1. Do not want to cook on a Friday night. Instead, show up at IHOP with three happy children and two hungry parents. Scan menus. Play with sugar packets. Feed baby yogurt pops. Wait. Start stopwatch timer. Play with salt shakers and syrup bottles. Wait. Color kids’ menus. Wait. Feed baby more yogurt pops. After fifteen minutes, ask a passing manager if she knows who your server is because you still don’t and now the happy children are morphing into hungry not-so-happy children. Patient yogurt–pop-eating baby starts to fidget in her high chair. Manager takes drink order and assures you server is on her way. And she is. So you order. Make only one special request, like no hot peppers in the egg skillet dish. Start waiting again. Big kids start crawling and squirming in the booth. Baby throws straw, spoons, her sippy cup on the floor. Only wants food. Food that you don’t have yet even though everyone around you, even those seated after you, has theirs.
Food arrives. Egg skillet dish has hot peppers in it. Send it back to the kitchen. Cut kids’ food up. Pour syrup. Give pancake bits and pieces to baby. Let husband have your bacon while he waits on his egg skill dish with no peppers. Eat as fast as you can. Any minute, squirming quasi-eating kids are going to morph again, this time into syrup-hyped-bouncing creatures for whom the Booth is Not Enough. Resist the urge to savor your banana bread french toast which is delicious, really, but would be more delicious if it had arrived, say thirty minutes ago.
Upon arrival, have egg dish immediately packed up. Flee. Take all three children to parking lot while husband puts at least half of each item ordered into to-go containers. Make comments like, “We’re never coming here again!” “No more going out even for free kids’ meals on a Friday night.” “I wonder if I can find a recipe for banana bread french toast on Pinterest?”
At home during movie night, finish eating dinner. Let kids run around playroom to exhaust their syrup energy.
2. Celebrate grandparent arrival with a trip to Olive Garden, grandma’s favorite restaurant that just so happens to have a coupon that expires today for free kids’ meals. Decide this is dining out destiny.
After water appears on table, wonder about bread sticks. Watch bread sticks, then salad appear at other tables. Let fifteen minutes pass. Bread sticks show up. Shake off the wait. Kids are still entertained by grandparents, playing I-Spy, and sleep. Place order. Make two requests for sauce substitution. Wait. And wait. And wait. Tell husband you think it’s your family, that you are black clouds in restaurants.
When the entrees arrive, know you are black clouds. Both sauce-change requests have been ignored. Send them back and start waiting again.
At the end of the meal, flee with kids to the bathroom and then the car while they are still happy. Meanwhile, have waitress lose credit card in her apron.
3. Take everyone, grandparents too, to Moe’s for Moe’s Monday. Be excited that the dining experience at Moe’s is not contingent upon servers. Declare this a fail-proof eating out adventure because you have done it so many times. What could possibly go wrong today?
Start ordering at counter. Halfway through husband’s burrito order, have baby boy throw up on husband. Finish burrito order while husband and baby boy go get cleaned up. Hear sounds of more throw up over by bathroom. Pay for everyone’s order and get food to the table. Blame over-excitement and consequent throw-up of baby boy on a successful trip to the dentist appointment, a bouncy ball, and fluoride. Sit down to eat with half-naked baby boy sitting on husband’s lap. Dig into nachos. Feel splatter on shoes. Look over. Try not to look down at the floor.
Have grandpa ask for a mop and wave goodbye to husband and clearly sick baby boy. Finish meal with the rest of the family. Talk about not going out to eat for a long, long, long time. Bring home candy as a consolation prize for husband who had to change his clothes at least five times in a two hour period because baby boy either a) did not have a bucket or b) possessed underdeveloped etiquette and/or skill to utilize bucket appropriately.
By morning, be sick. Everyone except baby, that is. Take a vow not to eat out for a month. Maybe a year. Maybe longer.