Dinner is quite the production around here. I cannot bring myself to serve pre-packaged food for dinner (Thanks Mom!). It's too salty, too expensive, and I don't have control over what goes in it. So, that means cooking 7 dinners a week, at least 2 full breakfasts, and 7 lunches (Where the premade stuff doe sneak in, like Nitrate Free Hot Dogs from Trader Joe's, or these seriously delicious breaded chicken breasts from Costco...)--for 5-7 people. Add it up...we are talking a whole lot of food planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, and, of course, clean up.
Often I spend a good chunk of an afternoon getting the food prepped so I can cook it right in time to serve when Dan and Gabe walk in ---STARVING--- from the gym. The other night, for instance, as a result of inspiration from my Italian friend Melissa, I set out to make Chicken Picatta. Adding prep time and cooking time, I think it took over an hour. The boys walked in, we sat down to eat, and 7.6 loud minutes later there were empty plates, a messy table, and a disastrous kitchen, and everyone was off to take showers and get ready for the next day. It usually takes mom and me at least 20 minutes to clean the kitchen, and sometimes we leave the pans for the next morning.
Is it worth it? Is all the time cooking and cleaning worth 7.6 loud, crazy minutes?
I will confess, there are days when it does not seem worth it. There are days when the table manners my kids display belong in a barn, not at a dining table. There are days when not everyone is happy with the food, when there's competition over who will sit next to whom. And there are days I want to feel more appreciated for the time and effort that has gone into each meal. I could dream that they will recognize that I care enough to put a variety of healthy food on their plates.
But truly, when I have a larger perspective, I cherish those minutes. We all hear about Gabe and Dan's evening at the gym--what they learned, who beat whom, what might be coming up this week. Mckenna shares about her new friend Alyssa and the funny things her teacher says. Papa shares a new tidbit of information, or looks over the world or USA placemat, naming continents, countries or states with the kids.
Someday I will cook for only two. What an adjustment that will be! I think we have a whole lot of leftovers for awhile until I get used to it.
Someday Dan and I will sit at a small table, maybe he'll read me a story or a comic from a paper, maybe I will read a funny blog post to him.
It will be quiet, and slow paced, and a whole lot less clean up. And I think I might enjoy days like that. I think I will eat slowly, and finish a meal while it's hot. I will talk with my hubby with no interruptions, and not have to correct anyone's manners.
But right now, in this moment, I choose to enjoy the fact that I control what goes into their bodies by cooking fresh, whole foods, even if it takes a whole lot of time and energy. I choose to enjoy loud moments, messy tables, and tons of dishes. And when I sit neatly and quietly across the table from Dan, I think I will picture my 3 small kids sitting at the table and smile--and be glad they are doing their own dishes.