Saturday, March 10, 2007

Me and Osama - Or, Dinner Out With the Family

It may not be fair to write this when I am as irritated as I currently am, because it may be coloring my vision of the events I am about to relate. We had pretty much nothing planned for today, so we figured after we cleaned the house (our family's saturday ritual) we would go to the Monte L. Bean Museum on the BYU campus. It's free, it's open on Saturday, and it's full of dead stuffed animals, so you really can't beat it. Anyhow, I will share my thoughts on the Bean museum later, but if we could fast-forward to leaving the museum when DH says, "I'm hungry." It is 4:05 which in my mind means, early dinner with no crowds, right? As we are right around the corner from the Creamery on Ninth, a tiny, local diner-type of place with freshly made ice cream and pretty tasty burgers, we decide to go there. I've eaten there once, with my family during Education Week last summer. I think it must have been their last day here visiting, because I remember my dad saying that if he had discovered that place earlier they would have eaten there like every day. And for good reason, as the burgers are almost as good as Coney's, my favorite burger place, their selection of ice cream is immense, and it is dirt cheap, catering mostly to poor BYU students (who must be poor because of the number of cars they own taking up all the parking spots. But I digress.)

So, we head over there, and probably get in the door at 4:15. How long do you think it should take the average family of 5, including two children who most likely won't eat anything anyhow, to eat a dinner consisting of burgers and fries and a hot fudge sundae for dessert? Well, if you said "Close to two hours," by golly we've got a winner! Yes, that is right, a place that doesn't even have wait staff to take your order, where you have to pick up your own food when they call your name, and then throw your own trash away afterwards, took almost two hours start to finish. Which, in normal child circumstances, is not only close to eternity, but is actually longer than most feature-length kids films, and that doesn't even hold their attention through the whole thing. So, what we are talking about is a crisis in the making, right? Close, but throw this in as a factor: My children were almost perfect angels the entire time. The real problem came from our family's worst enemy: low-blood sugar.

it's really hard to understand the gravity of an illness that doesn't have many outward symptoms, comes and goes on an almost predictable basis, can't kill you, and causes no bodily harm, except what might come from the rest of the family members when they have to deal with you. But if you've lived with someone with hypoglycemia, you would wonder why there isn't as much federal spending on hypoglycemia research as there is, say, on the War on Terror. In some ways, low-blood sugar creates little mini-terrorists from whoever it is currently affecting.

In our family, we learned, about a year ago or so, that DH and Boy #2 both are hypoglycemic. Once we realized that, so many of the problems we've had as a family, or really in our relationships with each other, made so much sense. That's why #2 predictably throws a fit at 5pm every day! That's why Fast Sundays are so intolerable at our house! That's why DH and I had our very first argument when we were dating was over where to go out to eat - neither of us realized that he was long past the point of rational thought and just needed to get food in his body, anything at all.

If you can remember all the way to the beginning of this post, you'll recall that DH said the magic words, "I'm hungry." In War on Terror terms, this is the equivalent of Osama bin Laden declaring a jihad on the Simmons family. Unless we make a swift, pre-emptive strike, we are likely to end up with a variety of Weapons of Mass Destruction, all waiting to be unleashed against the Great White Enemy. And I'm sure you can tell that what we did not get was a swift response. We did not get a pre-emptive strike. What we got was a lot of UN negotiations. What we got was some ineffective left-wing pandering. What we got was a 20 minute wait in line, followed by an additional 15-20 minutes of waiting for our food. And that, my friends, is entirely too long for someone with low-blood sugar.

Hypoglycemia rears its ugly head in a variety of WMD's, like shaking, nausea, irrational thought, uncontrollable anger, yelling, and many other things. The WMD that was utilized at the Creamery on Ninth was Migraine Headache. A particularly nasty weapon, for any of you who have dealt with it. Combine the migraine with antsy, wiggly kids in a very loud, crowded restaurant, and there's the real problem. DH sat at a table with the kids while I waited in line, placed the order, got the drinks, and went back to wait to pick up the food (they forgot to take my name so we were afraid we wouldn't know when it was done). We finally got our food, which DH said had better be the most fantastic food in the world for the wait, and by the time I got back from trying in vain to find some mayo, he had totally finished his meal.

Now the wait was for the kids to finish eating so we could pick up our ice cream. In trying to save time, I paid in advance for our ice cream, so as to avoid the humongous line. Boy #1 ate quickly, Boy #3 pretty much refused to eat, which wasn't surprising, and Boy #2 had drunk so much root beer waiting for his food to come that he was no longer hungry for his cheeseburger. We tried to cajole him into eating some of his burger at least, and I think we got a total of about 4 bites in him and called it a meal. Now, at this point, if we hadn't paid for the ice cream already (and, of course, eaten dinner in an ice cream restaurant) we would have just left without it and stopped at a grocery store and picked up a 1/2 gallon of something for $2.50. But no, my efficiency dictated that I now was obligated to go pick up the previously ordered ice cream. The two older kids trooped over to the case and decided on Peanut Butter Fudge for #1 and Vanilla for #2. DH was fine with whatever, at this point he was simply trying not to let his head explode all over the table (which is the kind of thing you'd see on Heroes). You could tell by the look on his face that the whole experience was killing him.

