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Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

When I was young, and irritating, I would pester my mother in the kitchen in the hour that she was preparing dinner.

If I persisted for long enough, and I usually did, eventually she would tell me, “oh, go have some bread and butter if you’re really hungry,” and I always was, really hungry that is to say.

The nutritional message may be different these days, but the underlying fight between delayed gratification and hunger, is a fine balance.

My youngest son now eats bread. Admittedly he will only eat one particular brand of bread, but it’s still bread. We induced him to eat bread by happenstance. Being the chocolate lover that he is, the product Nutella was a gift from on high, liquid chocolate with no bits in it. If you put a teaspoonful of Nutella on a piece of bread the size of your thumbnail, eventually, after many painful screaming months, you too may achieve bread consumption. After a further 18 months, one can slowly alter the ratio of bread to Nutella, if you’re very sneaky.

Whilst they are all out at the park, I prepare colourful, organic vegetables to make kebabs. It’s far too hot to put the oven on, so cremation is the only way to go. Barbeque. I run the sequence through my mind. Junior will obviously not eat the end result but that’s no reason why he shouldn’t help prepare a family meal. Apart from his dodgy fingers and other malfunctioning parts.

It will be a delightful family enterprise, as long as nobody stabs themselves on the skewers. To date, junior will attempt a spoon and sometimes a fork, but anything resembling a weapon is off limits and self imposed. Fortunately, since everything he consumes, could be termed finger food, there is no need for a knife at this stage.

I nip outside to light the barbeque. The bite sized pieces of chicken marinade silently in the refridgerator before they prepare to meet their fate. I remind myself that before too long we should increase the pace on his diet. 17 foods is all very well but 4 foods a year is a sorry record. There is little time during the holidays, to prepare his full panoply of foods and I suspect that my lack of reinforcement and consistency, has allowed a few of them to drop off his agenda and become ‘new’ foods again. Of course I only have myself to blame. It’s my fault that he has eaten a Nutella sandwich followed by chocolate pudding and Goldfish crackers for over a month now. Dinnertime is the least effective time to introduce new foods. Whilst he continues to grow and his appetite has increased, his diet hasn’t matched those spurts.

I reach for the Nutella and leave my renewed resolve on the shelf. Maybe tomorrow? It would be so lovely to have a peaceful dinner, outside on a balmy Californian evening. Perhaps we might have a quiet dinner, quiet enough to hear the naff little water fountain that should induce calm but cannot be heard over the din. No matter how many wind chimes I add to the pergola, we’d need a force ten gale and a 30 piece brass band to out ‘din’ them. I smoosh the finest smearing of Nutella into the air bubbles of the high fibre bread, so that he can’t lick it off and leave the bread untouched. I cut the sandwich into two perfectly even halves. I throw caution to the wind, grab another slice, slick it with Nutella and fold it over, a round and a half of sandwiches to fill the ever growing tummy.

I hear the screams before I hear the garage door open, our normal early warning system. Seconds later three children burst through the door and scatter like thieves. Two carry Jamba Juice cups, from a chain of shops that specialize in fresh fruit smoothies. The empty wrapper in the wake of my son’s departure, tells me that his compensation for the agony of ‘outside’ was a cookie. It is a rather large cookie, the size of CD. 16 ounces of pulverized fruit is likely to dull the hungriest of appetites. I dither before threading the skewers myself, an acknowlegement of zero motivation in children.

Twenty minutes later rainbow kebabs glisten with temptation. The tantalizing wafts of smoke lure spouse away from the computer and inspire him to gather the troops. Barely have our bottoms touched the chair seats, when a weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth ensues from junior. I assume that the rainbows are not attractive to him, seeing as how they are also in close proximity to his person. I assume that barbeque smoke is torture. I assume that since he is not hungry, he would prefer to skip to the pudding. I assume that he is tired and overwhelmed after two hours in the park. I await confirmation of all my correct assumptions.

“Dat is dah bad. Dat is dah pooky. Dat is dah wah wah,” he wails. I find that his terminology does not match my current reference system. His siblings giggle with expectation. This is the nightly travesty that we continue to refer to as dinner.

