I’ve been putting in all sorts of ‘overtime’, trying to finish the library’s due-within-one-week copy of Parenthood: Season 2. Seven days and five DVD’s have resulted in some very late nights, as I did my overachieving best to watch all 22 episodes.

Which is why I was not quite able to get out of my bed in a timely manner this morning, and the lunch-packing and school delivery fell to the professor. As well as the administering of the ‘vitamin juice’.

A month or so ago, I spoke to a nutritionist-friend who convinced me to start giving my boys cod liver oil to help with brain function, or maybe immunity. Or perhaps neither of those things. I worried about trying to convince the boys to ingest something called ‘cod liver oil’ especially since I can still recall gagging at the spoons of disgusting fish oil or whoknowswhat administered by my own mother when I was around the Gort’s age.

‘It tastes good!’ the vitamin saleslady insisted when I relayed my concerns, as she underscored the ‘lemon flavor/citron gout’ note on the bottle’s label. ‘But I’ve heard from other parents that they put it in a little bit of juice,’ she gave me a helpful hint.

And, just like that, ‘vitamin juice’ was born.

As there was no disguising the sudden slick of oil on the surface of their orange juice, I was very direct with the boys about their new pre-school regimen. One teaspoon cod liver oil stirred into a shot of orange juice. ‘To keep them from getting sick,’ I promised. Dubiously.

So this morning, held hostage by my king-size duvet, I eavesdropped on the Gort’s instruction to his vitamin-juice-novice father. [The man who, after trying it once, insisted he’d nearly vomited.] ‘You have to stir it. Three times.’

And I laughed because if I’ve learned anything about this parenting gig, it’s that kids are sponges, as ‘they’ say. But they’re selective sponges. You never know when they’re really paying attention and what they absorb. Manners? No. Weird parental quirks? Absolutely.

Apparently the Gort has absorbed that, upon adding a spoonful of omega-3 to their juice, I stir the mixture three times. Because I have a mini-compulsion when it comes to the number three, as evident when I make Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese for the boys.

First, I remove the sauce-powder packet, after which I dump the noodles in boiling water, and then I slap the packet against the edge of the countertop: one-two-three times. Ostensibly to shift the contents, but also because I could never just do it once or twice. It would feel….incomplete.

Unbeknownst to me, the Gort has observed my obsessive behavior, so when my mom made macaroni and cheese for the boys last Christmas, he insisted she follow my ‘method’. Certain that, unless one hit the packet of cheese powder against the countertop three times, the macaroni and cheese would be a disaster.

I was still smiling about the Gort telling his dad how to make vitamin juice when I heard footsteps headed in my direction. An exasperated Gort stuck his head through the doorway. ‘Look at how much juice he gave us,’ he sighed, holding his juice glass in the air. So I could see, firsthand, how things were falling apart in my absence.

Sure enough, the professor had gone rogue. Pouring half a glass of orange juice instead of the barely-there-amount I prefer; to allow the boys to down the oil-juice mixture in one big  gulp.

At the dinner table several hours later, I asked the Gort what he’d learned in grade three that day. ‘Well,’ he replied, as if he’d been chomping at the bit for me to ask that very question, ‘I learned that Dad forgot to pack a spoon for my lunch.’ The professor hung his head, guilty as charged. He’d packed applesauce, but no spoon.

I turned my attention to our Kindergartener.  ‘Henners, what did you learn in Kindergarten today?’

I learned that Dad forgot to pack a spoon.’

It was the first time in the history of education that a third grader and a Kindergartener learned the same thing at school.

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