Thursday, July 26, 2012

A little less honesty, please...

You know what's great? Having honest kids. Yep, that's usually pretty high up on the list of character qualities that parents would like to instill in their children. Personally, I'm thinking of ranking it a bit lower on my list and putting good old fashioned values like tact and discretion closer to the top.

Now that we are back home and settling back into a more normal existence I gave myself a nice pep talk after church today and reminded myself of all the reasons that good, healthy, homecooked meals eaten around the dining table will be positively magical for our family. And then, after I burst that delusional bubble, I settled for a less lofty goal of simply a healthy, homecooked meal eaten around the dining table with at least 10 minutes of not-completely forced conversation. It's really best to set the bar low when eating with teenage boys.

Knowing that Timothy had a friend joining us for dinner, I wanted to be sure to prepare what I hoped would be a universally appealing meal. I opted for flank steak, a sassy little potato with sausage side dish, and Caesar salad. When I was asked by some child as he disappeared down the stairs to the basement what we were having for dinner, the menu was greeted with an approving grunt and a jump-slap to the ceiling which I took to mean it got a double-thumbs-up. Score one for Mom.

It wasn't a tricky meal to make, but it did require making a lot of separate pans and dishes dirty, which is not my favorite. I'm the Queen of the One-Pot-Meal, mostly because I like to minimize the clean up.  But, in the interests of family unity and happiness, I was willing to create an utter disaster in the kitchen in order to provide a delicious, homecooked feast. I also realized that a side-benefit to eating at the dining table is I don't need to make sure the breakfast counter is clear before serving dinner. Hence, the breakfast counter could remain the dumping ground for all of my dirty dishes while the dining table was pulled together into a vision of loveliness.

Okay, not so much a vision of loveliness but it was set with placemats, napkins and silverware. AND, I even enlisted help for setting the table (remember that little plan I had about teaching my kids more about responsibility etc...? Yeah...well, one day at a time). Still, I did not completely throw the plan out the window because my Annie quite cheerfully jumped on board to help set the table (phew, at least one child learned something...). And, I made sure to take the time to help her remember which side the napkin goes on and where to properly place the silverware. She was delighted to be helpful (oh, can't they stay 7 forever!) and continued to ask what she could do next to help. If this keeps up, she may be end up being my one, true success story. Score two for Mom.

With the kitchen in a shambles, dinner was finally ready to be served. I decided to really go all the way with this meal and serve it family style at the table.  Normally, I would serve up all the plates and set them at each person's place. Generally this is, again, to minimize dirtying 5,000 dishes in the process of serving one meal. But, I wanted to get this new, improved, meal-making-Me off to a good start and eating family style seemed to be the way to go.

The kids all sat down and we said grace. Actually, we sang grace. This was only mildly mortifying for Timothy with his friend present, but to my credit I asked him first if it was okay if we sang grace. I was happy to simply say grace if it would spare him some 14 year old angst. But he's a pretty remarkably comfortable-in-his-own-skin kind of 14 year old, and this is a lifelong friend of his who knows we are a little off-beat, so he gave our usual singing of grace the OK. I was proud of him. But he was about to get me back...

We all started serving ourselves the delectable dinner I had prepared when Tim offers up:

So, this is kind of weird. I mean, we never eat at the table. What are we doing?

Smiling awkwardly, I chide him, Timothy, not 'never'! But it's true we haven't eaten at the dining table as often this summer.

In typical tenacious-Tim fashion, he insists, We don't eat at the table during the school year either. We never do.

I respond, equally insistent (gee, I wonder where he gets it?), Again, not 'never'! Are you trying to say this is the first time in your life you have eaten at this dining table?

At which point, I do get a small laugh from him and he has to concede his point slightly (which, believe me, is not easy for for him to do). Okay, maybe not never. I guess we do sometimes. I'm just saying it's a little weird.

I smile and nod, accepting his peace offering, but counter, Well, get used to it, Buddy. 

To which, he simply raised his eyebrows in silent consternation. 

Yep, that's right, Buster. There's a new Sheriff in town. Well, wait...actually it's not a new Sheriff. It's the same ol' Sherriff- she's just gotten a whole lot tougher!


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