There are few things I dread more than packing up my kids and taking them out in public.  They are cute kids, their unbiased Mother types, don’t get my wrong.  But they are 4, 2 and 1 and a diva, a whiner and a determined little cookie.  And these kids are a lot of work at home, much less out where I have no barbed wire fences to keep them in. 

Kidding.  That would be mean.

So when my husband came home and, trying to ease my cooking burden, suggested we – I – get the kids ready and we go out for a nice family dinner, I felt my lower intestine twist in agonizing protest.  Or it could have been that I ate bad chicken…  but I think it was the dinner thing.

I believe it is grossly underestimated the time it takes to prepare a family of any size to go out.  If I am given advance notice, I try to start preparing the night before.  No, I didn’t learn that in Girl Scouts, I learned it in Motherhood.  The longer prep time I have, the less likely I am to leave anything behind.  Like a kid.  Because that would be wrong.

It would.  I checked. 

Though my husband meant well, the suggestion of leaving for dinner as soon as we – I  – could get the kids ready just added a pile of mommy work to my day. 

First, everyone was filthy.  We had played outside most of the day. This consisted of playing in dirt, rolling in the dirt, pouring dirt on our sister’s head and, often, eating the dirt.  Nothing like a toddler grin full of brown mud to make you say “awwwwwwww”. 

I strip them down, throw them in my shower and proceed with a trio cleaning  It ends in a trio tantrum and a flooded bathroom.  I am ok with it though because I heard through the chaos that we were going for Mexican food.  There is just about nothing I won’t do for Mexican food.  Really, nothing. Try me.  I am free on Thursday.

It takes me almost an hour to shower, dry, dress, groom, find shoes for, and bribe the kids into some sort of good mood.  As I am doing this, my huband is getting a shower.  Fine by me, his help makes more work for me anyway.  Between you and me, after 3 girls, you would think he would have learned that the ties on dresses go in the back by now.  He seems to have a mental block on it though. 

I desperately need a shower so I quickly hop in while he gets the girls into their car seats.  That he knows how to do.  His lack of patience at their not wanting to get in, wanting to buckle themselves and other nuances will quickly frustrate him but I try not to worry about it. I have one minute to shower, after all!   

By the time I get to the car, my 3 well groomed, content girls are in different stages of crying, sweating through their summer dresses in the hot Texas heat and their father looks like a margarita is needed intravenously.  Oh well, we’ve gone this far.  I am not turning back.  Plus, I don’t think Lucky Charms can really constitute dinner.

We get to the restaurant and the girls start coloring on the provided place mats.  Whomever started this trend is a genius and a statue should be erected in their honor.  Brilliance, pure brilliance!

Being the seasoned mother, and learning from past mistakes, I immediately order food for the whole table almost before we sit down.  Queso, chips, quesadillas – known as cheese pizza – very confusing on pizza night – and rice.  A dinner fit for a future Weight Watcher’s member. 

We sit in semi – quiet, ok loud, happiness while the two older ones color and the baby tests her stomach’s tolerance by eating the crayons.  It is actually pretty nice and I feel myself starting to relax.  My husband orders a margarita and I make sure I have the keys to get us home.  All is well so I try to soak up this wonderful family moment.

It does not last long.  Sarah has to go potty.  The first of about 35 trips I will make this evening.  I joke to my husband that he should take Sarah and he looks at me like I have grown two – more – heads.  “What am I going to do with her in a men’s bathroom?”  Oh, un – clench.  I was kidding!

We get back from the “fancy bathroom” as Sarah names her new favorite vacation spot, just in time for the food to arrive.  I work fast and dish out the plates to the kids.  I hear, and ignore, “I don’t want cheese pizza.”  Good, it’s a quesadilla.  “Mommy,  I want a spoon.” Here.  “Mommy, I am trying to color.”  Color later.  “No.” 

I spend the next thirty minutes or so helping children scoop up and eat food, wipe their mouths, not knock over their non- plastic plates and picking up forks, spoons, dolls, cups, and napkins off of the floor.  I hear my husband say “Wow, this is really good!  I should get this every time.”  My plate sits untouched except for a dent in the rice where Megan felt the need to collect a handful and drop it on the floor.   I make a mental note to add another dollar to the tip.

I am sweating, hungry and so preoccupied with my kids and their behavior that I don’t notice my husband looking at me.  When I do catch his eye, I think he is admiring my multi- tasking.  All set for praise, I say “Yes?”

 “You have cheese on your boob.”

That’s great hon, thanks. 

He then asks “Is it hot in that corner?  You are sweating.”

Yes, honey, it is hot in this one corner of this freezing cold restaurant.  Thank you for your concern. 

Mercifully, after my children have dripped queso all over the table and themselves, have thrown all but 2 grains of rice on the floor, and decided that it is perfectly acceptable to tell the table next to us that they think the paper towel dispensers in the potty are “so cool”, the check arrives.  I remind my husband to tip 100% of the bill, and begin to gather our things.  I look at my half eaten enchilada and wonder if it would be bad etiquette to cram the entire thing into my mouth. 

Erring on the side of grossness, I abandoned my lovely, cheesy, saturated and trans fat plate of nirvana and attempt to adjust my small purse to cover the previously pointed out, precariously placed cheese stain. 

We get the children in the car and I breathe a huge sigh of relief.  Sans my tea being knocked over by a giggling, excited Sarah, the entire supply of rice in the state of Texas sticking to the floor of the restaurant and the three outfits that I will have to soak for hours, it was not a horrific experience.

“That wasn’t so bad, huh?” analyzes my dear, wonderful, full husband. 

No, honey.  It was fine.  Thank you for dinner.