I think our days of going to restaurants are numbered.
Natalie used to sit happily while we ate.
What would happen is that we'd carry her in strapped in her carseat. She'd sit there for about ten minutes and then one of us would take her out and sit her on our laps. And she would be CONTENT.
Then when she learned to sit up we'd put her in the high chair.
And she would be CONTENT.
But ever since she's become mobile, the last thing she wants to do is sit. In fact she almost looks horrified when I plop her into the high chair at home and announce that it's time to eat.
I don't have time for this whole eating business, Natalie's look will clearly say to me.
On Friday, before Tom went to work, we went to Perkins. Mainly because Tom kept searching around the house and every few seconds he'd announce that there was "nothing to eat."
"Tom," I said, "I just went grocery shopping."
He opened the fridge and looked in. "Nothing to eat," he repeated firmly.
I threw my hands up. "Then what do you want?"
Tom tapped his chin. "Wendys," he answered.
I wish I had more willpower. If I had willpower like my mother I'd have snapped that we were staying at home.
But then I started picturing Wendys fries and their spicy chicken sandwich and my mouth started to water...
"We can go to Wendys," I found myself saying.
So we all bundled into the truck.
We drove to Wendys--and discovered that half of Wyoming must've thought that Wendys sounded good too because the parking lot was packed. And the drive thru that we were going to, well, drive through, had cars wrapped around the building. As we watched in horror, another car actually decided to wait in the Longest Line Ever and was nearly out into the street.
"There goes that idea," Tom muttered.
My beautiful spicy chicken sandwich started to fade away from my thoughts.
Fare thee well...I shall see you another time..
"Perkins is nearby," I spoke up.
Tom made a face. "Ugh. I'm Perkinsed out. We ate too much there when we first got here."
It's true. For some reason we always wanted to go to Perkins.
But, I mean, the food is delicious and cheap.
You can't beat that.
"Then let's go home," I said.
That got Tom. He turned the truck around the second we got the green arrow and a few seconds later we were parking in front of Perkins.
Perkins is also known as Old People Central.
Because of the oodles of old people that like to eat there.
Seriously, you'll be seated and you'll look around and realize that you're the only twenty-something in there.
We were shown to a booth and handed menus. Tom set the carseat down beside him and opened his menu.
"AHHHHHH!" Natalie shouted in protest as I drooled over a picture of an omelette.
Tom glanced over at her. "Here," he said, digging her play phone from the diaper bag. He handed it over and Natalie tossed it on the floor and stared at him indignantly.
Hello? her looked said, I didn't want some cheap toy. I want OUTTTTTT!!
(And then, for some bizarre reason, Stewie Griffin from The Family Guy's voice popped into my head. "Put me through to the Pentagon!!" Which proves that Tom watches the show wayyy too much.)
"AHHH!" Natalie repeated.
Tom shut his menu.
"Okay," he said. "Okay." He unstrapped her quickly and lifted her out. If there is one thing Tom hates, it's hearing another kid freak out in a restaurant. Especially his own kid.
He plopped her in his lap and re-opened his menu.
"Eeee!" Natalie said, grabbing for it. She grabbed a corner and tried to pull it down.
"Natalie," Tom said. "Daddy is looking."
The waitress came over and asked what we wanted to drink.
"Diet coke," I said.
"Cherry coke," Tom said.
Mmm, cherry coke.
But I mustn't drink my calories.
The waitress left to get those and Tom managed to pick what he wanted to eat while wrestling the menu away from Natalie's eager fingers.
I decided on the BLT on sourdough. It came with fries and fresh fruit. Oh and a chocolate chip cookie.
Tom got the quesidillas.
We ordered our choices a few minutes later and then struggled to get Natalie to sit.
I think I was tossing every toy that I had put in the diaper bag at her.
"Look Natalie. It's Elmo. You LOVE Elmo," I'd say, waving it at her.
Apparently she does not love Elmo because she'd just toss it aside and struggle to break free from Tom's arms.
Tom let her stand up against her carseat at one point and we'd thought she'd be happy with that--but no, she sat back down and started trying to slide down onto the floor.
"No Natalie," Tom said. "You have to sit. Sit on Daddy's lap. Look, here," he said, handing her an extra straw that the waitress left.
In the good days, the EASY days, a straw would entertain Natalie for the duration of the meal. She'd turn it around in her hands, marveling on what this tall white plastic thing could possibly be.
But now she just put the straw where everything else was going: the floor.
And then she struggled to break free again.
"I...okay, she wants Mommy," Tom said, reaching his breaking point. He lifted her up and handed her over.
