked Chickadee how swimming went. She had a mouthful of pasta and said “Good” except that’s not what it sounded like.
“Boat?” said Otto. “You were in a boat?” Monkey tittered with delight.
“NO!” huffed Chickadee. “I said GOOD. Geez.”
“BOAT!” declared Monkey, “They had to swim IN A BOAT! HAHAHAHA!”
“Maybe they have to swim TO the boat?” mused Otto.
“Maybe they have to PUSH a boat,” I suggested.
Chickadee huffed and threw down her fork and crossed her arms and stared down at her lap in righteous indignation over being so abused. As if this isn’t par for the course in our family. “Stop BEING MEAN TO ME,” she cried.
“Oh, honey,” I said. “We’re just having some fun. We’re not being mean. It’s a joke. Have a sense of humor.”
“It’s NOT FUNNY!” she fumed. Otto and I exchanged glances.
“Okay. We’ll stop,” I said.
“Now you can make fun of ME!” offered Monkey. “I don’t mind!”
Chickadee didn’t even pause in picking up her fork again while she turned to him and said, “You’re ugly.”
“He said I could!” she protested, giggling, while Monkey laughed right along with her.
“I was going to say you’re short and your mother dresses you funny,” I offered.
“Hey, that’s funny, because I was going to say he has long hair and his mother dresses him funny,” said Otto. Chickadee laughed so hard she choked a little.
“YOU DRESS ME FUNNY!” declared Monkey, pointing at his t-shirt to illustrate his point.
At this point I noticed that he had something in his hair. “Monkey, do you have food in your hair? What IS that?” Monkey often has food in his hair. But as this was not a meal to be eaten with fingers, I was a little stumped.
“I HAVE FOOD IN MY HAIR AND MY MOTHER DRESSES ME FUNNY!” he crowed. By now Chickadee was shaking her head, and Otto was beholding the lot of us, probably wondering once again what in the world he’d gotten himself into. “Can I have some MORE SHRIMP?” asked Monkey. “I will try not to put it in my hair.”
“You could put it in your boat!” said Otto.
“BOAT!” agreed Monkey.
Chickadee threw down her fork and started pouting again.
“Oh, stop it,” I said to her, while dishing up another serving for Monkey. “You pout one more time and I’m gong to put some shrimp in YOUR hair.”
She clapped her hands over her head and tried really, really hard not to laugh. Laughing can ruin a good pout, you know.
Yep, there’s absolutely nothing like a family dinner to bring out the best in everyone.