I have a pair of professional mourners that sit at my kitchen table three times a day. The younger is so overcome with sorrow that she yells and writhes in her high chair; the elder jerks her body away from the table with so much force that she falls on the floor. I have to admire the dedication they have to their craft; despite their demanding, multiple-times-a-day performance schedule, they take the stage (er, sit at the table) like it’s opening night.
My greatest desire is for my children to become mature, responsible adults that rely on God. Unfortunately, if they don’t EAT DINNER, they will never live to that end. It’s perfectly logical: you eat, you grow. If you don’t eat, you don’t grow. If my four-year-old never eats, she will never grow up. If my toddler refuses to eat dinner, she is in essence refusing to move out of the house when she turns 18. This cannot happen.
Not gonna lie, my confidence as a cook takes a hit when my best attempts at food are met with a preschool version of Gordon Ramsay (minus the language). I know I’m a good cook. I own a zester and use it multiple times a week. I know the difference between crème fraiche and sour cream and when to use each. I’ve made batches of macaroons where 50% were presentable AND edible (counts as a victory in my book); I’ve used a water bath to make a cheesecake.
Do you know what culinary masterpiece brings the most joy to Gracie? It’s not the Beef Wellington we had for Christmas dinner, or the flank steak stuffed with red peppers, spinach, and feta. It’s a cheese quesadilla.
Here’s the recipe: two tortillas, slightly stale. Cover one with shredded cheddar cheese, top with second tortilla.
Microwave for 38 seconds; remove from microwave and smoosh tortillas together. Cut into four slices. Best served warm because it breaks a tooth once it hits room temperature.
Bea’s favorite dish? Peanut butter crackers and watermelon.
When I put these two dishes on the table, my professional mourners morph into Bob Cratchit’s children in A Christmas Carol when they are presented a turkey on Christmas day. Gracie’s voice gets progressively higher as she exclaims, “A cheese KAY- SA – DEEEEEE- YAAHHHHHH!” and Bea just writhes and screams in her high chair because her positive and negative expressions are indiscernible.
I can’t feed them this everyday. Ok, I can, but let’s pretend that I don’t for the sake of argument. My secret weapon has been baby-food pouches. They’re not cheap, and they don’t take the place of real fruits and vegetables (*snort* real fruits and vegetables hahahaha). I’ve treated them like snacks for the girls so they usually get one before dinner when they’re cranky and they think it’s a big treat. What they don’t know is that they just sucked down their serving of fruit and veggies for the evening and I congratulate myself on preventing scurvy.
Pouches have been an excellent band-aid. They’re most helpful with Bea as she is in the “get thee behind me Satan” food stage. Any food that does not agree with her 2-second visual assessment is immediately thrown- up, down, away… splattered on the couch (spaghetti noodles are very aerodynamic)… and eventually into the mouth of Willis.
Let us take a brief moment to grieve for Willis. We all know that he suffers greatly at the hands of his two younger sisters. Gracie watches Puppy Dog Pals and assumes Willis can do everything Bingo and Rolly can (this reference will only make sense if you have children under the age 5; if you don’t, count your blessings as this is a horribly annoying show). Spoiler alert: Willis doesn’t have a high-tech collar that lets him breathe underwater and can someone please set Bob up with a woman so he can stop talking to his pets?! And Bea tries to hug him all the time, which translates into falling on top of him while he’s taking a nap. She also sneaks in to the laundry room and eats his food (don’t gag— it’s protein and grains, and she’s refusing to eat those at the table).
Willis’ weight, though, has been the biggest victim of my two children. I’d say he’s gained… twenty pounds thanks to the food the kids either feed him, he steals from the coffee table, or Bea throws on the floor. For funsies I calculated his BMI- I plugged in his height (toes to ears so I was being generous) and his weight…. His BMI is 65. There are people on TLC who document their weight-loss surgery with this BMI (disclaimer: my husband is emphatically telling me that I am completely skewing the BMI calculations and that they don’t apply to dogs, to which I replied, go back to playing your video games, doctor, I’m writing a blog post and it’s making me giggle so shut up). Anyway, Willis is fat and we’re all hoping he’ll lose his baby weight eventually, but until then, he does a great job cleaning under the kitchen table.
Ah yes, the kitchen table. The stage where my little thespians tread the boards. For the past year, we have required Gracie to eat at least one bite of her vegetables, or she isn’t allowed to leave the table. It took several nights of sitting at the kitchen table for almost two hours for her to finally get the message that she wasn’t winning the battle.
The new back-to-school schedule, soccer, and vacation threw everything off, so this past Sunday, we experienced the unfortunate kickback that comes with a lack of consistency.
My husband loves pot roast. But what he loves even more than pot roast is making pot roast. Saturday evening he spent thirty minutes prepping the vegetables and mixing the gravy, all the while expounding on the joys of tenderizing meat with acids, the superiority of a crockpot over an instapot, and the importance of keeping a certain percentage of fat on the meat to absorb the flavor. He was a mix of Ron Swanson and the French chef on The Little Mermaid.
Sunday morning, he got up early (yeah, I know, he’s really serious about this) and started crock-potting the roast. Ten hours later, the heavens opened up and the angels sang as he plated the meal and placed it in front of all three women in his family.
“Ewwwwhhhh! I don’t like this!!!” The weeping and gnashing of teeth began. “This is a beautiful cut of meat and it’s extremely tender. You should appreciate this, Gracie.” Responded her dad.
“EAT IT OR YOU WILL GO HUNGRY!” (That was me).
So she sat. They both sat, actually. Bea cried. My husband and I carried on a conversation about the plans for the week and enjoyed our pot roast. Five minutes in to dinner, I notice movement out of the corner of my eye. Bea was sneaking carrots into her mouth, and Gracie was poking at her potatoes. The poking turned in to stabbing with her fork. As this progressed my husband and I had the non-verbal conversation I’m sure many parents have at the dinner table. My eyes got big and I jerked my head towards the girls; he raised his eyebrows and pretended to look out the window to see what Gracie was doing. We’ve learned in past situations to NEVER draw attention to a child eating something good for them EVER, especially if they’ve told you they didn’t want to eat it.
Eventually it became more difficult to ignore the girls: Bea started mumbling “yum yum yum mmmmmm!” as she used both hands to grab carrots and potatoes, and Gracie started talking through the massive chunk of pot roast in her mouth.
“Is it good, Gracie? Do you like the pot roast?”
Between bites she replied, “Can I have a cheese quesadilla?”