I turn to spouse, “did he say pooky or pukey?” Perhaps he’s gone off Nutella?
“Don’t ask me?” Perhaps he gone off bread! No, please, I take it all back, just don’t let him have gone off bread! He can’t lose 2 foods just like that. I don’t want to go back to 15 foods, I like 17 foods, even if they are all the wrong ones!
“Pooky, pooky, pooky, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah,” he continues in a high pitched, querulous baby voice, from some dratted cartoon no doubt. The giggles of his siblings turn to guffaws of positive reinforcement, if not encouragement.
“Why is it bad dear?”
“Look it, look it, look it!” he bellows as he stands on his chair to make a passingly fair imitation of King Kong. I look at the sandwich. No foreign bodies have contaminated it as far as I’m aware. It is exactly the same sandwich he has had for weeks. That’s it, he’s bored of it, I’ve over done it by being so lazy, by seeking a little peace. No peace and we’ve lost a piece or maybe two?
“Cut, cut, cut!” he shrieks. He makes ineffective Karate chops on his sandwich.
“Don’t do that dear, you’ll squish it and then it won’t taste very nice.”
“Cut it, cut dah sandwich!” he roars.
“It doesn’t need cutting dear, it’s already folded over.”
“Agh, dah stoopid. I cannot be eating dah fold, I can only be eating dah cut.”
Spouse hands him a knife, “O.k. fuss pot, you want it cut, then you cut it yourself.” One child covers his eyes, one child covers her mouth, as we all watch spell bound at the inaugural knife juggling world record. Junior stabs the sandwich repeatedly with malice aforethought. He manages a ragged tear that dismembers the fold from the rest of the half of the sandwich. He picks up the fold with the nails of his thumb and index fingers and hurls it a good 15 feet, underarm. “Pooky!” he curses, as it lies like a dried up worm on the asphalt. His voice drops several octaves. He sinks his teeth in his transformed sandwich, to blast us with a gravelling tone, “I am the master of disguise!”

Echolalic, yet eerily apt.

But it would appear that this isn't the only branch of the family with communication "problems."


Jeni said...

My ex-mother-in-law -according to my ex-husband and his brother - often cooked two different entres for supper when they were kids - one would be a small fare -maybe a single pork chop or small cut of beef, etc and this was for their Dad; then, she would make a casserole or some such to feed to the rest of the family -all 8 children. This was because they couldn't afford to purchase enough of various meats to feed to everyone, everyday so, Grandpa got the "good" meal. With my kids, I was firm, adamant, told them to sit up, shut up and eat and also, that I was not like their grandmother and not running a freaking restaurant with all kinds of choices. You eat what is on the table and that is that! And for them, it worked.
Today, mealtime is a whole new ballgame. Although Maya has some foods that we can generally figure she will eat with fairly little prodding, one never knows either from one meal to the next if those items are still on her acceptable foods agenda for the day. And, sometimes, her attitude to certain foods may appear to be good when she comes to sit up at the table and as soon as you tell her time to sit up and eat, she decides it's not something on her edibles list at this point in time by announcing loudly, "All done. All done!"

Linda said...

This certainly puts my constant argument with Amanda over fresh versus frozen vegetables in a different perspective. Though now that I give it some thought, she does love Nutella so perhaps I'll give up on cooking entirely and let her eat that instead! Of course, I guarantee you that one jar would barely last two days at the rate she consumes it.

The kebabs sounded lovely!

Jade said...

Ohh the challenges of eating. I know it well. For weeks it will be ok and then out of nowhere its lost. Either they decide they totally dislike the food or they have changed their opinion on what the food should look like, that is sometimes out of your control. As you mention, consistency and an unwavering approach is the key. Its definitely a tough way to go at the meal time, and you do lose many "quiet dinners" staying firm on it but it works long run.
Heh, sometimes I just can't help but bust out laughing at some of the Echolalia that my clients come up with. You don't even realize they've been exposed to some words/phrases until they're dropped in front of you.

dgibbs said...

We are starting to get a few calm meals at night, but mostly little will wait till everyone has left the table before sitting to have his meal.

Jeni said...

Hey hey! Just wanted to stop and tell you to be sure to stop by my blog and pick up a present waiting there for your retrival!
Hope you enjoy it!

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I am taking a similar tactic with the introduction of bread -- mix it in and slowly change that ratio. Loved reading your thought process as you feared he might be giving up foods -- oh, have I been there!

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