Friday, October 14, 2011

The Girl Who Cried "Casserole"

Cael is starting to get wise to my mommy tricks.  Graham still has a twinge of baby left in him, and when I tell him that he must take a nap because the cookies we just baked will magically vanish if he doesn't sleep, he stares wide-eyed at me and promptly shuts his eyes.

"I want those cookies and in my belly and if I have to sacrifice Barker to get them, I will."

Okay, so he didn't say that exactly, but I'm pretty sure his eyes said it.

Cael, on the other hand, is smart as a whip and old enough to realize that he might not be the only manipulative body in the house.  The main difference between us, of course, is that he manipulates those around him to get what he wants and to get out of trouble.  My manipulation stems from a desire to keep him away from the things I want and to keep him from getting into trouble in the first place. 

Uh-oh.  Maybe we're more alike than I thought.

But one mommy trick I've milked for more than it is worth is the decoy casserole.  Before my sister's family moved to town and I wasn't cooking meals for more than 3 adults at any given time, I didn't get into the casserole recipes.  I've always liked them and they were a staple in my childhood home, but their simplicity often left me bored and not inspired in the same way a batch of homemade pasta or fresh produce left me.  So a couple of weeks ago when I made my first casserole in years, Cael was up in my grill wanting to "help" (put his dirty fingers on the ingredients before deciding it didn't interest him).  Once on his stool, he discovered that I wasn't constructing an elaborate dessert or treat and promptly announced, 

"That casserole is boring me." 

And thus, the casserole trick was born.

At first, I used it sparingly and only when it was important that I finish cooking quickly and without interruptions of the four year-old variety.  But I quickly found that casseroles could be constructed from almost anything-- like pens, rubber bands and mismatched batteries.

"What are you doing, Mommy?"

As I was organizing the kitchen junk drawer, I paused to consider the ramifications of telling the truth before making a silly remark.

"Oh, I'm just making a casserole."

"Ugh.  I don't want to do that."

And with that, Cael wandered off to make a train out of balled-up socks.  How easy was that?!?  I knew that I would have to be careful not to overuse the casserole not only because it was such a valuable tool but because as effective as it was, I didn't want him to catch wind of my lies and think I couldn't be trusted.

And then I let that thought go and made casseroles all day long.  I made casseroles when I wrapped Cael's birthday presents and again when I decorated his cake.  I made casseroles while I helped my nephew with a school project and I made casseroles when I painted my nails.

I was flying high.  I had the holy grail of child repellents, and it was 100% reliable.

Then yesterday a normal task like putting away groceries became an exercise in agility and patience as I tripped over tractors and dodged flying whiffle balls.

"What are you doing, Cael?" 

"I'm being a circus!"

"Okay, but could you please be a circus downstairs?  I'm trying to get these things put away and you're not in a safe spot."

"Can I play with the groceries?"

"No, sweetie... they need to be put away now."

"But look, I could make those boxes a train!"

I can't shake the kid.  Time for desperate measures.

"I'm sorry.  I'm just gonna make a casserole anyway."

And with that, he plopped down from his stool and headed to the basement.  I imagined how many casseroles I could buy with the money made from my best selling parenting book.  I reached for my phone to text Papa about my fool-proof methods when I realized my phone wasn't in my bag.

I searched quickly around the kitchen and walked downstairs to see if I'd left it at the computer desk.  And that's when I saw Cael, watching train clips on You Tube under the pool table, his favorite place to hide out when he knows he's breaking the rules.

"Cael, may I please have my phone?"


"Cael Foreman, I need my phone and you didn't ask my permission to use it."

And that's when I heard it.

"It's not a phone, Mommy.  It's a casserole."

I guess I had that one coming.

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Leave your own "ism". Cael and Graham double-dog dare you.