It was approximately 5:30 at this point. I went back up to the counter and marched directly up to a person and announced, kindly, that we had paid already and needed to pick up our ice cream. There was another customer, a guy about my dad's age, already kind of lurking over there where I was (which was past the register, so clearly not in the regular line). While waiting for the person to come scoop my ice cream, I looked at the guy and asked if he was picking up a paid order also - he looked vaguely familiar from the first line an hour ago. He was, but in typical my-dad fashion, he had not marched up to the counter and kindly announced his intentions like any self-respecting woman would have done. I knew my order was going to take a long time and that he was there first, so when the ice cream jockey finally came over to take my order, I pointed to the guy next to me and said that he had been there first. Arrgh. I remember a time when DH and I were very first dating and we met at a Wendy's for lunch. There wasn't anybody in line at the register but in the Disneyland-style line formers a woman was standing, hanging back, still looking at the menu. So DH walked past her and up to the register, and as I followed him I heard her make some noise, I can't remember what she said but I knew she believed us to be cutting in line and was ticked about it. DH totally was oblivious to the whole thing, he'd never cut in line on purpose, but it's been almost 12 years since that happened and I still feel bad. I could have pretended today, as I had that time, that I didn't realize the guy was there first, but I sure as heck don't need another thing to feel guilty about.

The kids see the a cup on top of the ice cream case with regular size spoons, and also a cup of mini-spoons which they prefer to eat with. They would eat every meal with a taster spoon if they could. I wonder if they make mini taster-sized forks and knives, maybe that would be the solution to the no-eating-dinner problem. So #1 and #2 are breathing all over the case and drawing pictures in their breath. I tell #2 to knock it off because it is so germy and gross, so he proceeds to cough all over the thing. I tell #1 that that is why there is glass over the ice cream instead of it just being open. He reaches up to grab a full size spoon (he already has a mini-spoon in his mouth) and knocks the entire cup off the counter. With lightning-quick reflexes, I throw my arm forward and stop the cup against the case while it is still upright, and place it back on the counter. Another father is nearby and sees my fantastic catch and says, "That comes from being a mom!" It was great getting some recognition for the unique skills that mothering requires! It's a rare experience.

After the guy in front of me picked up his 4 kids cones, I placed my order, which consisted of 2 regular hot fudge sundaes and 1 large hot fudge sundae (for me) and a large brownie sundae for DH. I forgot that I had ordered two kids meals, which come with a kid's cone, so we ended up with 6 different ice cream concoctions for the 5 of us. Normally, this would be time to celebrate, but as we were already fairly full from dinner and tired of being at that place, it was just a matter of get it over with, which isn't how ice cream is supposed to be eaten. I personally love ice cream, of all the delicious treats that I could gain serious weight from, ice cream is my favorite. And I got mint chocolate chip with peanut butter tracks (chocolate ice cream with a thick ribbon of peanut butter - yum!). But by then I was exhausted from dealing with everything, I felt like I barely sat the entire time, and just looking at DH made my head want to hurt too, because he was so obviously miserable.

Here's the part that made me irritated, though. I had been handling everything well up until this point and had a fairly good attitude. The Creamery is not just a diner, it also is a mini-grocery store, so that as you wait for your ice cream order, you can lean up against a display of cases of Campbell's soup cans which are on sale. So I said, why don't you just go buy some headache medicine? And he replies, oh, I've got some in the car. What the heck??!? DH is not my mother's child, where the whole game is tough it out until you are just about to throw up from the pain. He has no qualms about taking medicine. So what gives? Why torture yourself if the answer to your problem is sitting in the van, currently parked in the 30 minute parking lot outside? Well, he says, he's been busy watching the kids while I've been up and down dealing with the food and whatnot. Which is absolutely true. Plus, he thought that once he ate it would solve the problem, as it generally does. So it wasn't like it was so obvious for the entire now hour and a half that we've been sitting there. But I am slightly disgruntled, because while the hypoglycemia could not be avoided, it does seem as though the destruction from the WMD could have been mitigated somewhat. In his defense, though, it could have been substantially worse - as he pointed out to me later, he was just trying to sit and be quiet and not yell at the kids or flip out.

