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Final score - Kids: Infinity, Mom: Negative Inifinity.

I hate dinner time. Let's just dispense with all the "but I still love my kids" sentiments, because 1.) it's a given, obviously and 2.) it is completely irrelevant to level of hatred I feel for dinner time with the kids.

The whole tone is set when I walk in the door from work and hear yelling, stomping or fighting from the kids. Then one of them will see me. If it's Bryce, he'll look at me with a face beaming innocence and say, "Hi, mom. I'm so glad to see you! We were just playing." as if the screams I heard walking in the door were merely a figment of my imagination. If it's Quinn, he'll come up to me with a whine that sounds like fingernails grating down a chalkboard in my ears: "MMMMMMMommy! WAhahahaaaaaa. Wwwwaaaannnttt mmmmiiiilllkkk, mmmooommmmyyyy." I take a deep breath, and head to the bedroom to change clothes and complete the mental preparation I always have to start in my car on the way home from work. Stay patient, be consistent, praise the good things they do. Stay patient, be consistent.

Stay patient.

Stay patient.

Stay patient.

So you see which part is the hardest for me.

Because John is home with them during the afternoons, he usually has dinner started, so I help corale the kids at the table and prep them for eating something besides macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets, which would be their preferred meal EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Bryce starts in before any plates even hit the table: "I don't want spaghetti, I want macaroni!" I tell him he's eating what we're eating, this isn't a flipping restaurant and dad's not a short-order cook. He goes from whining to complete hysterics, cutting me off mid-sentence: "BUT I WANT MACARONI, I DON'T LIKE SPAGHETTIDON'TYOUKNOWIDON'TLIKEBIGBITESAND

There it is, my first heavy, frustrated sigh and a muted thump of the table with my tentative fist. "I can't answer you when you won't stop yelling!! Stop it! STOP! IT! NOW!!"

Great job, Kristen. You fail the dinner challenge within five minutes, before the food even hits the table. Kids: 10, Mom: 0. And the crowd goes friggin' wild.

Quinn sees the chink in my pathetic armour and joins in the attack. By now his food is in front of him and he's taken a few bites, but it's just not good enough, is it? "Want peanut butter! Want rice!" I tell him he already has food on his plate, and to eat that before asking for more. He lifts his fork over his head, eyes wide, fists shaking, in a threat to gauge a huge, vengeful scratch into the dining table. This is accompanied by a rumbling growl: "ggghhhhgggllllrrrrrNO!! WANT PEANUT! BUTTER! NOW!" I take him to time out, which would be a victory for the parents' side, except that I am visibly and audibly angry when I do it...so, the entire purpose is basically defeated, since he got the exact reaction he wanted, and then proceeds to scream from time out for the next two allotted minutes. Kids: 25, Mom: -10.

I return to the table to eat through Quinn's loud protests for two minutes, which will allow me to take about ONE bite, since Bryce uses this opportunity to begin bouncing from seat to seat, as we made the mistake of putting an extra empty chair next to his. He has eaten two miniscule bites off of one rice granule, and wants to leave the table: "May I please excuse! May I please excuse!" I tell him it's "may I please BE EXCUSED" and that no, he cannot, because we're all going to finish, or at least come to some closer approximation of being finished before he starts his nightly dinosaur romp through the house. He bounces back into his chair, causing some of his food to slosh onto the dining room floor. My blood pressure rises by several notches.

And, oh, look at the time, it's been two minutes already? Better go get Quinn. I retrieve him from time out and bring him back to the table. He eats a few bites in silence. Bryce starts up again with the "please excuse" requests. I cave. "Fine!! You're excused!! Go, but I don't want you to run around or yell, do you understand??" He runs away screaming. Kids: 150, Mom: -150. Geez, people, I just want to eat my dinner.

I try to tell John a story, but we're interrupted by Bryce's circular romp around the house. I start over with my story, but we're again interrupted by Quinn: "Want peanut butter!" I tell him no, remind him that if he complains about his food again, he'll be finished with dinner, and try to tell my story one more time. When the phone rings in the two seconds after I start, I just give up and start clearing plates from the table. I've got most of it cleared when I hear Quinn say, "Uh-oh!! I spilled it!" Oh for the love of God!!

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