Once it had finally stopped blizzing outside yesterday evening, the entire family was ready for an outing.
And believe me, no-one among us was more ready to get out of the house than ME.
Don't get me wrong: I loves me some "family togetherness time". But after two solid days of entertaining children and trying to help my husband operate his business from our kitchen table, the togetherness-thing was getting "old". What's more, the unholy mess generated by five people stuck in the same house was becoming more than ever-so-slightly difficult to keep up with. The kitchen looked as though a small hurricane had passed through it, with annual reports and craft supplies strewn hither and yon, not to mention the dirty dishes that were stacked in the sink (rather than IN THE DISHWASHER... But don't get me started on THAT...) The peak of Mt Washmore teetered dangerously close to the laundry room ceiling, as children whipped through outfits to suit their ever-changing moods and activities...
And worst of all, the proverbial cupboard was rapidly approaching the "bare" stage.
So, when the question of where we should go for our first outing in two days arose from the stir-crazed throng, my answer rang out loud and clear:
"Out. To. Eat."
We have a wonderful restaurant here in the town that we call home. It is locally-owned, beautifully appointed, and serves more than just your average "family fare". My husband has entertained clients there, it is where we chose to host my parents' fortieth wedding anniversary party, and yet, we feel completely comfortable bringing our three children with us to dine on a fairly regular basis. The staff sits us in our favourite booth, breaks out the crayons for the kids (and a half litre of white wine for the adults), and make us feel like their most welcome and valued customers.
Yes, THAT was just the environment that was called for by five-thirty, yesterday evening.
We settled cosily into our seats, and it wasn't long before our food was placed in front of us. Child Number One and I shared a Greek platter, as we are both very fond of the beautifully prepared chicken brochettes with tzatziki. Child Number Two chose pasta with alfredo sauce. My husband ordered a Tuscan chicken breast with garlic mashed potatoes, which he wolfed down in record time, having not taken a single moment's break from the highly volatile stock market all day. And Child Number Three requested and received a cheese and pepperoni pizza.
The pizza was undoubtedly large for a child as small as Wee Three. The single-serving pie was about the equivalent of the size of her head, doubled. However, she regarded her plate with wide eyes, delicately picked up a single slice (which I had had to cut in half for her so it would fit in her tiny hand), and began to eat.
By the time she reached the crust at the end of her second piece, it became increasingly apparent to the parents that this was a meal destined to be sent home in a doggy bag. However, never a man to let good, hot food "go to waste", and having snarfled down his own meal faster than any of the rest of us, my husband extended his hand across the table to his littlest daughter's plate:
Father: Well, you're certainly doing a good job with that pizza, sweetie, but maybe Daddy will just help you out a little bit...
Wee Three's response was swift and fast. She stood up on the chair she had been kneeling on, and encircled her plate with a protective arm.
Wee Three: NO, DADDY. Mama says you NOT allowed to snatch fings from other people!! Dat's not nice!! Dis is MY din-der, and you hafta ASK ME FIRST.
My husband shot me a withering look, but recoiled when I arched my eyebrow at him, daring him to try and "undo" one of the most difficult toddler-taming lessons I have been working so hard to instill...
Father: (wisely nodding in agreement) You're right. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snatch you dinner without asking. I just figured that since you LOVE your dear old dad so much, and know how hungry I am after working all day, that you'd WANT to share your pizza with me.
The grimace on Wee Three's face stayed put, as did the protective arm around the plate.
Father: Aren't you going to offer me just one piece? You can't eat it ALL, you know.
The expression on her face deepened slightly.
Father: (sighing loudly) Oh, all RIGHT. PLEASE will you share your pizza with me? I'd really like to try it, it looks so good...
At the sound of the Magic Word, Wee Three suddenly became sweetness and light once more. She sat back down on her chair, and smiled warmly at her father. She responded, loudly, while pulling her plate in just a little bit closer: