Just Dinner (and maybe a fresh start for dessert)

It started with french fries. Caleb asked if we could make purple french fries, like we used to do in New York, with the purple potatoes from the Union Square Farmer’s Market.

No purple potatoes here that I can see, but I decided to make french fries anyway, using ordinary Idaho potatoes–from Oman.

Miracle of miracles, we were all home tonight–no soccer practice, no meetings, no plans–and so: french fries. Caleb said he’d help and so he scrubbed the potatoes while I started oil heating in the pan. Liam followed us into the kitchen (what? little brother will get mommy all to himself? no freaking way) to talk at length about a project for his Arabic class that has him all excited.

Yes. That’s right. The prison school we’re sending him to, the school that has ruined his life, seems to have come up with an interesting project.

I started to be annoyed that Liam had chosen to ask for ideas and advice just as I started on dinner, instead of during the previous hour, when he’d been engrossed in a computer game, and then I had one of those little mini parenting AHA moments, sort of like an aneurysm except you don’t end up in the hospital.

“Bring your stuff in here and work at the table while we fix dinner,” I said. Okay. It’s not up there with E=MC2 but it worked. It worked because for the first time in the life our family, we have a kitchen big enough to hold more than one person: it’s a hideous space, with walls the color of congealed oatmeal and no windows (because of course, the assumption is that we would have a live-in maid and why would she want an window?). The world could end while we’re in there and we’d never know. We’d also probably survive.

Anyway. So there we all were: Liam sketching out his Arabic city; Caleb snapping the stems off green beans; me chopping Omani potatoes into french fry strips, WMVY telling us that it’s 43F in Edgartown (I loves me my streaming MVY, even though I’ve only been to the Vineyard maybe three times in my entire life).Β  The boys didn’t bicker; the french fries didn’t burn; I found enough unwilted mint and a wedge of lemon in the fridge to make a little sauce for the beans.

For the first time in what felt like weeks, we sat down as a family for dinner: merguez, french fries, beans.Β  Okay, true, Caleb ate only the french fries and Liam ate only the merguez (“I don’t like French fries,” he said. Who on god’s green earth doesn’t like French fries?); I ate most of the beans (added a little marinated feta to the lemon & mint because it’s not a meal without a dairy product); Husband, ever the omnivore, ate everything and finished the boys’ leftovers. He’s a bit like having a dog.

At dinner, Liam started telling scary-animal stories about Australia. “My friend was telling me that…” he started.

His wonderful sympathetic, empathic mother said “A friend? at the prison school? You mean a casual acquaintance, right? Surely not a friend?” (Because isn’t that why we have kids? So we can mock them relentlessly and later say “I told you so?”)

He laughed and laughed. “Right. A casual acquaintance who I don’t like much was saying that in Australia he saw a spider…”

Yes. It’s true. Apparently at the prison school my ruined-life son attends, he has CAWIDLM. We won’t call them friends. Yet.

Caleb said “I have friends. From Australia. And Nigeria. And they’ve seen spiders as big as MY HEAD.” He shuddered in delight.

It was just a family dinner. The kitchen is coated with a thin film of grease from the french fries, there are dishes stacked in the sink; the boys got ratty with each other as it got close to bedtime, just like they always do. And yet I felt sunshine in that windowless room this evening. It’s been gloomy around here since the boys started their new school and tonight was the first time in weeks I’ve seen Liam laugh and tell stories about school that weren’t about all the ways in which he feels miserable.

It was just a family dinner, but it felt, inshallah, like a beginning.


and hey guess what, it’s also the beginning of yeah write! #42 now open for linking up. c’mon over. bring your blog. or your comments, quips, and sparkling repartee. or just scary animal stories about australia: spiders, crocodiles, and rabid koalas (Liam’s CAWDILM swears it was rabid). So click, read, enjoy. Come back on Thursday and vote, vote, vote.

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30 Responses to Just Dinner (and maybe a fresh start for dessert)

  1. Erica M January 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Your boys seem so smart and self-aware, even while being of the snails and puppy dog tail variety. I may or may not be mildly jealous.

    (what happened to your super cool button badge? did something in the code go awry?)

  2. Eric Storch January 31, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    Man, I wish we could have a dinner like that. Somebody always has to complain about something every night. Always something negative. And then a fight, tears and half eaten dinners.


    • Deborah Quinn January 31, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

      Oh yeah…that’s the thing. Usually that’s dinner at our house too. Or it’s just the kids eating some kind of crap (mmmm frozen chicken nuggets from some random arabic chicken purveyor) by themselves after soccer practice…so it was the RARITY of this occasion that struck me. And its civility. And the fact that I just let the kid eat nothing but french fries for dinner and he didn’t whine about not getting dessert. It was just anomalous all the way around.

  3. XLMIC January 31, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    That sounds like such a wonderful dining experience! A beginning, indeed πŸ™‚ And I love the acronym CAWIDLM πŸ˜›

    I had a silly experience with purple potatoes once upon a time… I wound up with serious egg on my face πŸ˜›

    • Deborah Quinn January 31, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

      purple eggs and purple potatoes? hee hee hee He was so funny when we said “FRIENDS? IMPOSSIBLE…” and he immediately backpedaled. Cracked me up because I can tell (or I’m hoping) that underneath it all, he’s beginning to swing around… of course, who knows, he could come home today and be in a fury. O the joy.

  4. anna January 31, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    i too would like any form of your family dinner. i have two reasonably aged kids but there’s still a toddler at the table which means any dinner he doesn’t think should be spent throwing his and everyone else’s food on the floor is the best i aspire too.

    • Deborah Quinn January 31, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

      Well of course, one of the reasons this dinner was blog-worthy is its relative rarity. We’re beyond toddlers now but there is still usually a LOT of drama about who will eat what or not, what is being served and its relative grossness…blah blah blah. So a night of calm and actual conversation felt sort of epic. The bar is set pretty low, basically.

  5. KSB January 31, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    So glad to hear L is making new friends!

    Does this mean your next family vacation might be in Australia, where the spiders are as big as little C’s head and dangerous animals roam? πŸ™‚

    • Deborah Quinn February 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

      I don’t go ANYWHERE where there might be spiders as big as people’s heads. I’m twitching around even as I write this. shudder.

  6. Andrea @ The Penny-Roach's February 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    So good to hear that he’s made some CAWDILM in school! Definitely a good start. Hopefully more enjoyable family evenings to come!

    • Deborah Quinn February 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      yes–and now our joke is “how were the casual acquaintances today” … I’m hoping that he’s feeling lighter in the world but am fully prepared for more sturm-und-drang…

  7. bottleinfrontofme February 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    again, good to hear of a dinner going well and relaxing !

    • Deborah Quinn February 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      weird how rarely it happens, though!

  8. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms February 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    It doesn’t get any better than that. That is a memory to tuck away for the tougher times. You deserve an emoticon! πŸ™‚ -Ellen

    • Deborah Quinn February 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      thanks…it’s funny that something so unfancy and simple would make me happy, but there you go. thanks.

  9. Nancy Horwich February 1, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    The next step: in today’s Times Dining Section (2/1/12) an article by a mom whose boys are a little older than yours cooking dinner for the family ALL BY THEMSELVES one night a week.

  10. Lenore Diane February 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Funny … I love the Aha moment of inviting him to work while you make dinner. Great idea! Our boys are young enough that we don’t have tons of things going on – and we do dinner every night. It’s the best part of the day – with the exception of the fact that I hate cooking.
    Glad you had a nice family night…. at home!

    • Deborah Quinn February 1, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

      when my boys were young we had dinner together every night and I remember that I thought, at the time “well WE won’t be one of those families all running in ten directions and eating on the fly…” HAHAHAHA Yet another instance of parenting causing me to eat humble pie. As the kids get older and have “activities,” as meetings press my husband and I, “family dinner” has become something I have to *make* happen…or it doesn’t.

  11. Stasha February 1, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    I really like this post Deborah. I do not understand any of the acrynomes but it still makes me warm and fuzzy.

    • Deborah Quinn February 2, 2012 at 5:08 am #

      the whole acronym was my way of teasing liam without rubbing his face in it too much–he’d said “my friends” and then when we looked at him, he said “but you know, I don’t like them very much.” So. What a goofball. But I’m hoping, hoping that he’s turned a corner.

  12. Karyn/@analogyqueen February 2, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    I love how kids try so hard to make sure we know that they’re miserable and then they slip up because they really aren’t. πŸ™‚ I always had the best conversations with my boys when they were distracted by an everyday activity. We’d start a chore or something and pretty soon they’re spilling their guts. Those are the best times! Nice post.

    • Deborah Quinn February 2, 2012 at 5:09 am #

      Exactly! You have sneak up on their inner lives…and when they least expect it, POUNCE! I always think they feel better after they get it off their shoulders…

  13. Just Jennifer February 2, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    We have been having this kind of week here. Good things happening for each other kids, good meals, good moods. Mark has felt well this week. It’s really nice.

    Oh, and Mark made some homemade french fries the other night too!

    • Deborah Quinn February 2, 2012 at 5:10 am #

      Homemade french fries are pretty much amazing. I’d forgotten how good they are…I’m going to do the sweet-potato route next week, I think, for at least some tiny dollop of nutrition! Glad you’re having a good week (loved your letter to mark, btw).

  14. Jennifer February 2, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    I’m so excited to have found your blog! Love your writing, and if anyone can convince me that perhaps it’s not a good idea to move back to NYC maybe it is you? Or not. I’m excited to find out. And homemade sweet potato french fries sound so amazing. πŸ™‚

    • Deborah Quinn February 2, 2012 at 9:46 am #

      So i was JUST sitting here telling my husband about your hysterical post and POP there you are. Funny. Oh, you absolutely should move back to NYC. Absolutely. Even though I don’t live there any more. It’s actually just about the only place left (in the world?) where there are alternatives to Starbucks. And it will prepare your kids (if you have them) for anything. Of course, it will also make you completely insane and broke. So there’s a downside.

  15. Kimberly February 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    Family dinners are my favorite time of the day. Lately I’m dealing with a 13 year old who has decided to become a vegetarian and thinks her family is “weird”. But there are those moments, like you describe, when I realize within each day there are things to celebrate.
    Great post.

  16. Jay- The Dude of the House February 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Wow, I thought mine was the only kid who won’t eat fries. Glad to know I’m not alone.

  17. Jamie February 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    LOVE everything about this sweet post from your kitchen. But this “Husband, ever the omnivore, ate everything and finished the boys’ leftovers. He’s a bit like having a dog.” will have me giggling for DAYS!! So so true!

  18. Jackie February 2, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    There are some days where everything just seems to fall into place seamlessly. Where life is truly good. Seems like this one of those days Deborah!

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