The kids are finishing up their ice cream sundaes, #2 of course is pretty bored with his vanilla ice cream and tries some of the extra kid's scoop we've got (English Toffee) but really isn't interested. DH decides to take #2 out to the car to wait for the rest of us to be done. #3 is eating prodigiously, due to the fact that he alone ate almost no real food. #1 had snagged DH's giant brownie sundae instead of his small hot fudge and DH is too miserable to fight about it, or maybe he doesn't really care. But it is way too much ice cream for him too. So we end up with: 1 cup English Toffee, 1/2 cup Candy Bar (#3's leftovers), About 3 spoonfuls of #2's vanilla ice cream sundae, 1/2 of the Brownie sundae #1 started, and 1/2 of the large hot fudge sundae that I started. I combined the two large sundaes into one bowl, which means I've got 4 cups of ice cream to carry out. I make DH and #2 take their ice cream out with them, and they leave. I load #1 up with the first pile of trash to take to the trash can and gather the rest of the trash. When I go to hand him the next load, he is nowhere to be found - he decided to go with everyone else out to the car. Oh, this was it, the completely last straw. Why the heck did I think this whole dinner was going to be a good idea?? I've got #3 covered in chocolate ice cream, a table covered in trash, and a quite full bladder and no way to go to the bathroom, plus a pile of everyone's ice cream to carry to the car. Oh, I am steamed now. I recognize that as a parent, when we go somewhere as a family it is not necessarily the intention of the outing for me specifically to have a good time. It's usually about the kids. But at some point, it has to be at least a little bit about you, too, or else the whole event is nothing but pain. I mean, seriously, I like to go out to eat because it is generally less work than cooking dinner. But this was easily much more work than cooking dinner, and equally unappreciated, as witnessed by the fact that I was just abandoned by everyone able to actually help.

So I clean off the table. I clean off Boy #3. I refill my soda cup so that DH can take some medicine in the car, I know he didn't take his own cup because I just threw it away. I balance the two remaining containers of ice cream in one hand and the cup of soda in the other. #3 is wearing his kid leash so at least I'm not worried about him running too far away from me, but I grab his hand with my pinky and ring finger with the soda hand. A woman in her 60's is sitting at a table next to us alone, saving it for her family which is just starting the wait in line adventure, and she decides to smile and wave at #3, who feels the need to hide his head, thus causing great unbalance in my perfect carrying setup. But that's okay, again with the unique mothering skills I am able to balance all of these things and could probably put a bag of laundry on my head as well.

I have to hold #3's hand even with the leash because it is so crowded and there is no way that he could find the front door through the forest of grown-up legs. We maneuver our way out to the van and DH, who sees me coming, opens his door and takes the ice cream out of my hands so I can get #3 in the car. He climbs in his car seat and helps me buckle his seat belt, and very sweetly says "thank you, mommy!" He is unaware of anyone else's pain, boredom, or frustration, which means that he is the happiest one in the car. It is 6:00 when we drive out of the parking lot. The other two boys are in a decent mood too, and when we get home they go out to play, while DH goes in, takes some medicine, and hides in a dark room, and I start writing this. It is quite therapeutic, I wish I had gotten more out of my system because DH comes down while I'm still a little steamed by the whole evening and he asks me how it went for me. Needless to say, about 15 minutes after that conversation I had to go find him and apologize. But now, #3 is asleep, #2 is in bed after a nice 30 minute soak in the tub followed up by a popsicle, and #1 has a friend over watching a Bill Cosby DVD ("Himself" - the one with the "Dad is great, give us chocolate cake" song I remember from my childhood) so DH and I have been sitting here laughing together for half an hour. Boy, that's one funny guy, Bill Cosby - some of the things he says about parenting are so true that it makes me want to cry, and there was no way that I found those parts as funny as a child.

The kids were fantastic tonight, though, they handled the dinner so well that I don't want to disparage them at all. Really, as horrible as this whole evening could have been, it wasn't, and I'm trying super hard to keep that in mind. Sometimes it is really easy to blame the kids for anything that goes badly, even when they have nothing to do with it, since the fact that they exist and I am their parent can frequently be enough to cause problems. After #1's friend goes home I'm going to ask him what he thinks about dinner, and ask #2 tomorrow, my guess is that they will think the whole thing was great. And then they are going to ask for their leftover ice cream, which might be a problem. :) Oh, and I'll have to follow up this post some other time with my Bean Museum opinions - suffice to say that I am not a big fan of dead animals. But thanks for the vent session, everyone, I feel much better now!


GrandpaFred said...

In the imortal words of somebody... Its good to say these kind of things out loud, as it seems, when you keep them in your head they just get worst.

I love the 9th street creamery also but see a recept for disaster in the setup of the place. Its inexpensive, which means its going to be crowded. Those kind of places mean that you have to get the food as take out. Tragically the food is good so who wants to eat it 1/2 hour later when you can just do it there!

The other thought... These kind of brain exploding things, don't seem to make much of an impression on kids, or maybe do no lasting damage to them is a better way of thinking of it. My worst memories of eating out was always at Friendly's. The first was when we were on vacation in Florida then at the one in Randalstown. I just gave up on the place.

Emilayohead said...

What makes that place worse is that I was waiting in line to place my food order in the same line as all the teenagers ordering their ice cream, which is made on the spot, after they sample six different flavors. If they had had a separate line for those of us just ordering food, it would have gone a thousand times faster.

Do you mean that your worst memories of eating out as a family was at Friendly's? Because I have great memories of that place! My favorite memories of eating out as a family was Shoney's breakfast buffet. They have a Shoney's in St. George (which is, in my opinion, that city's only redeeming quality - it's way too hot!) and one morning when we were visiting the family down there, #1 and I were the first ones awake, like at 6:30, so I took him there for breakfast. Just as yummy as when I was a kid. (But I'm a sucker for breakfast food, it doesn't have to be high quality, just lots of different variety that I don't have to cook!)