Without fail, the first words out of my step kids’ mouths after 3:30 pm is “When’s dinner?” After that, about every half hour or so, there are several variations of the same question. “When is dinner going to be ready? Is dinner ready yet? How much longer until dinner? What are we having for dinner and are you making it yet? Did you start dinner yet? I’m starving, I think I might die, when do I get to eat?”
Or my personal favorite, “Why can’t I have six hot dogs? I’m starving!” No joke. This has been an ongoing negotiation between my seventeen year old and me. I think negotiating with a bank robber is easier than trying to keep that child away from hot dogs. I end up throwing my hands in the air in defeat, and nutrition gets dropped kicked out the window. The teenager, feeling bad now, says, “Ok, I’ll only have four hot dogs and three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Is that better?”
Sure. Whatever. Just take your vitamins.
In addition to bargaining over what you are allowed to eat before dinner (yes, he wants six hot dogs BEFORE dinner), I have to figure out a meal that everyone will actually eat. This may sound benign, but all you parents out there know that it can be a major challenge. Mix in picky eaters and my-food-can’t-touch-each-other eaters and you can kiss a majority of easy dinners goodbye.
For example: casseroles. Who doesn’t like a good casserole? Oh, my teenager. Here’s the rub, though. He likes all the ingredients in the casserole. Chicken, potatoes, peas, green beans, and carrots. They just can’t be all mixed together. Whaaaaat? Cooked carrots…forget about it. Raw carrots… awesome! Want to have onions in your dish? That’s equivalent to dog poop. Here’s another good one. He loves pizza. What’s in a pizza? Let’s see…dough, sauce, cheese, and meat. Logically I think to myself, “Hmm, he’ll like lasagna then.” Nope.
So, I’ve developed a system for dinner and grocery shopping revolving around how I have to prepare ingredients. I have to make a list of all the dinners I’m going to make that week. Through trial and error I have a quite of list of meals that are family approved. I pick out a few of them and make my shopping list Sunday. Since I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon than go to the grocery store, I make my trip there as efficient and fast as humanly possible. Plus, I need my eyes to see. Although, some of the humans I see at Wal-Mart make we wish otherwise.
I digress. So, I make my shopping list in order of the aisles from the left side of the store to the right. I mentally prepare myself and pray for patience I do not possess, and I make sure to do some light stretching for when I have to dodge and weave around the old people who put there carts in the center of the aisle. I’m on a first name basis with the fastest cashiers, and I go early enough in the morning that I usually don’t have to wait in a ten person deep line.
Two hundred dollars later, groceries are put away and Sloppy Joes are on the menu for dinner that night. According the teenager, Sloppy Joe’s are AWESOME! Sweet! Ingredients mixed together! Smooshed in a bun! With onions! Should I push the envelope and serve cooked carrots? Hmmm…
As the day is rolling to the dreaded 3:30 pm deadline to dinner interogation, I feel armed and ready to take on the task of feeding my family.
3:31 – Teenager 1: When’s dinner?
3:32 – Teanager 2: When will dinner be ready?
3:33 – Me: Dinner will be ready at 5:15, we are having Sloppy Joe’s, will start cooking in an hour, no you can’t have six hot dogs first, but yes you can have a snack, and dinner will be ready in approximately one hour and forty-five minutes.
3:34 – Teenagers 1 and 2: Ok. Thanks!
5:15 – Me: Dinner’s ready!
5:16 – Teenager 1: I’ve decided I don’t like Sloppy Joe’s anymore so I’m just going to have six hot dogs instead. Thanks though!
What? You can’t just throw a curve ball like that. There was no warning, no “Hey, just FYI”, and you even said you loved Sloppy Joe’s! How am I supposed to deal with that little trick?
But, when all is said and done, being a new step mom is pretty awesome thing. I may not have any practice, and I may not know what I’m doing, but every day presents a challenge that only a parent can appreciate. Besides, even though my teenager is a picky eater, it makes me think creatively and try new recipes. Some of them are a huge hit. Others, (ahem… Sloppy Joe’s) not so much. But in the words of my picky teenage eater, “Well, Lauren, at least we know you care. If you didn’t, you would let me eat six hot dogs.”
Totally worth it.
(Later that night.)
Me: I think I’m going to make breaded chicken with a side of pasta. Like a divorced chicken parmesean. That way the teenager can eat every thing separate and not put sauce on his noodles and we can all mix it together like it’s supposed to be. The kids loved the chicken tenders I made so I’ll just use the same recipe. Great idea, huh?
Husband: Hmm. I didn’t really like the breading you used last time. Can you spice it up or something?
Me: Oh. My. God. Do not even go there.