Afterschool Today

I don’t know why leaving for gymnastics at 4:55 every Wednesday comes to a complete surprise to me every. single. gd. week. I’ve been doing it for months. Ideally, my plan is always to have dinner mostly-available by 4:30 pm so J can eat, and I try to make it something that’s easy to snack on, because M and Cute W may or may not have soccer games on Wednesdays, and after hours of gymnastics, J arrives home hungry again. This is always my plan, but what usually happens is that I suddenly look up and it’s, like, 4:25 pm and I haven’t even started making dinner.

Today was no exception. I probably would have been later if J hadn’t stopped me mid-task to ask me what dish I’d be bringing to the funeral. She’s planned a full schedule for Niko the Goldfish’s funeral, which will be held tomorrow.


She’d like some fruit and maybe some crackers and some sweets. I offered to bring whatever she’d like me to bring, but she insisted I choose. I hedged that she was so committed to making the ceremony a success that I’d feel more comfortable if she planned her menu, and then I could choose something to complement it. No, she insisted. Just pick. I decided on sweets. She suggested chocolate chips. I think I’m going to go fancier.

Anyway, time had passed and suddenly I was late with cooking dinner.  And to make matters worse, I had a slightly-too-ambitious dinner plan. I tend to waver between weeks when I attempt to create healthful meals and weeks when I just throw in the towel and move something from microwave to freezer. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but see if you can guess what week this was? I was going to make this new flatbread from chickpea flour and I was making a slightly high-maintenance meal that was basically black bean and sweet potato burgers, with additional sides of corn on the cob and guacamole. If you’re thinking that this wasn’t going to come together in 5 minutes, well, I’ll agree with you, but my other options were not so good, either. Plus the bread had been emotionally preparing itself in a bowl for 2 hours.  So I plunged in. I’d been hovering over my computer all freakin’ day, putting things together like this review of Billy Elliot at Proctors Theater. So as I got started, there were still breakfast dishes languishing hither and yon. Pretty soon my kitchen looked like this:


And the cat was meowing plaintively for food, but I ignored her because the non-furry daughters get food first. I realized that I didn’t have the single egg that would bind the patties together, and I consider asking my neighbor, but the truth is it’s impossible to ask something from a neighbor without chatting politely for five minutes, so I blew off binding. And my supply of clean utensils had diminished and my panic had increased to such an extent that I decided that using my hands to empty bowls of this and that would be more efficient than locating a rubber spatula. And that worked, except that the problem with the new technique was that I kept rinsing my hands with warm water and I desperately had to go to the bathroom but had refused to allow myself this mini-vacation until the bean-sweet potato patties were in the oven getting broiled. That’s when I’d be allowed to take a pause. Anything sooner would be wasting precious moments. I flung the flatbread at the girls and they were, like, “Thanks. . .  umm, what else is for dinner, Mom?” And I would have liked to apologize and just order pizza, but there was no time, I tell you!! And don’t even think of that McDonald’s drive-through that is blocks from my house, because my snobby little daughters and I have never, ever gone there. And while I’m perversely proud of this, it’s pretty freakin’ inconvenient sometimes.

I ended up hustling J into the car with a corn on the cob and a giant dinner napkin tucked into her leotard. I realizes that I owed money for a coach gift, and I stole the cash from M, the non-gymnast daughter, because J actually locks her cashbox. One victory: I did manage to bring along some photos that I’d been  meaning to bring to the gym weeks ago. But then I forget to hand them to J as she hopped out of the car.

Back at home, M was reaching a Homework Crisis. She is very self-motivated, but when she does need help, it is torturous. One thing she does often is ask a complicated question and then interrupt with, “Okay! I got it!” as soon as she has the faintest inkling about how to proceed. Which is rude. Plus, she usually could have used the end of whatever sentence she’s cut off. An example might be sometime when I’d say  it helps to use common denominators when adding fractions and she’d jump in with, “Okay! I got it!” And then she’d moan for a couple of minutes and say, “What’s a denominator again?” So today she was putting the finishing touches on a slide show and needed help, which was not great, since I hadn’t created a PowerPoint in. . . well, years. Then she said, “How do I do the bibliography?” and this is not a question that can be answered in one sentence. She prefers all of her answers in the form of a single phrase.

Then she accused me of yelling at her. I SO wasn’t yelling at her. I’m really not a huge yeller, but I think it’s gotten to the point where my “I’m going to act super calm because I have to be incredibly patient with you” voice is perceived as yelling by the rest of my family. It’s actually quieter than my usual voice. But it’s condescending, I guess? It’s tough not to be condescending when someone is having a meltdown over the placement of bullet points. So, I wasn’t yelling at her. Truly, I wasn’t. I wasn’t even angry with her because she was so very pathetic and focused and it was so sad because it was a beautiful day and she was wasting valuable time when if she would only walk away and wait for Cute W, who does PowerPoints constantly, all would be well. But, purely for demonstration purposes, I yelled, “THIS IS YELLING!” and basically caused her to have a panic attack. Probably. Because she cowered and appeared to have trouble breathing. Which has happened once or twice before in extreme situations. But I honestly had no idea, since she can also turn on utterly convincing, heartbreaking tears at will. She’s like a freakin’ Emotional Ninja Daughter. So I switched back immediately to the soft-voiced-and-patient-mama, and I started rubbing her back in circles and advising her to breath in slowly through her nose, and I kept smiling calmly so that she wouldn’t continue to panic. And as soon as she could breathe properly (or had finished her performance, whichever it was), she pushed me away and hissed, “Get away from me! You almost killed me!” And I tried my best not to giggle.

We got through it, and I managed to control the kitchen chaos slightly before Cute W arrived. I followed him upstairs as he changed so that I could recount the homework episode and receive praise for not strangling M. He joked about the delicious chickpea bread he was eagerly anticipating. “You know,” he said, “There’s a reason why Freihofer’s doesn’t make chickpea bread.” When we got downstairs, he and M agreed with J that they had never, ever seen the black bean-and-sweet-potato patties in their lives, which made me slightly crazy. The first time I’d made them, they’d been a supplement to regular hamburgers so that if no one liked them, the meal wasn’t spoiled. But I swear, they’d all liked them. Now everyone was in denial. Cute W proclaimed them “not bad” and was downright enthusiastic about the much-ridiculed chickpea flatbread. M smothered her patty with guacamole and sour cream, and when she was done and hungry for more, she opted for a big scoop of each condiment, hold the patty. I heated up another patty and some more chickpea bread on a plate to take in the car to J. We recently decided that, since it’s such a late night, she could eat her second dinner in the car on the way home. I knew her enthusiasm was low, so I supplemented with some of Cute W’s delicious chocolate banana bread baked fresh this morning and more than a decent share of butter. J thanked me politely, but ignored the main meal and headed to the banana bread. Then she said, “Just so you know, the banana bread is a little underdone in the middle.”


  1. Claire

    Be happy that you’re not a yeller. It’s a struggle.

    Those fish funeral plans are hysterical!

    If you don’t mind sharing, I would love the recipe for that chocolate banana bread; it sounds amazing! (And I actually prefer baked goods that are slightly underdone.)

  2. Big Sister

    RIP NIKO. Can I have the sweet potato black bean burger recipe? That sounds great.

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