One man’s coffee . . .

The other night, Big Man saw me pouring hot water into a mug. “Are you making coffee?” He asked.

“No. I’m making tea.”

“Oh,” he said. “I want some coffee with strawberries in it.”

I made a face. “Strawberry coffee? That sounds horrible.”

“It sounds good,” he insisted.

“How do you know? You don’t even know what coffee tastes like.”

“Yes, I do.”

“How? You’ve never had coffee.”

“Yes I have.”


“At Andrew’s house. His mom gave it to me.”

“No. She didn’t give you coffee.”

“Yes she did. We went out to play in the snow and then we came back in the house and she gave us coffee because we were cold.”

“She wouldn’t give little kids coffee.”

“She did. She gave all the kids coffee. She put it in cup just like that.” He pointed at my mug. “And we all drank coffee.”


“Yeah. With marshmallows on top.”

Swiss miss coffee

We don’t have any, but some of the fancy preschoolers have coffee that comes with the marshmallows already in it.


Mashed potatoes, gravy, and the power of of suggestion

If you’ve ever had to feed kids, you know a story just like this one.

For Sunday dinner I made the boys roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy. I went to the extra trouble to make the gravy from scratch because store-bought gravy is always likely to turn at least one of them against me.

History said I should have an easy time selling this meal. There aren’t many meals that somebody won’t complain about, but this one should have been in that small set they all could live with.

Except History can be turned upside down by a seemingly innocuous event.

While I was mashing the potatoes, I added some cheese, like I do every time. Big Brother happened through the kitchen and saw this. The sight left him aghast. Apparently, he has never seen me mashing potatoes before.

“Ewww! You’re putting cheese in the potatoes! That’s gross!”

I explained that all the mashed potatoes he’s ever eaten had cheese in them. I was not convincing. These potatoes were tainted. Little did I know, it was not only the potatoes.

Buster had overheard the cheese kerfuffle, but not necessarily the specifics of it. After the first taste of his gravy, he grimaced. “This gravy tastes like it has cheese in it!”

For the record, I did not, nor do I ever, put cheese in the gravy. Also for the record, these kids love cheese.

I reassured him there was no cheese in his gravy, but my words were futile against the evidence provided by his discriminating tongue and suggestible subconscious.

cheese gravy

Better dump a lot of gravy on to drown out the cheese in those potatoes – unless the gravy is made from cheese. (Photo: Russell Lee/U.S. Farm Security Administration)

Dinner proved to be a struggle, with only Big Man willingly eating his food, because he didn’t care if it had cheese as long as it tasted good.

On Monday, I gave us all a break and fed them grilled cheese sandwiches. Nobody complained about the cheese.

We still had leftover roast and potatoes to eat and by Tuesday I was up for another try. As I was warming it, Buster made a skeptical request to taste the gravy so he could go to full Battle Stations by the time I put his food in front of him.

He took a tiny taste and proclaimed. “This tastes like it doesn’t have any more cheese in it.”

Thank goodness for our cheese-absorbing fridge.

Big Brother overheard. “There’s not any cheese in this one?” he asked, meaning the leftover potatoes.

“No,” I replied, not really lying, because the conversation was actually about the gravy.

Nobody complained. Half way through dinner, Big Brother declared: “I would rate this food five stars.”

“What about last time you had it?” I asked, wondering if I should hug him or put him in a head lock.

“Not even one star. Half a star.”

I guess my dinners get better with age. Maybe it takes time for all that nasty cheese to settle out.


That time we ate Big Bird’s cousin

When we eat restaurant food, we usually end up with pizza, burgers, or chicken strips. My wife and I don’t prefer these choices, but we don’t whine about having to eat pizza, burgers, or chicken strips as much as the boys whine about having to eat something that’s not pizza, burgers, or chicken strips. It’s easier to just choke down another burger in peace.

Occasionally, the parents set their hearts on Chinese food. This is a problem on two fronts. First, we don’t know how to get good Chinese in our town. Every place we once liked has gone downhill. My wife’s standing explanation for this is that the owners retired and their children took over, and, as we all know, children have a knack for ruining things.

