My work schedule has been eccentric over the years, but I still manage to gather the troops most nights for a sit-down dinner.
The downside is we end up eating closer to 9 p.m. than anything else. I used to tell the babes that we subscribed to the European model and let them graze until I got home and could make dinner. Ah, the stories we tell our children!
Recently, we’ve been stretching dinner out even later. My youngest, unlike her siblings, actually has some major after-school activities and she doesn’t get back from them until 9 or 9:30 p.m. Thankfully, her sporting season is over now, but she’s substituted driver’s education and we still see her closer to 9 p.m. when we all sit down for food before going off to our usual night-time activities.
So it was with a sense of unreality that we all sat down to dinner at 6:30 p.m. one day earlier this week.
First there were the vampire jokes (The Light! It Burns!!!). Then there was the quietness — no phone calls from people who refuse to remember we eat late and call us at 9 p.m. Then there was the sense of eating lunch instead of dinner. And there was the unexpected free time when the food was gone and it was hours before everybody’s usual bedtime.
With the days getting longer, we’ll probably be seeing more of each other in the daylight even with our usual dinner time, and the traditional daylight jokes will be trotted out and tried one more time. For us, it’s one of the rituals of summertime. Other families may change their winter plastic tablecloths for summer ones or use brightly colored plastic plates. We hone our vampire jokes.
For years, I’ve purchased masses of small gifts for my children which are duly wrapped and placed around the fireplace waiting for the holidays to appear.
The years have changed the gifts from small plastic frogs and harmonicas to book lights and gift cards, but what hasn’t changed is the tradition of drifting by the fireplace during the weeks of December, counting up who has how many packages.
What’s also tradition is that I get the fewest number of gifts. This year, my youngsters decided that wouldn’t be so.
I got the regulation gift cards, of course, from my husband, but I had seven small gifts in odd-shaped packages waiting for me as well, putting me one-up from my husband and tied with my two oldest children in number of gifts.
What my enterprising children did was purchase two silicone mitts and a set of metal measuring cups and wrap them up separately. The first gift I opened was the 1/4 cup, nicely tied up with a bow all to itself. I opened the third-cup measure next, in its own package. Then came the rest, one by one. They also wrapped up the ring that holds the measuring cups as a set.
Frankly, I’m still laughing. And here’s a wish for laughter and good kitchen memories to all for the upcoming year.
We were talking the other day about the toaster, and how, when my son goes off on his own some day, the toaster goes with him.
It’s become a feature of our household that people who complain long enough get put in charge of what they dislike. That’s why my youngest now makes the pancake batter on Sunday mornings, for instance. Enough grumbling to her dad about ‘when are you going to make pancakes’ when she was young, and she was put in charge of whipping up the batter to facilitate the meal.
My son used to complain about the quality of the toaster since he used it more than anybody else. Enough complaints, and we bought him a toaster for his birthday. It’s the toaster we use now, essentially ‘on loan’ from our son for the duration. But he does occasionally (and jokingly) threaten to take the toaster away when he leaves home permanently.
I can’t say that our philosophy has helped us spread around the responsibility for keeping the house in order. I still do the majority of cooking and cleaning. But boy, have the complaints dropped off in the past decade!
In typing up notes for an upcoming story on school lunches, I was suddenly reminded of a conversation I had with my own children when all three were still in the public schools.
There they were, in elementary, middle and high school, respectively, and there I was, happily slicing carrots and celery stalks and worrying about whether tuna salad would go bad while sitting in their locker, when it was forcibly brought home to me that packing is not the same thing as eating.
“Mom, could you pack me an extra bagel?” I recall one of my babes saying.
“Sure,” I replied, tickled that I’d hit on something they liked.
“Yeah, my best friend likes them, and I can trade it for a candy bar her mom gives her.”
That’s when the other two chimed in, explaining what their friends brought, what they brought, and how they pooled their resources every lunch hour and chose what they wanted.
I guess it’s better than the story one of our editors tell when he was in school in the 1930s and a buddy of his would toss his brown bag over the fence of a local junk yard every morning on the way to school. When the snow melted in the spring, the remains of scores of school lunches were discovered…
I went grocery shopping with my oldest last weekend at one of the big warehouse stores and we passed a display of enormous jars of Nutella.
My daughter informed me that a lot of the chefs featured on The Food Channel use Nutella and that she and her college roommate bought a jar once upon a time and that it was a pretty good thing.
I’ve never tasted it, so I suggested we buy a jar and see where we could use it. Maybe, I said, it would taste good drizzled over chicken … at which time my oldest almost fell over laughing.
It’s a dessert spread, she informed me. It would be like drizzling chocolate over chicken.
I looked serious and nodded, as if she had convinced me of the error of my ways. We decided instead to see if it would work as a filling for a rolled cookie we make for the holidays similar to rugulach but with a softer shell.
Actually, I’m fond of mole sauce, which has a chocolate base and tastes very nice on chicken thank-you-very-much. But I’m willing to take a hit in the interests of amusing my child and letting her feel superior.
It reminded me of all those similar conversations we had when she was a very young child and had to ‘splain to her mom that the barking animal was a dog, not a cat, because only dogs bark.
And — surprise! — I do know what Nutella is. But don’t tell my oldest. I wouldn’t want to spoil her fun.
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Photo illustration by Algerina Perna / Los Angeles Times
This week, Tracey’s true-to-life “What goes in must come out,” post about her wee one’s blowout is featured in not one, but two blog carnivals!
First, it’s in the weekly Carnival of Family Life, this week hosted by Hopeful Spirit at On the Horizon.
If you have no idea what a blog carnival is or want to know more about this particular blog carnival, check out this post on its home blog, Colloquium.
Then, there’s monthly Family Funnies carnival hosted by Motherwise (Humor from the parenthood). If you’re interested in participating in future editions of this carnival, submit entries here.
And a reminder that Iâ€™ll be hosting the Carnival of Family Life on May 19!