This time, Ethan's reaction was much less enthusiastic. As I slopped a generous serving on his plate, he said, "Eww. What's that?"
"It's yellow rice and chicken," I replied, "but it looks pretty runny for some reason. And the topping looks greasy instead of crispy."
"Well, it looks like... vomit."
"Oh, great!" I whined, tears gathering and threatening to spill over. "I just took some of this to my friend Angie, who's on bed rest. How embarrassing!"
"I'm sure it still tastes good, Mama," Ethan hastened to assure me.
"I wonder what I did wrong. Maybe I didn't put enough chicken. Maybe I poured too much melted butter on top. Maybe I put in too much sour cream. Maybe it was-"
"It'll be fine, Sarah," Bill interrupted. "Let's eat."
"It's just that I worked so hard today," I went on. "I had to rush home after MOPS and cook the chicken and chop it up and put it all together. And then I thought I was out of poppy seeds, so I had to go to Walmart on my way to Angie's. But it turned out I had them all along."
It was too unfair! I'd worked so hard, just to be humiliated!
Ethan must have noticed that I was on the verge of sobbing because he announced, in a voice that belonged on a Shake N Bake commercial, "It's good, Mama! It's really good. Can I have seconds?"
"Yes, Mama, it's really good!" Allyson echoed.
Ethan shoved out from behind the table and headed to the stove to heap another helping of the casserole on his empty plate. (I was only on my third bite or so at this point.)
"This is so good, I may need thirds!" Ethan raved. "Somebody better stop me."
"Don't hurt yourself," I said dryly, a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth.
"This is so good, I need sevenths!" exclaimed Allyson, obviously trying to outdo Ethan in her praise.
It wasn't all empty flattery, though. Despite its lack of aesthetic appeal, the casserole WAS pretty darn tasty. We made a big dent in it that evening, and then Ethan and Allyson fought over the leftovers the next afternoon.
After he'd carried his plate to the sink--well, set it on the cabinet near the sink--Ethan said, "Thank you for making yellow rice and chicken, Mom."
"Yes, thank you, Mommy!" Allyson called out.
"You're very welcome," I replied. "And thank YOU for being so sweet to me."
My cup runneth over!