Thursday, March 18, 2010

What's for dinner?

When I was in fourth grade, Mom decided to go back to work part time. She worked at the shipyard while we were at school and got home about the same time we did. During this time she decided that she did not have enough time to cook dinner every night and she would use this opportunity to teach us. Next thing we knew a new rule had been implemented. We each had to choose one night a week to fix dinner. There was a catch too: you did not have to help clean up after dinner if it was your night to cook. So we all three wanted Friday night so we could go outside and play sooner after dinner. Every Sunday we sat down and chose our night and told Mom what we wanted to fix. We could pretty much make anything we wanted as long as we included a vegetable. Then, she would go to Food Lion and get all of the ingredients we needed for the week. It quickly became apparent that a pattern was forming.

Every week Sarah Margaret would make some variation of english muffin pizzas. This was a very simple and delicious meal for the first 3 weeks. Then it just got old. How many weeks in a row can a kid be expected to endure english muffin pizzas and a salad? Dennis always chose something fancy. He was the only one who would actually look in the cook book and try something new. Surprisingly, it usually turned out really well. He would experiment with flavors and spices. However, this was not less work for Mom because she had to help him a lot. We always looked forward to Dennis' night to cook. Minus the fact that he usually had peas as his vegetable. Can you say barf? I hate peas with my whole heart. I either chose ham or burgers and always mac n cheese. I could not cook any of these things. I mean I was only in fourth grade. So my night was really just an extra night for Mom where I chose the menu and kind of helped her/ got in the way. I was ok with this system. Dad generally chose something pretty standard. One night he made the most disgusting concoction of canned vegetables. He said they used to serve it in his high school cafeteria. Gross. However, more often than not he would call on his way home from work and say he was running late and would not have time to cook. Then we would order pizza on his night. Mom would cook the rest of the week. Usually grilled chicken and sweet potatoes with salad or green beans.

Our meals were pretty predictable. This system of cooking did not last too long. I guess Mom decided it was not such a good idea after all and was even more work for her sometimes. Also, we needed more variety in our meals. Honestly, none of us really tried. It was a half-hearted attempt at cooking dinner. But what do you expect from a weird 4th grader, a 6th grade boy who just wanted to play outside, and a bratty 8th grader?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Good Conduct

We lived in Chesapeake, VA for my whole elementary school career. Sarah Margaret, Dennis, and I were all good students. Every year when we got report cards Dad would tell us that it is important to do well in school and get good grades but one of the most important things is good conduct. If we had good conduct, at the end of the year we got to pick out a special prize. Honestly, I had no idea what the heck conduct was, and it never occurred to me to ask. All I knew was that at the end of the year Dad would look at my report card and read my teacher's comments and decide whether or not I got to pick a prize. Luckily I got to pick something every year. I would hand him my report card and pray that he would see whatever it was that meant I had this mysterious thing called "good conduct".

The best part of the whole thing was going to pick out the prize. We would go to Waterside in Norfolk. Waterside was this indoor mall-ish thing with a few stores and a lot of restaurants. Also, there were boats docked outside because it was beside the water, hence the name Waterside. We never ate in one of the fancy restaurants. We always ate in the food court, and it was the most exciting thing ever! I could get any kind of food I wanted, and I always wanted Sbarros pizza. Where else could I get a slice of pizza that humongous? After we ate we would walk around to the stores. We went in all of them, but there was only one that I cared about. It was the nature store. Sarah Margaret and I always picked out our precious good conduct prizes in this store. Dennis always complained about the absurd amount of time we spent here.

This store had everything great. And by everything great I mean every stuffed animal you could ever want, and I wanted all of them. One of the best prized I ever got was a giant stuffed manatee. I named him Manny. One time I got moon rocks. That's right, moon rocks. How cool is that? Mom would never let me get one of those plastic sacks with the liquid in them that slipped out of your hands. Some people called them snakes. All my friends had them, but Mom was worried that it would fall out of my hands and burst all over the carpet. I also used these good conduct prizes to add to my pound puppy collection. Basically, it was like Christmas at the beginning of the summer.

By the time I learned what good conduct meant (it means good behavior), Dad thought we were too old to continue this tradition. I guess good conduct is not as big of a deal in middle school. O well. Sarah Margaret, Dennis, and I still bring up our good conduct prizes. If there is something that I really want but cannot afford by myself I remind Dad that my professors have not been complaining about my behavior, and that I should get it for good conduct. It never works. I will probably do good conduct prizes with my children, but I will make sure that they know what conduct is. That probably would have made the experience even more meaningful.