Friday 30 Sep 2016

By the Way
Jennifer Flaten

Positioning myself in front of the television, I begin reciting the hot lunch offerings. I feel a bit like a waiter as I field questions about "what does it come with" and my personal favorite "what is that again? "

I eagerly await their order. After carefully weighing the relative merits of chicken rings vs. Philly beef sandwich, two of the three children opt for cold lunch.

I retreat to the kitchen to begin lunch assembly and the children resume slurping cheerios and watching cartoons.

Damn, I must be losing my touch; I can usually nudge at least two of the three into picking hot lunch. Hot lunch is a big deal in our house because the kids only get to eat hot lunch twice a week. We brown bag it for a variety of reasons...okay it's mainly because hot lunch is kind of pricey.

Each month the kids peruse the new hot lunch calendar and highlight which days they will take hot lunch. Occasionally, they base their choice solely on what is for dessert and, no, they didn't learn that from me.

Frankly, I look forward to hot lunch days, especially those infrequent days when all three kids opt for it. In fact, I get so excited that I jump up and down as a contestant picked to "come on down" on the "Price is Right."

With a sigh, I shuffle back into the kitchen to bag up the cold lunches. I am smearing the peanut butter to within one millimeter of the bread crust, as requested by small child number 1 during quality control inspection, when small child number two strolls in and reminds me that her snack cannot contain, have touched or even have the word peanut on it.

I am moments away from a sack lunch mutiny, as small child number three strolls into the kitchen. He only says three words, but these three words throw a huge monkey wrench into the morning preparations. The words are "by the way."

Sure, those three little words appear innocuous. I mean they are a casual way to bring something up, right. Ah, the problem is it is never casual when it is coming out of your child's mouth.

Somehow, I am sure it's genetic; your children invariable say these three little words at what is usually an inconvenient time.

Kids have an uncanny ability to "remember" things, important things, you should have known about hours if not days ago, right before bedtime, school, or as you are about to drive away from them.

This amazing ability guarantees trouble-or at least some major league ass pain.

It can be anything..."by the way I need fifty dollars today to replace the textbook I lost", "by the way I said I'd bring a 250 homemade cupcakes for today's bake sale", "by the way I know you're allergic to hamster but I said we'd take care of Fluffy over spring break"...you get the idea.

In my case, it was "by the way I need to bring a big bottle to school." Uh, okay that's a little vague, but not surprising and still a little vague. I ask the small boy what kind of big bottle. I might as well have asked him for the meaning of life by the look on his face.

I employ my best twenty question; what I like to call mom-terrogation skills. After 15 minutes of prodding, I possess most of the crucial the information (plastic, empty, two liter).

Now, I ask the most important question of all "when do you need the big bottle?" Small boy shrugs and says, "I don't know."

I play it safe and assume he needs it today. So I rummage through the recycling bin and lo and behold, I find a two-liter bottle. I hand the boy his bottle and head back to the kitchen. Faintly from the living room I hear my daughter say "oh mom, by the way."

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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