Sugar Milk

I guess I'm writing this after realizing how anal I've been getting about the money lost on wasted food. For some odd reason Allie and Avery have this unnatural aversion to finishing the milk left in their cereal bowl. To them, milk isn't exactly a complete part of a balanced breakfast fortified with vitamins and minerals to make their young bones grow healthy and strong. Instead, milk is a more of an engineering feat allowing sugar-saturated food to float high enough for them to get their spoons under for another heart-attack-inducing shovel full. When all you have left is milk, this is signal to them their breakfast is complete. Five minutes later I discover a half-gallon of perfectly good milk with a few remaining Fruit Loops floating aimlessly like disregarded toys left alone in a swimming pool. With a gallon of milk costing nearly as much as gallon of gas, you can then multiply that number by seven days in a week, and then again by four weeks and it becomes obvious how at this rate, milk takes up half the grocery bill on an already tight budget.

Even more aggravating is the fact we can't just have any milk as the girls have developed into little connoisseurs of the stuff rivaling only French wine critics in their snottiness. They sniff, swirl, swish and swallow with their noses held high in the air. One sip and they know with complete confidence the differences between Non-Fat, 1%, 2% and Whole Milk as well as their organic and non-organic versions. They continue to brandish their arrogance as they announce the milk's future expiration date along with the region of where that particular cow was chewing the grass at the time of the milk's production.

As I reached the top of the stairs one morning, Avery informed me that they only drank 2% milk with their cereal, thus implying that the recently purcahsed gallon of non-organic whole milk sitting on the counter should be considered unsuitable for human consumption, with its only rival being a gallon of piss from a gangrenous rat suffering from a bladder infection. Growing up in a home where it was expected that you clean off every inch of your plate to the point the enamel started to chip under the scrapes of your fork, the idea of a four year old - one without a job I might add - telling me what was unacceptable in her estimation didn't go over too well with me. A point I proved by pouring the entire gallon down the drain... and later having to apologize for, as I misunderstood what it was she actually was trying to tell me (which I don't remember, but her mom explained it pretty well at the time).

Like the unholy belching, this appears to be a hereditary condition as Ashley suffers from the same malady preventing her from finishing an entire can of the Diet Coke she is so fond of. Over the past several months Ashley has opened 435 cans of this carbonated toilet water and has finished exactly zero of them. I swear sometimes I've seen her open a can, take a sip and then hide the rest of amongst the seat cushions in the couch. From the perspective of someone who's digested twenty years worth of of dish enamel (along with some Tupperware), watching such blatant waste induces gasps of horror so large they nearly induces lock jaw. Of those 435 unfinished cans, I am the one who has finished them up while calculating the wasted money now salvaged with my every gulp. It doesn't matter if the can has just been opened or if it's several days old and attracting roaches and ants - 10 cents a can is worth it. Of course my medical bills have tripled in my thriftiness as I now have a mysterious rash, a clogged artery and jaundice

Even though I have been managing to salvage Ashley's pop money, the girl's "stand-alone milk phobia" still posed a problem until a few weeks ago when I got the idea to "recycle" this precious commodity. When the girls set their bowls near the sink (and no one's looking), I strain the left-over milk through a clean (I stress clean) dishtowel into a plastic container, thus filtering out any foreign bodies while preserving the integrity of the milk for further use. It's pretty easy to get away with reapplying it to the next morning's bowl of cereal, but when Avery asked me for a glass of milk I had think quick when she asked what I was handing her.

"It's sugar milk, kiddo!" My heart started racing a bit.

Her eyes lit up, "Sugar milk?!"

I could feel sweating beading up on my neck, "Ya, sugar milk. Mmmmmmmmm sugary!"

Avery took a hearty gulp and then looked up at me with a very dirty milk mustache spread over a wide, approving smile. "Mommy! Mommy! Ron gave me sugar milk!"

Ashley, who had reached the top of the stairs looked at me quizzically. "What's sugar milk?"

"Oh, it's nothing. We're just playing a game for her to get a marble." I said patting Avery on head as she suckled away at her cup's contents with all the enthusiasm of new-born calf feeding from its mother.

"I want a marble!" Alley said popping up suddenly like a prairie dog from behind the couch.

To which Avery shot back, "No, Alley! You didn't finish your sugar milk! Only I did and I get a marble!"

Allie sighed and slumped her shoulders. "That stuff is gross and has little brown things in it."

Ashley kept her eyes fixed on Allie as she explained about the brown things, then looked at Avery's dirty face and then finally set her furrowed eyes on me. Just as she opened her mouth I cut her off.

"Girls, tell ya what. How 'bout you each get two marbles!" This distracted Allie and Avery sufficiently enough to throw scent off my trail, and Ashley switched her attention to making sure Avery didn't fall from her chair.

Unfortunately, however, Asley's suspicions were confirmed one Saturday morning when the girls woke up at their regular time of 6:30AM. Normally, I stay in bed for a little while as Ashley shuffles upstairs to fix the girls a bowl of Sugar-Craps, and then go back to sleep on the couch. On this morning; however, I was struck with the thought that Ashley might grab the good milk instead of using up the "sugar milk." My fear was confirmed as I could hear her pull the milk from the fridge. I judged by the increased weight causing a heavier sounding shuffle in Ashley's movement along with the high-density tone made by the carton when she sat it down on the counter I realized she had NOT grabbed the "sugar milk!" I literally shot out bed and ran up the stairs skipping every other one in my mad dash.

"You can't give them that milk," I explained breathlessly making a simultaneous mental note to lay off the Diet Cokes. "They like the sugar milk." In her half-conscious state I might have gotten away with getting Ashley to use the recycled milk with no questions ask, but Allie and Avery's equal contempt and elation at the idea of sugar milk perked their mom up enough for her to inquire as to the exact nature of this concoction.

"He pours it into a towel, Mommy!" Allie stated in the general direction of Ashley while fixing her eyes accusingly onto me. Allie's courtroom theatrics sealed my fate and I was left with no choice but to explain where sugar milk came from exactly (my attempt to lighten the mood by answering it came from really sweet-cows failed to produced the intended effect). Since then I have been forbidden to even acknowledge the existence of sugar milk with the same level of seriousness the government would employ to deny any involvement in a coup carried out in some third-world country (despite its vested interest in the sweet-cow trade for which that country is known).

Occasionally, Avery will request sugar milk and my heart flutters with hope at the thought of the dollars still possible to save with just one child drinking it down. This hope is short-lived though, as I catch Ashley's disapproving eyes burning holes into me from just above her newly opened can of Diet Coke. "That's ok," I think to myself knowing she has no clue I've started recycling her drink of choice.

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