Which only confirms that he could never be a stay at home dad. He once mentioned that if I ever made it big with writing that he'd possibly quit his job and stay home with the kids so I could work. But I can picture things getting too crazy, too insane, and him just running up to the bedroom and shutting the door behind me. Then when I'd get home (or really, out of the room where I'd be writing in) I'd find the children stuck in front of the TV and find my husband curled in a fetal postion on the bed repeating, "Too much. Can't take this. Too much."
I didn't fare much better with the wiggly Natalie. She twisted and turned on my lap. I let her stand up on my lap but then she'd peek over the other booth. And I know that one time you see a child do that that it's cute--the old people over there waved at her and said she was adorable--but after the first time, no one wants to see your child peeking over again.
They just don't.
Some parents don't understand this.
Thankfully Tom and I do.
"AHHHHHHHHHHH!" Natalie shrieked in my ear. For the next two hours all I could hear was ringing in that ear.
Our food blissfully came and I told Natalie that she was going to sit in the high chair.
"I'll give you some food," I promised, setting her in.
While I was cutting a piece of my sandwich off, my dear daughter stood up in the high chair and waved her hands in the air.
The two old ladies across from us snickered--we had been their entertainment for the past twenty minutes. They'd giggle as Natalie would break free, and guffaw behind their palms as Natalie would toss toy after toy on the floor.
"Hiiiiiiiiiiiiii!" Natalie said to the restaurant, waving her hand around.
Tom shot me a Look. "Get her," he hissed.
"You get her," I hissed back. "I need to eat."
Tom gestured to his plate. "Me too!"
I took Natalie and set her back down in her high chair.
"We sit," I said in a firm voice. "Sit."
Then I handed over a miniscule piece of sandwich.
"Amber," Tom said, staring at it. "I can barely SEE it."
"I don't want her to choke!" I argued.
"I know but..it looks like elf food or something. Smaller than elf food even. It--"
"You just shut your mouth," I snapped, my patience boiling over. I pushed the piece closer to Natalie and made a motion with my hands of eating it. "Eat," I instructed to her. "Eat."
Natalie shook her head at me. And then, not surprisingly, brushed the piece onto the floor. Then she tried to stand up again.
"Natalie, no," I said in a stern voice. I sat her back down again.
The two old ladies giggled as they sipped their coffee.
Welcome to the Amber and Natalie show , I wanted to say, That'll be twenty bucks.
In desperation, I handed Natalie a fry.
She put it into her mouth and sucked.
"Yes," I muttered, lifting the sandwich to my lips. I took a bite. Mmm delicious.
Natalie tossed the fry onto the floor.
And stood up again.
"Natalie," I said, my mouth full of delicious sandwich. "Sit!"
Natalie shook her head.
I took her in my arms and set her beside me on the booth. "Then sit here," I said.
Natalie immediatly pulled herself up and tried to peek over the booth.
"No," I said. "No." I pulled her back down.
"AHHHHHH!" she snapped at me.
I glared at Tom, who was happily eating his quesadilla. "Give me a piece of that," I said pointing to his plate.
"Huh?" Tom looked confused.
I reached over and pulled a piece of quesadilla off his plate. And handed it to Natalie, hoping it would keep her happy.
It went on the--you guessed it--floor.
I offered her Cheerios, a strawberry fruit bar, and those Gerber puffs thingies.
All littered the floor.
I even offered her my purse, which usually keeps her entertained. She'll usually pull out my cell phone and punch in buttons that I didn't even know existed.
Oh! So that's how I change my ring tone!
Or she'll rummage through my wallet and stare at the credit cards with wide eyes.
Shopping, I'll tell her. You'll love it when you're older..
I didn't start to love shopping until I was like 20. Before that my Mom had to drag me out to find new clothes.
I somehow managed to finish my meal while holding onto an impatient Natalie. She started to crawl up and down the booth so I was able to quickly eat my food. But then she'd try to slide down to the floor and I'd have to stop her.
When the waitress brought the check I handed Natalie over to Tom.
"We're going now," I said.
Tom popped his last bite into his mouth. "Okay," he replied.
He strapped Natalie into her carseat and I picked up all the mess on the floor. I know people are paid to do that but I feel bad. I always try to keep the table neat.
Then we went to pay and I figured I'd get my eclair to cheer me up.
But there was none.
"Where are the eclairs?" I said to Tom.
But the cashier behind the counter heard me and smirked. "We don't always make those," she offered.
"That's absurd!" I said again to Tom and the cashier giggled.
Apparently we were just the amusement of the restaurant that day.
I decided to get a blueberry mammoth muffin instead.
On the drive home I told Tom, "I don't think we'll be able to go to restaurants very much," and the idiot replied with, "Why?"
Did he not SEE his daughter??
Probably not, he was too busy eating his LUNCH while it was actually WARM.
I'll miss restaurants.
But then I thought in horror about how we'd be in DisneyWorld in June and how we were eating out in restaurants the entire week. For lunch AND dinner.