Monday, November 9, 2015

I’ll Drink to That – Dining Out with Multiple Children

Caring for a 5, 3 & 1 year old every day can get tedious. There’s the mundane morning routine of trying to get everyone fed, dressed and out of the house at a decent hour, coming up with new DIY crafts to keep them occupied throughout the day and, not in the least, coercing them all into eating a mildly nutritious meal that doesn’t offend any of the sensitive palates to which I cater. They're delicate little butterflies and they deserve only the best (frozen pizza and canned green beans).

To keep things fun, I occasionally lose my damn mind shake things up a bit. Such was the case when my husband needed to work late last week and I decided to take all 3 kids out to dinner. At a restaurant. By myself.

Did I mention I have 3 kids?

Dining out with 3 young children was surprisingly not the stress free endeavor an idiot would I imagined. Since I can see those hamster wheels turning in your own head, I'm going to give you a heads up. To save you, my friends, I’ve recreated a rough schedule of what it looks like so that you don’t go into the same experience blindly.

I’ll Drink to That – Dining Out with Multiple Children

5:03 pm – The “This is taking longer than I expected, have to work late - sorry.” text is received.

5:04 pm - *insert (mostly internal) profanity-laced rant* Respond to husband’s text with curt, but subtle, “I see.” Must think of appropriate punishment before night falls. This one should be handled swiftly. 

5:06 pm – Sensing my frustration, Child #1 walks lazily into the kitchen and questions whether we’ll be eating dinner or air tonight. Five year olds are just the cutest, aren't they. Mumble under breath that she's more than welcome to eat a knuckle sandwich - realize DCFS may be calling soon.

5:15 pm – Coincidentally, a commercial airs touting “Fun, family atmosphere and ‘great prices’ for dinner at [local restaurant].”

5:16 pm – Come up with idea – completely on my own – to go out to dinner tonight at [local restaurant]. Praise myself for thinking outside the box.

5:30 pm – Pile into car after: 2 bathroom trips, one diaper change, one argument over whether or not pants are needed to go out to dinner (they are) and a discussion on if Princess Sophia is smarter than Daniel Tiger (she’s not).

5:47 pm – Pull into parking lot JUST as clouds burst open and rain transforms the path to the doorway into a waterfall. *insert (mostly internal) profanity-laced rant*

5:50 pm – Splash across pavement with industrial sized umbrella that manages to keep all 3 kids dry…I, of course, am soaked.

5:51 pm – Greet hostess who insists on chit chatting with each child politely as I motion impatiently that we just want to sit.

5:53 pm – Sit at table positioning older children across from Baby & I as they have insisted they MUST sit next to one another. Turn PBS Kids app on cellphone and watch as their eyes glaze over and mouths turn slack, captivated.  All is well.

5:54 pm – Declare myself winner of Dining Out. Smile idiotically at all other patrons.

5:56 pm – Waitress returns with water and requests dinner order. Problem arises as Child #2 decides he does NOT want same thing he gets on every single visit to every single restaurant in entire world. He wants [different]. Suggest [same] repeatedly - because you've met him - until he begins to raise his voice in panic at being overruled. Begrudgingly order [different] and threaten his life if he refuses to eat it.

5:57 pm – Baby’s turn! She decides my appearance has been too conservative thus far and attempts to pull my breast from shirt before I stop her. Responding in (loud) surprise startles her, sending her into an ear-splittingly defiant screech.

5:58 pm – Shove exposed breast into mouth (hers, not mine - that'd be weird). Quiet resumes.

6:00 pm – Child #1 knocks over water cup, in her rush to pick up mommy’s cellphone from table, knocks over 2nd water cup.

6:01 pm - *insert (mostly internal) profanity-laced rant* Waitress returns and kindly cleans up mess after locking eyes with me to ensure she will compensated at tip time. *sigh* She will.

6:09 pm – Dinner arrives. Child #2 is not at all impressed with [different]. The entire world is surprised.

