By Marla Jo Fisher, The Orange County Register
Now that I have a teenager, I know how the U.S. Army feels. It has to feed hundreds of thousands of hungry soldiers every day, and sometimes that reminds me of our house.
I am also beginning to appreciate the concept of Army chow.
Three times a day, hungry soldiers are allowed to come into mess halls, chow down and get out, unless you’ve been assigned to do KP, which is another concept of which I greatly approve.
Soldiers eat what they’re given, bus their own dishes, then exit the dining hall.
If there’s sneering at the food, it’s not within earshot of the cook, who’s likely to be some big beefy dude who looks like the Incredible Hulk and attends court-ordered anger management classes every week.
This bears absolutely no relation to mealtime at my house.
Actually, mealtime has become a floating concept around Chez Frumpy these days, since eating now seems to occupy my son’s every waking moment, at least when he’s not kicking, whacking, dunking, tossing, throwing or chasing something spherically shaped.
“Mom, will you make me (fill in the blank here)” is now his favorite expression, and actually, I mind it less than you’d think, though I have been known to utter notorious words involving starving children in China when my offerings are rejected.
At least if I’m making him something, I know there is some sort of nutrition involved, instead of sugary cereal or noodle soup, which he’ll eat 10 times a day if left to his own devices.
I do have to keep my eye on him constantly, though, to make sure he actually consumes the healthy portion of the meal.
Just last night, I looked under the table and discovered pieces of sliced kiwi fruit that I’d served for dinner the night before.
I’m guessing they were chucked there in the hope that the dog would eat them, though that belief was sadly misguided. Buddy the Wonder Dog likes broccoli but turns up his nose at anything from New Zealand.
The annoying thing about this discovery was that both my kids actually like kiwi and many other fruits and vegetables, yet they act like it’s waterboarding to be required to eat them.
Sometimes I think my friend Will’s parents had the right idea. They sent him and his sisters away to boarding school in Ojai, Calif., as soon as they became teenagers, and they didn’t come back until they were grown.
Will enjoyed this, by the way, and still thinks fondly of his alma mater out there under the oaks, near the overpriced resort spas that Ojai is known for.
I’m sure that school has the Ojai equivalent of a mess hall, though it probably looks more like Hogwarts than MASH.
But I guess I’d miss my kids too much, and certainly the refrigerator would pine away from neglect.
My electric bill would probably drop down to 87 cents a month, which would help pay for the school fees.
Meanwhile, I continue to singlehandedly keep several grocery chains in business, and run a rear guard action against teenage malnutrition.
I have given up trying to send them to school with a healthy homemade lunch, though, after discovering this was immediately discarded in favor of a vitamin-packed bag of Hot Cheetos offered by a friend.
These days, I’m just happy that I’ve successfully morphed the kids over to whole grain cereal, even if it’s still coated in sugar.
And, at least, gummy bear vitamins are cheap.
Marla Jo Fisher was a workaholic before she adopted two foster kids several years ago. Now she juggles work and single parenting, while being exhorted from everywhere to be thinner, smarter, sexier, healthier, more frugal, a better mom, better dressed and a tidier housekeeper. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://themomblog.freedomblogging.com/category/frumpy-middleaged-mom-marla-jo-fisher/.