Saturday, January 6, 2007

"What's for dinner?"

Every night since my kids could talk and since they figured out there's more to meals than Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, we've had the same daily conversation. It goes something like this:

Child: What's for dinner?

Me: Baked chicken.

Child: Anything else?

Me, busy mashing potatoes: Mashed potatoes.

Child, hopefully: No vegetable?

Me: Green beans.

Child, whining: Aw, not corn? Can't we have corn?

Me: No.

Child: Why can't we have corn?

Me: Because corn isn't really a vegetable and anyway, your sister feeds it to the dog, which makes him crazy and he pees on everything in the house.

Child: Are we having bread, too?

Me: Yes. Now go wash your hands.

Now you're probably thinking, what's her point? My point is this. I have the exact same conversation with each individual family member every stinkin' night. And you have to understand something about the layout of our house. The kitchen, dining room, and living room are all part of one largish "great room," and by largish I mean roughly the same size as a garden shed. To be in the living room and not hear this conversation going on in the kitchen, one would have to be deaf as a post.

So two minutes later I'm having the same conversation with Child #2. Of course, there are variations with each kid, like when FashionBug comes into the kitchen, sees me surrounded by pots of steaming water and jars of assorted seasonings and begins the conversation with, "Are you on the computer?"

The last person to ask the by-now dreaded "What's for dinner?" question is usually my husband. This is my fifth time to answer the query, I'm up to my elbows in mashed potatoes, no one has set the table yet, and the dog is sniffing the leg of my chair in a very suspicious manner.

Husband: What's for dinner?

I respond by giving him The Exasperated Sigh.

Now, after nearly 21 years of marriage, my husband still does not understand the meaning of The Exasperated Sigh, but he is very aware that from this point out, he must proceed with caution.

Husband, after a very long pause during which he mentally debates whether or not to back slowly out of the kitchen: Mm. Did the dog pee on the vacuum cleaner again?


Husband exits the kitchen quickly, wondering what it is about baked chicken that has made me so irritable.

A couple of years ago, I tried a different tack. I posted our weekly meal plan on a calendar on the refrigerator. The conversation then went this way:

Child: What's for dinner?

Me: Did you look at the calendar?

Child: What calendar?

Me: The one on the refrigerator. It's been there for four months. Our meals are listed on it.

Child: Oh yeah.

Child, standing in front of fridge: What day is it?

Me, sighing: Tuesday.

Child: Which Tuesday?

Me, making growling noises under my breath: Tuesday the 12th.

Child: So we're having baked chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and bread?

Me, feeling a glimmer of encouragement: Yes.

Child: Aw, why not corn? Can't we have corn?

Me: If you ask me one more question about this meal, I swear I am going to feed you chopped monkey liver for the next two weeks.

Child: Can we have corn tomorrow?

Fortunately for the child, the conversation is interrupted at this point by the shouts of the other kids as the dog pees on the Playstation console.

I'm thinking baked chicken would go well with a nice side of Prozac.

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