Okay...a little background first: I don't like to cook anymore. I used to--before I had kids. I am NOT the mom who doubles as a short order cook, meaning I don't cook something for my husband and me and something else for the kids. The most I will do is change up what we are having in degrees if I know that one or another doesn't like it. For example, when I am making soft tacos I will take a few of the soft taco shells and whip up some quesadillas for the girls because they turn their nose up at tacos.
They turn their nose up to a lot of things. I hear a lot of Ew gross! or I don't like this or Do I HAVE to eat this? And nightly the dinner table becomes a boardroom bargaining table:
Just take three bites, Me or Jim.
How about two? The kids.
If I drink all of my milk do I have to finish dinner? The kids.
If you don't eat, there will be no snack tonight! Us.
Sometimes for some reason when suggesting bites, my middle daughter, Ava will come back with a higher number than we originally posed:
Two bites, Ave.
How about FIVE? She asks
OKAY!? At 4 years old the concept of numbers is just beginning to develop for her and we do take advantage of that.
Gone are the days when my husband would wolf down a meal and ask for seconds. Good dinner, Hon! He'd say between bites. Now, all I have to do is look around the table to see how successful my meal is. My husband, wonderful man that he is, will always finish his plate...even choke down a few veggies so that he can be a good example. But if I fish for a compliment, like say aloud Yum....I think that was a good dinner. He'll give me a look, and then I watch his eyes rest for a second on each of my girls half finished plates. It was good, Babe. He'll reassure me. Yeah, right! Sigh. This is why I hate to cook anymore.
The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that someday my kids will be like me: trying new things and actually liking to eat. But for now, their fairly new taste buds can't take much more flavor than the tang of ketchup, the creaminess of ranch dressing, the puckering of dill pickly-ness, and the smooth velvety-ness of cheese. Yes, it seems my kids will only eat condiments.
I think we've found a little trick to getting them to eat:
Yesterday, while on the couch watching the news, the clock sped along coldly to the dinner hour. The daily dreaded question arrived. Ava perched herself at the top of the steps with her little head over the rail and asked. What's for dinner? I don't know why they ask this question every day, they are NEVER happy with the answer...and my misery begins before dinner even hits the table.
Tonight I had a feeling that my answer might be well received:
Well, We are having Seashells. Me
Yes, seashells. Me
Real seashells? Her
Yes, real seashells...stuffed with scallops and shrimp. Me
I mumbled the last part. It didn't matter. Ava raced upstairs.
JORDIE, She shouted, WE'RE HAVING SEASHELLS FOR DINNER!
Little running footsteps upstairs.
Are we having seashells for dinner? She asks
Oh, I thought maybe the noodle kind?
Nope, real seashells. Come and look.
Wide eyed, my three little dolls stood with faces pressed to the oven door. I can't see them...
I opened the door and there they were! Immediately the girls jumped up and down and round and round.
We're having SEASHELLS for dinner! Real Seashells!!!!!
I have never seen my girls this excited to get to the table. All three of them. I looked at my husband. We'll see, I said. He peeked in the oven, We'll see, He said... He didn't seem convinced.
So earlier that day at the grocery store, I found a sale in the frozen food section in the fish department. As I pulled the BOGO stuffed scallops out of the market freezer, my hand felt a magical tingle. What IS this? I thought. It looked like a lump, much like a crab cake, sitting on top of a perfect half shell--A beautiful scallop shell to be exact. 9 shells in a package, and I could get two for a very cheap price. I'll take them! I thought. Pop'em in the oven for 30 minutes and voila! Dinner. Easy. Maybe not delicious--they looked OKAY...I knew I MIGHT get points for the shell and so I decided to use that to my advantage.
This product exceeded my expectations. As I brought the piping hot shells to the table, a girly chorus of OOOOH! AAAAAH! rose up. We barely got through the prayer without them picking from the shells like the little birds they are.
The talk of dinner that night was all about the seashells and each child picked their shell clean of the meat (or whatever it actually was) nestled inside the shell. To me, it tasted like a not so yummy version of a crab cake...but whatever! I noticed them also eating the side dishes. What is going on here??
I could not stop laughing. I could barely eat my own dinner because I was laughing and laughing and laughing. Now this is that silent, I don't want anyone to see me laughing kind of laugh that if you ever experienced it, you know is very difficult to stop. Tears began to well from my eyes. I covered my face in a dish towel, my body shaking. Every comment from my children raving about these "seashells" brought on a new wave of body wracking laughter. I could not believe it! The stuff did not taste great, but the magic of the seashells was working! I laughed straight through the dinner hour. I laughed in disbelief. I laughed in happiness. I laughed at the true absurdity of it all.
My husband looked at me knowingly. We need to serve ALL of our dinners on seashells! Can you imagine it?
What's for dinner?
Spaghetti, on a seashell.
What's for dinner?
Steak, on a seashell.
What's for dinner?
Chicken, on a seashell.
I think I could even serve tacos to them...if they were on a seashell.
Anyway, I wanted to share my first triumphant dinner experience in months with all of you!
My husband DID painstakingly hand wash the shells and give them to the girls for "a collection." They are now tucked safely into a decorative box that holds Jordan's treasures. I might sneak them out the next time I'm serving something that I know they hate.
Maybe there's some magic left in them!
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