6:10 pm – Child #1 has to use the bathroom, is reminded however that she used the bathroom before we left the house. She insists she can go by herself. Every episode of NBC's To Catch a Predator floods my mind as I respectfully tell her she cannot.

6:11 pm – Herd 3 hungry children into bathroom. Child #1 admits she didn’t actually have to go, mostly wanted to see if I’d let her go by herself so she could look in the mirror.

6:12 pm – Decide, while walking back to table, that children 1 & 2 will be written out of will…or given away at yard sale.

6:15 pm – After splitting Child #1’s meal between she & her brother, find myself eating [different] from Kids Menu. Baby participates by throwing French fries across table into Child #1’s mouth. (None make it.)

6:20 pm – Argument arises as older children realize table is “too small” and “her elbow keeps scratching mine.” Also, “he won’t close his mouth while he eats and that’s nasty.”

6:21 pm – Separate children as they argue over who gets to sit next to mommy (translation: who HAS to sit next to mommy) for the remainder of the meal.

6:22 pm – Child #2 wins (?).

6:25 pm – Cellphone screen can no longer be seen by both children on opposite sides of the table. It is now the end of the world.

6:29 pm – Crushed crayons, chicken tender bits and minced French fries litter the table. The volume in our small corner of the restaurant is steadily rising and I feel a faint sheen of sweat begin to form on my brow. The baby applies a honey mustard coated hand print to my shirt and I lose the little cool I have left.

6:30 pm – Child #1 stands abruptly, pointing off into the distance.

6:31 pm – Husband person walks in smiling and self-assured, “I figured you guys were here when your car was gone. I got done quicker than I thought!” Consider shanking him with butter knife.

6:32 pm – Hand over baby to sperm donor and swiftly walk to rear of building, consider making restaurant bathroom new residence.

6:33 pm – Realize there’s no mailbox, so I can’t get monthly Essence subscription. Runaway plan is foiled.

6:35 pm – Return to table just in time to see Super Daddy pay bill, scoop up (now) well-behaved children and smile in victory at nearby diners as they praise him for his "beautiful family"...not noticing slightly deranged & dirty woman limping behind him. Consider again stabbing him with salad fork…change mind when I remember I don’t like taking out the trash.

6:36 pm - Listen on the ride home as everyone coos over how much fun it was to go out to dinner with daddy.

And that’s how you dine out with 3 kids all by yourself. I think it can best be summed up with the words: Don’t take 3 kids out to dinner by yourself. You don't need to be anybody's hero, people, save yourself and order pizza. It's the way God intended.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

When I Grow Up

The holiday season is here again and that means I'll be entertaining friends & family over dry ass turkey and $5 wine apple cider. My kids and their cousins will run wild with reckless abandon and I'll be smiling through gritted teeth as they narrowly avoid the one good lamp we have left in the house. At some point, my husband & I will get in to a ridiculous argument about who was supposed to pick up the Honeybaked Ham and then ignore one another for the rest of the day while trying to play nice in front of the others. I'll eventually stab him (lightly) with a fork and then we'll say grace. It's the stuff of Rockwell paintings, I tell ya.

Unfortunately, as I'm doing all of this familial hobnobbing I'll also be stuttering my way through mindless small talk and trying to remember which relatives don't know that I'm a potty mouthed troll yet - that circle is getting smaller every damn day, by the way - as I run the gamut of acceptable chit chat. 

No matter how expertly I steer the conversation though, I always encounter at least one well meaning counterpart that insists on counseling me on my future plans, like I'm some hard headed GED recipient who's thiiiiiiiis close to turning her life around after a rough patch in the mean streets (*cough* of the suburb I grew up in).

Something about Ashton being in big kid school now must make me seem like some lazy bump on a log with no direction. So most conversations I have end up coming around to my oh-so favorite: 

What are you going to do with yourself now? Yep, the 10 million dollar question. 

This one is a stay-at-home parent’s kryptonite. Just when you think you’re entertaining someone that “gets” your struggle, identifies with your uniquely erratic daily schedule, they flip the script on you. 

