We went out to eat Thursday night. Some friends offered to take us out, and, while dining out isn't exactly relaxing with four small children, it certainly beats cooking and cleaning-up at home. It was a good night to be with friends, if only I had spent more time with them and less time commuting to and from the buffet lines.
I always turn heads when I walk up to the buffet, pick up four plates, and quickly fill each one with identical portions. For some reason people don't automatically realize that I have four small children I'm serving. Usually I just raise my eyebrows as high as they'll go and declare, "Man, I'm hungry tonight!" Then I set the plates on my table, return to the bar for napkins and silverware, head to the drink bar for four drinks, then head back to the buffet line for my own plate of food. Picking up my fifth plate-full of food, I comment to the man shaving my fifth slice of ham, "I told you I was hungry."
Just about the time I sit down to eat, I see Toby decorating the floor with macaroni noodles, and by the time we complete his refresher-course in meal-time etiquette, Naomi and Emma have finished their plates of food and are requesting seconds. "I like the ham, Mommy," Naomi says sweetly, "May I have more ham?" Emma echoes, "I ah mo am, Mom-my?" Back to the ham-man I go for two more slices of ham. "It's good ham," I explain.
Half-way through my plate of food all four kids are ready for dessert. Ham-man eyes me as I pick up four vanilla cup-cakes from the dessert bar. Naomi squints her eyes at me, "Mommy, I wanted chocolate." Matt quickly offers to eat the vanilla one, so I snag a fifth cupcake. As most everybody else is finishing up, I make a third trip to the desert bar to find something for myself. "I don't really like this cupcake," Hannah whines, "can I have cookie?" "I ah googie?" Emma echoes. "Coooo-kieeee," Toby growls. I take my fourth trip to the dessert bar and grab three cookies.
Half-way through my dessert Toby has inhaled the entire cookie and has had enough of sitting still. He begins screaming, attempting to wriggle out from under the safety strap on his highchair. Desperate to buy myself five minutes I take a fifth trip to the desert bar, dump a spoonful of tiny chocolate-chips on a plate and spread them around. Toby is occupied for at least three minutes trying to grab each individual chocolate-chip and stuff it in his mouth. I hurry back to my seat--time is running out.
"Mommy, I need to go potty," Naomi announces. "Me too," Hannah says, stretching after her leisurely dinner. I interrupt Matt's passionate conversation and speak slowly and clearly, "I'm taking Naomi and Hannah to the bathroom. You are in charge of Emma and Toby." "Okay," he smiles agreeably. I plunk the tub of baby wipes in front of Matt as a suggestion and lead Naomi and Hannah to the bathroom. After washing and drying three pairs of hands we head back out. I wonder briefly what state I will find my children in.
Quickly I survey the restaurant. The table is empty. Matt is at the drink bar engaged in theological conversation with a stranger from Milwaukee. Emma is beside him. Oh crap! Where's Toby?! I glance around--no sign of him. But why is that three-foot yellow "Caution Wet Floor" pillar bobbing along between the tables? Toby is visibly pleased with his accomplishment. Strangers at table by dessert bar are less than amused. Poor them, it must be hard not having a sense of humor. Pillar is returned to spill by drink bar. Toby screams at loss of friend. Narrowed-eyed glare is given to Matt before I smile and shake stranger-from-Milwaukee's hand. Who's ready for bed?