At one o'clock this afternoon, taking the kids to Frisch's sounded like a good plan. J. is out of town, so it would be just me, but that should be no problem. Nice little outing, the kids might actually eat something, it will be marginally healthier than a Happy Meal, and I would save some cash.
By about five o'clock, this plan was sounding less and less attractive. O and N were sliding around on the kitchen floor, fighting over Skittles and a toy plastic egg, and picking up a nice coating of crumbs and dog hair. L. was ramping up for a session of wailing, and I was nearing the end of my patience.
Dinner in an actual restaurant, even one as casual as Frisch's, was sounding a little beyond my means. I had visions of myself hissing at O. and N. to get up from under the table, stop ripping up napkins into one thousand pieces, and just take turns with the orange crayon for god's sake, all while trying to cut up food on three plates and hold a pacifier in L's mouth. No way.
However, cooking these days requires some forethought. As it is next to impossible to chop or spread anything while holding a baby, I have to do those sorts of preparation while a nap is underway, or L. is at least happy in his swing for a while. I had not done any of that.
Even the idea of throwing some chicken nuggets in the oven or making eggs or frozen waffles seemed a little too much. The floor sliding and wailing would only increase as I did even those simple tasks. Besides, I was hungry. A bowl of Rice Chex for me at 6:00 just means I'll be hitting the Cheezits at 10:00.
So. The alternatives were these. Order a pizza. Get takeout from somewhere. Drive-thru.
And here's the thing. All three of these options still involve me actually plating food and putting it on the table. Even a happy meal involves dividing up the fries and apple dippers, squeezing out the ketchup, and making the milks less spillable. Take out means I still have to traipse all three kids into the restaurant, back out to the car, and still plate the food.
I decided to give Big Boy a try. L. had finally given in to sleep and was sucking on his pacifier in the car seat like a champ. The big kids* were thrilled and promised to behave. On the way in, we met our babysitter coming out. She's currently unavailable to us on weeknights, as she has play practice every evening. I was tempted to offer her double the usual pay to skip it tonight and come sit with us, but I am stronger than that.
Do you know what? We got through the meal pretty well. O. and N. ate about eight bites of his pancakes, but shared his bacon with his sister. N. was confused by her pizza sticks, but ate all of her applesauce. L., of course, woke up just as my patty melt arrived and proceeded to cry pretty much unconsolably. O. and N. stopped eating at this point and started playing peek a boo with each other under the table, and it all started to go downhill.
But guess what else? I did not have to make that food. And everyone got something different to eat, exactly what they wanted. It got brought right to our table. The waiter gave them both the same color twisty straw because he knew they would fight over different colors. When a fork fell on the floor, I didn't have to get up to get another one. There were napkins for everyone. And the best of all? The kind woman manager (maybe a grandma?) noticed that L. was not being soothed by his pacifier anymore and offered to hold him for me so I could finish my dinner. She put him up on her shoulder and walked him around the salad bar, and he stopped crying and looked around.
We got out of there with suckers for each kid that could eat one, and one hour of my long evening was gone.
Maybe the staff at Frisch's tonight was just feeling pity for me. Maybe it's a little sad that my interactions with adults today consisted of this meal and an exchange with the cashier at Kohl's. I don't think so, though. It probably would have been easier to do the drive thru tonight, but I'm happy we chose instead to interact with the world even just a little.
*I find it really strange that I suddenly find myself thinking of my family as consisting of two "big kids" and a baby. Aren't they ALL babies??