Day 53: It's What's For Dinner...

First, a little look at the paper chain. (Day One on the left, Today on the right. Now we're getting somewhere!)

Sleeping habits have improved since Day 45, but let's have a little look at our meal habits, sans Dad:
There's the aforementioned 11 a.m. cold pizza and T.V.

And today - you guessed it - while I was upstairs:

Yep, the two-year-old climbed up on the counter and peeled himself a clementine for breakfast. Things like that really happen around here. You know that by now.

So, I really have been thinking about meals a lot lately. Mostly because a huge gap seems to have evolved between what I intend for mealtime to be (Katherine at Raising Five put it best), and what it actually is (not even as clever or fun as Tess’s outsourced kitchens).

My mom is a terrific cook and many of our family traditions are to do with beautiful meals she regularly put on the table for us.

My grandma spent her whole married life putting meals on. Forty-seven years of three squares, 365. She is a fabulous cook, and my grandpa never left the table without kissing her cheek and saying, “Delicious, honey. Thank you.” Since his death ten years ago, her table hasn’t seen as active duty, and she regularly laments, “I just don’t have anyone to cook for. No one to smile at me across the table, or really appreciate my cooking.”

I have listened to her mealtime melancholy with a kind of empathy, but actually never really understood (because there's her kids and grandkids who still love her cooking...) until the cheek kisses at our house, along with the compliments to the cook flew to the other side of the world fifty-three days ago.

My excuse is a little of that same mealtime melancholy: I can only cook so many meals that at best get picked at but not eaten and at worst get turned upside down on table, chair and floor, without finally just deciding that food is not much more than a necessary evil. Besides, it’s too hot to cook. So mealtime just isn’t the same lately. Sad, but true.

I realized the true deterioration of my personal family meal ideal when Cal said, as we headed upstairs for bed the other night, “But, Mom! We didn’t eat dinner!” “Sure, we did, Cal – we had crackers and cheese and grapes and a little yogurt. Remember?” These were the periodic snacks they had eaten in the last hour leading up to bath and bedtime, based on Henry’s refrigerator raids while I sorted laundry. Cal’s response? “That wasn’t dinner! We need to sit down…around the table…and have plates in front of us…”

Oh dear. And I just admitted it to the internet. I guess it is a good thing that he at least knows what dinner is supposed to be. And I guess it’s time I pulled myself together and realized there’s two other people in this family who really do care about mealtime, even if they don’t always articulate it or pat me on the back. Or even eat it. So I resolved earlier today that I would do better. Three squares a day at the table. With plates in front of us.

Late this afternoon, I returned from a kid-free excursion to the National Gallery, an hour later than I said I would be, and my friend (who had asked me if she could give me a break sometime this week and watch the boys) had not only taken them (along with her three children, all under age nine) to an outdoor magician show and fed them lunch, (while her husband is studying for his HUGE qualify-to-be-a-doctor exam) but proceeded to send me home with a bag of dinner for us: casserole with reheating instructions, carrots, fruit salad, and fresh-baked peanut butter cookies.

We ate it just like a family meal should be eaten, and when we finished, I mentally kissed her cheek. Tomorrow I will call and tell her thanks again, it was delicious.

And now, because of this friend, and Tess's and Katrina's - who I formerly had the slightest tinge of meal-envy toward - I have a whole new meal ideal: To think of other people, and occasionally, impulsively, kindly, give someone who might just be having a little mealtime melancholy a real family dinner.


Code Yellow Mom said...

As a side note, refrigerator raids are Henry’s new and ongoing passion. It’s what he does now most frequently when I go upstairs (in addition to the fruit basket raids). His items of interest? “Moob eggs!” For some reason he is not happy with them in the carton, so he transfers them – less than gently – to a drawer. The other is “soss-ha.” Which he gets out, brings to me as I am coming back down the stairs, and starts chanting, “Tips. Soss-ha. Tips. Soss-ha.”

No Cool Story: he’s albino gringo, but he LOVES tortilla chips and reasonably spicey salsa. Cal loves guacamole. They have pollos in their pajama toes, but am I raising them right, or what?)

the lizness said...

Awww! My lack of cookingness made it to your blog! lol I'll have you know, though, I did make those quesadillas on Thursday before we knew we had to leave town and The Rev gobbled them down quite satisfactorily. Tonight I fried pork chops and had corn on the cob and salad. Tomorrow? roast w/ onions, potatos, carrots, and I'll think of another side.

So there. *raspberry*

Angela said...

Man! That's funny stuff commenting first on your blog.
I love your blog.
I love that you fed your kids grapes, yogurt and crackers and called it dinner.
I cannot keep my kids out of the refrigerator. Ben plays house in it and Avery cools off in front of it while doing an inventory of sorts. Things she deems useless, like parmesan and balsalmic vinagrette, get thrown on the floor. Consistently.
Your boys are SO SO SO SO CUTE. Hemmy is changing!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Aww... Sweet post. You're right - sitting down together for a meal means a lot to kids. But don't be too hard on yourself. It's certainly okay to have a "snacky" dinner every once in a while, too!

But aren't thoughtful friends the best? I'm so glad you got to get out by yourself for a while - you deserve it!

And, Henry is just adorable! Love the pictures of him on the counter!

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Hey - dinner is the only meal around here in the summer that gets the full treatment. We've had our share of "I never ate lunch (or breakfast!)" here too! You are doing a GREAT JOB. The chain will be off the wall soon.

someone else said...

You are truly inspirational. I really admire how you tackle life, and your little boys are adorable!!

I use Tess's outsourced kitchens frequently -- there's no end to the choices. :)

Woohoo on the paper chain! It's been fun to follow its progress.

Unknown said...

That's a good friend (and a sweet grandpa, too). You'll be able to pay it forward one day.