The second front is our own children. Big Brother will tell us he doesn’t want Chinese food at least 14 times, though he ends up eating the part that looks most like a chicken strip. Buster will eat rice, if he cannot detect anything resembling a bean sprout, bit of egg, crispy noodle, meat or vegetable touching it. It’s quite a chore removing the shrimp and the fried from shrimp fried rice.

Big Man might eat all the dishes or none of them. Unless there’s crab rangoon. He likes crab rangoon.

The last time we got Chinese food, I ordered sesame chicken. Buster helped me eat the rice. Somehow I slipped a little sauce past his inspection and he decided he liked that too. But chicken, in that same sauce, was out of the question.

At last, I got him to taste one cubic millimeter of chicken. He made a face and spit it into the garbage. This was for show, to save face. A minute later, he asked for another bite of chicken. Soon, he and Big Brother were eating all my food.

When they were done, I explained to Buster: “Next time we’re ordering food, and you tell me you want that one kind of chicken, you know, that kind we had one time, the one you like, and I don’t know which kind of chicken you mean because there are lots of kinds of chicken, and you keep saying ‘That one kind, the kind I like,’ and get angry at me because I’m supposed to know what that means, remember, this is called sesame chicken.”

Big bird is a very popular and special character. His cousin is a very popular chef’s special.

“What chicken?”

“Sesame. Like Sesame Street, only it’s chicken.”

“Big Bird is a Sesame Street chicken. Did we just eat him?”

“It was a different sesame chicken. Probably just a cousin.”

I didn’t know if my advice would take; Buster has an artistic heart and he likes to keep his requests vague.

The next time we were deciding what to eat, he chimed in, “Chicken!”

Preparing to return to the status quo, I asked. “Nuggets or strips?”

“Sesame chicken!” loud and clear.

That’s progress. Now all he has to do is find a restaurant that hasn’t been ruined by the children.



To infinity and beyond

Buster is developing a curiosity about infinite loops. The other day he asked me, “If two people were saying goodbye and one said ‘Have a nice day,’ and the next one said ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ and the first one said ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ again, and they kept saying ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ to each other, what would happen?”

“No one would have nice day,” I answered.

It wasn’t what he was looking for, but I’m not good with infinity. I can find the ends of it to wrap my brain around, and that’s disturbing.

Buster thinks these type of thoughts a lot. I don’t know if this means he’s destined to become a great philosopher, an accomplished astronomer, or the next Rain Man. It’s good to indulge in deep thought once in a while, but I’m not sure forever thinking about infinity will end well, or at all.

Buster would rather conduct his own thought experiments than accomplish the usual academic goals like learning to read. Two months in, he’s still not sold on Kindergarten, because, in his words, “They make me do things I don’t like to do.”

I can identify with that. It happens to me all the time at work. Still, he has to go to school and I have to go to work so we don’t both end up in an infinite loop of poverty.

They make you build things out of dominoes in Kindergarten? I had no idea it was that horrible.

The thing to know about these deep thinking philosophers who don’t always want to go to Kindergarten is they can be moody. The moodiness strikes hardest in the morning when it’s time to get ready for school. This morning, the disgruntled whimpering started early.

Sometimes when I ask him what’s bothering him, I get a whiny grunt that means, “If you were the kind of parent who loved his children, you’d know what’s wrong without having to ask.” Today I actually got an answer: “I wanted to sleep in the bed with you and Mommy. And I want you to make a fire.”

I explained that everybody had to get up and asked him if he were cold.

He shrugged. “A little.”

Mommy put on his jacket and we sent him to school.

The desire to climb into bed with us, I understand. It’s his favorite Saturday morning ritual. Making a fire is another story. We haven’t thought about our fireplace since last March and we’ve never built a fire before school.

It’s a good thing he told me the problem instead of giving me the “If you loved me, you’d know,” grunt. My love for him is infinite, but maybe that proves there’s a limit to infinity, because I still would not have loved him enough to know I was supposed to build a cozy fire on a random weekday before school.

It looks like I may have to crank the love up beyond infinity to understand him. I hope infinity + 1 is enough, because that’s the largest number I know.