I’ll admit, I’ve struggled in the past, to piece together an answer that pleases everyone. I want to appear responsible and ambitious but apparently, my current “occupation” leaves much to be desired because I’m always questioned about what I’d like to do “when I grow up” and the kids are gone. Since it's so important to me that I consider everyone’s feelings and finally give them a response that makes sense, I’ve put a lot of thought into it and I actually came up with a few really good options of how I can spend my days (in a few short years when PJ goes to school). I’m honestly surprised these had never occurred to me before - not only do they give me a chance to make a real financial contribution to the house, I’ll get back that old sense of self and look like an adult again to all of the important people in my life.

Follow along with me as I take you through Brittni’s Top 5 List of Things I Want to Be…When My Kids Leave Me Alone:

#1 – Mall Train Conductor – This one hit me (almost literally) as I was walking to Macy’s the other day on my search of just the right mom jeans for a night out with my husband. Strolling along, I abruptly hear a loud honk and spun out of the way just in time to miss a speeding (3 mph) locomotive in the Stride Rite district. That’s it, I thought. If there’s one thing I’ve felt I missed out on lately, it’s travel. This way, I’d get to see the sights (all the way from Bloomingdale’s to the Food Court), and bypass paying for a plane ticket. Not to mention I’d get an awesome fucking hat. #AccessoriesAreEverything

#2 – Crossing Guard – My 3 year old son pointed out the other day, after we’d dropped off the big girl to school, that the woman standing on the corner and getting everyone’s attention was very pretty. 

I looked up quizzically to be sure the community hadn’t been invaded by prostitutes in the night, but was relieved to find an orange-vested matron with a light stick and white gloves pausing traffic so that a group of 5th graders could make their way onto the sidewalk. I was amazed at the power she had to literally stop a car in its tracks. She had vehicles backed up for half a block at her whim, I couldn’t even get the kids to stop fighting over a broken flashlight (that neither one of them really wanted) the night before. That’s what I needed, that type of influence; for people to look up at me – because they’re literally sitting beneath me in their car – and yield to my every gesture and desire. It’s like being queen...but of a crosswalk. If there’s one thing I could get used to, it’s the royal treatment at 7:30 in the morning, this one was definitely high on my list.

#3 – Housekeeper – I know what you’re thinking: You want to clean up after a bunch of little brats that don’t know where dirty underwear goes after a shower, haven’t you had your fill of that?! And you’re right, if I wanted to be some regular housekeeper, that’d be strange. But I don’t.

I want to be a TV housekeeper (or TVHo, if you will),  just like Alice from The Brady Bunch or Florence from The Jeffersons. TV housekeepers don’t clean 1 year old vomit in the middle of the night, they make a roast and family sits happily down and marvels over it’s deliciousness. TVHos don’t fuss with a 5 year old about why it’s inappropriate to slide down the bannister on a couch cushion, they engage in comical sassy banter with the man of the house all the while, lightly dusting a priceless family heirloom. TVHos do the least and get the most recognition, that’s something I’ve aspired to for YEARS. If I know one thing, it’s that I’d make a fantastic TVHo.

#4 – Rap video model – Let me be honest here, I am a gangsta. Hardcore thug mama, in the hizzouse, right here, baby. And as such, I’ve always had an ear for ratchet, artistic tunes. What better way to show my respect for the genre than to bring my ample derriere to the stage. Standing around dancing to the melodies of aging rappers in a bandage dress that’s two sizes too small, what is not to love?! And I’ve already got the wardrobe, half of my clothes are too small anyway! #ImReady

5 – Neurosurgeon – Yeah, you read that right. I’m intrigued at the idea of finally being able to get into my husband’s brain and figure out how a grown man still hasn’t mastered the art of washing a sink full of dirty dishes unless nagged for 2 days. I know the answer is in there somewhere, and I’m willing to open him up to find out.

I'm so glad I've managed to put this question to bed once and for all. I can finally get back to what this time of year is really about - candy corn and Motown's Greatest Christmas Hits album. God bless the holiday season…and all the nosey people it brings. Happy holidays!