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Dinner of Desperation, AKA The Arsenic Hour

November 4, 2009

Soren contemplates his cooking skills while a dinner of desperation steams in the wok. Graysen snuck a “Go Diego Go” yogurt out of the fridge as I was serving up his food….next attempt at sanity, a prepped menu plan thing called Relish…

Main Entry: arsenic hour
Part of Speech: n
Definition: the time of day when both children and parents have come home but dinner has not yet been served, seen as being difficult due to everyone being tired and hungry.
Example: ‘Arsenic hour’ was first used as a play on the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Children’s Hour.”

Around these parts, you can set your watch by it.

It’s the Arsenic Hour….that weird limbo time of day when it feels like the volume of everything has been cranked. It’s when children all talk at the same time about the same thing they did in school that day and the day before and the day before that. It’s when tears come easily over such things as “girl songs” on the stereo rather than “boy songs.” It’s when pencils are most likely to break over homework. When small girls are most likely to recall playground spats with overwhelming sadness.

Of course, it’s also the time when I am most needed, and the time when I am least able to deal with being needed.

Last night, when it became clear that the Arsenic Hour would be particularly suffocating, I did the only thing that made any sense: I spiked my Odwalla and started pulling random foodstuffs out of the fridge.

Leftover bacon-wrapped chicken breasts (’cause bacon makes everything better)…the five-pound bag of organic carrots Chris didn’t feel like we’d need (I am the queen of overkill, after all)….a piece of rather shriveled ginger….many cloves of garlic….

I put some Basmati rice on, taking way too much time to read the directions (my cooking ineptitude rearing its head here…you’d think I could remember how to cook rice after all these years of cooking…rice.)

Not knowing what else to do right then, except stare at various ingredients that refused to tell me what meal they should all be, I asked Soren to unload the dishwasher. When he was done, I decided to chop carrots. Whilst chopping carrots I mulled over what to do with the carrots once chopped. I decided against cooking them in a pound of butter and leaned toward throwing them into the wok along with the garlic and ginger. These things I did, all the while swilling my Vodkadwalla and fielding three different attempts at conversation, not including the one Mira tried to initiate with me via Facebook chat from the other side of the room. I have this habit of cooking while catching up on Facebook and email, you see.

Through all of this, the kids were in and out of my space–a level of chaos with which I am all too familiar. Chiara was absolutely wasting away from hunger, and couldn’t wait another second. Upon hearing how famished his sister was, Graysen chimed in that he must have a snack. He simply must. Soren started to get pissy, which of course made me even more pissy than I already was, and so he and I got all passive aggressive with each other. On top of it all, the dog was pacing, her nails clickclickclicking on the wood floor until my head started to buzz.

But despite the commotion, the carrots started to smell good. Inspired by a modicum of food success I cut up the leftover chicken and threw it in too. A short while later I tossed in the rice, then decided to add two eggs and a little soy sauce.

Soy sauce makes everything better. Mostly.

Then I implored Mira to quit feeding her virtual goldfish and help me set the table. I sarcastically asked Soren whether he’d rather escort his particularly fidgety little brother to the bathroom, for chrissakes, or cook dinner, since I am only one person and can’t be in two places at the same time. Dangitall.

Then I had to fend him off when he chose dinner prep over shadowing his brother to the potty for the third time that night. He called my bluff, then acerbically insisted that he knows how to cook.

“I mean more than just Ramen,” I said, watching him push food around the wok in such a way as to insure that it would burn all to hell on the bottom … or spill over the sides to smoke on the stovetop.

“I can cook more than Ramen!” he insisted.

“Oh, really?” I queried, skeptical. I was envisioning him as a bachelor, while simultaneously trying not to envision him as a bachelor.

“Yeah,” he said, condescendingly. “I can cook pasta too. And…toast.”

Meanwhile, Graysen was hopping around grabbing himself. Mira was asking whether we needed forks. Soren was, by then, ignoring everything but some monologue he was making to nobody in particular. And Chiara was slowly melting from hunger and exhaustion.

“Take your brother to the bathroom, Soren.NOW. Please. Go.” I stuttered. Mira, get forks. Chiara, sit down, dinner’s ready…

Ten minutes later, a relative peace settled. Finally.

Because everything’s better with dinner.

At least until it’s time for homework.

In the interest of saving my sanity and making dinnertime a little better for us all, I signed up to give this a try. I have my first week of recipes and a grocery list here…but no time either today or tomorrow for shopping so…perhaps tonight I’ll have Soren make pasta. And toast.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. hallie permalink
    November 5, 2009 12:51 am

    everything *is* better with bacon. this is a stone cold fact. soren had better learn to add that key element to his culinary regime.

    i call it the ‘witching hour’, which is actually meant to refer to two hours, the hours between four and six p.m. which become an hour longer after the time change, which somehow screws with the kids a lot more than ever it should. when i am queen my first edict will be ‘thou shalt never again fuck with the clocks twice a year’ because it only makes everything more difficult for no discernible gain. pick a setting and stick with it, fer chrissakes. better, do away with clocks altogether.

    i try to tell the kids it’s low blood sugar that makes the world seem like a cruel place, but it takes them a while to believe me. i’m always completely straight-up with them, so they must be resisting my wisdom because of the poorly firing neurotransmitters or something.

  2. November 5, 2009 12:27 pm

    Oh, these might just be the hours that drive me to my final end- sometimes it is me who is crying too. I hold on to family dinner with a stubborn tenacity (just wrote about it the other day!) but I’m starting to think that pita chips and cheese and popcorn on the table for a few hours might be the best dinner of all. Let them descend on it and be done with it. And a vodkadwalla for me, of course.

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