5:23: Ruby screaming very loudy.
5:24: I frantically chop vegetables no one will eat in the hope that their dazzling color and the dubious Mayan predictions will somehow combine to make them try them tonight.
5:25: Timer goes off on the nuggets. Fish is almost done. Phil will not eat nuggets. Ruby will not eat fish. Dylan will eat everything. I prepare as many different meals as possible. I’d like to see Rachel Ray do that in 30 minutes or less.
5:28: Hand-washing. Ruby and Dylan fight over who will wash their hands first. I stare at them blankly for some reason forgetting to remind them that we have something like 4 sinks in the house. I set the table with our finest rainbow colored plastic cutlery. Also, for another reason I can’t quite explain, I forget the napkins.
5:29: I open the wine.
5:30: We sit down to dinner sans Phil. Though intellectually I know this dinner will be over in 4 minutes, the more fantastical side of me tells myself he will join us at 6pm when this dinner somehow proves to miraculously still be in progress 30 minutes from now.
5:32: I serve Dylan his fish and turn back to get Ruby her nuggets. I serve Ruby her nuggets.
5:33: Ruby announces she does not like chicken nuggets. Dylan is already done with his first helping. I am still trying to serve myself.
5:34: I sit down and force Dylan to suck on a carrot. If he won’t chew on it, maybe his saliva will inadvertently pick up some vitamins while I stall and try to shove a bit of food into my mouth and negotiate with Ruby on dinner.
5:35: I cover Ruby’s plate in ketchup hoping this will entice her to eat nuggets.
5:36: I can no longer put Dylan off. I am back up serving seconds.
5:37: I sit back down.
5:37 and approximately 12 seconds: Ruby reminds me I forgot the napkins – again. Did I mention Ruby hoards napkins? She goes through something like 10 per meal. Also, she is eating ketchup with a spoon making her napkin request have a greater sense of urgency.
5:38: I get the napkins and sit back down.
5:39: Dylan spills his milk.
5:40: Towelling off the table and floor.
5:41: Ruby tells me in a remarkably off-handed way given the severity of the situation that she is starting to pee a little bit.
5:42: In the bathroom with Ruby.
5:43: Looking for the Clorox spray so that I can hose down the kitchen chair.
5:44: I remember I forgot to eat.
5:45: Phil arrives. He is greeted with a hero’s welcome while the children eye me suspiciously like an evil, disorganized war-lord trying to coerce them with poorly prepared fish and condiments.
5:46: Phil reminds me he doesn’t like salmon.
5:47: There are dishes and food and uneaten nuggets and some of Dylan’s milk scattered throughout the kitchen as though our house has been “tossed” by the neighborhood thugs looking for a real meal and reacting in anger when all they found was this.
5:48: The kids spell words with letter cookies. I nurse my wine and tell myself that dinner tomorrow will be different. I will be different. We will be civilized. I realize we look more like the Klumps than the Cleavers.
5:49: I smile, reflecting on how my family is doing its small part to keep the concept of family dinner alive and well. Or at least alive. Or mostly not dead.
5:50: I declare the concept of family dinners a farce made up by television shows from the 50s and people who never actually had small children.
5:51: Ruby finds some pirates booty on the floor and eats it. And voila. Just like that – dinner is served. I realize I should throw nuggets on the floor more often and wonder if the thrill of her finding them would somehow make her more likely to try them.
5:52: Dinner is over.