Okay, so last week, as usual I'm attempting to work and get side tracked (so easy for me). I decide to email a friend of ours who was slated to visit the 'left' coast from New York in March. Thought I'd see when he was coming and what the schedule is - he's a Passionist Priest and has written three very good books and gives great spiritual retreats; that's how we met him. It's always great to rub shoulders with people who inspire you, and being the selfish person I am, I wanted to make sure we get on his dance card.
He wrote back that he was coming into town in the next week, so I ping ponged the email to hubby, the dude of the house for the two of them to figure out the when and the where. By the time I get back to my email, I find out that we are doing dinner in Bel Air,.. with all five kids. Okaaaay,... That's an hour and a half drive to a place where they expect children to be sort of refined when they are out in public.
Then, I click on the link to the restaurant they've picked and first I'm slapped by the picture of a very nice dining room,.. with fine linens and crystal on all the tightly packed tables. Fine linen and crystal encumbered restaurants is the reason we either ate a picnic on our beds in the hotel room or dined in pubs during our vacation in London with only two kids.
After getting through the initial shock of what two adult men think is 'kid friendly', I peruse the online menu and find nice comfort food,.. mac and cheese (with truffle oil), meatloaf (with saffron infused mashed sweet potatoes), spaghetti bolognaise (with veal),.. you know, the average fare I whip up for my kids every week night. Ack.
Well, fine. I've spent countless hours on claustrophobic airplanes and sweaty third world countries with children; I can handle Bel Air.
We invite our other inspiring friend who happens to be a priest as well. Hubby and I handle three baseball practices and I get the car washed, almost missing my hair appointment that is two months (that is about 3 inches of really dark roots on the skanky California blond color I chose back in early December when I was still a mother of four.) past due. I only make it to the appointment because I basically met hubby at a street corner and hurled small bodies at him from a stalled car.
I go get freshly blond and have a 'revelation' (read: stupid idea from lack of sleep for almost three months) that I want to put a little pinkish color as a highlight. It seems to be the cool thing to do up here in Yucaipa. And when I was a teenager (read: younger than I am now) I would color my hair with Crayola markers because my 'I'll-realize-how-smart-you-really-are-when-I'm-almost-30 parents threatened to disown me if I did anything permanent to any part of my body while living in their house.
Well, the color I got was purple. Pretty darned purple. But she styled it great and the blond looked good. Two out of three is a good thing in my book these days, just read my whiny blogs if you don't understand.
So, I race home, get kids dressed, whip on some clothes, our friend comes over and we hit the road. Our friend has decided we will play games in the car and has a bag of goodies as prizes for the kids. The boys play games like find the most trucks, motorcycles, etc,.. until we get to different freeways and have a great time. They especially have a great time because the goodie bag is filled with candy. Not just little 'fun' size pieces of candy. We are talking full size candy bars! Ack.
I frantically make sure the boys only eat enough to make themselves feel like puking a little bit. They start to hyperventilate because of the massive amounts of sugar they have just consumed. Eyes are rolling back in their heads. Right before attending Catholic Mass. In BelAir.
We get lost (of course). This always happens when you have a deadline and small kids freaking out in the car. The last time we went near LA with other friends (smartly sans children) we were so late getting to our dinner and a show that my friend Wendy was running to the theatre with her piece of salmon in the palm of her hand.
We get lost in an interesting part of LA I will refer to as 'Little Tijuana.' The kid games change to 'you win if you find a block without a pawn shop' and 'the first person to find a sign in english wins.'
We make it out and to Mass. A half hour late. Right when our friend is giving the homily, which means it is very quiet. We are trying to sneak in the back or even go hunker down in the cry room when the other cantankerous priest we brought whips open the heavy door and saunters down the isle. The rest of us scurry in and find our places in the pew.
Mass goes fine, it always does when you miss half of it. It's not until the end that I find out our cantankerous friend told the boys he switched his phone to 'stun gun' (vibrate) and the boys have been begging him to taser me all during the Mass. Fine, I'll just eat all their hershey bars.
We get to the restaurant and park next to a Bentley. Good thing I got the ol' Suburban washed,.. We go into the restaurant and it is very nice and LOUD. I thank my lucky stars, although between the two of us, hubby and I take little children out of the dining area three times so as not become 'those people' who let their children scream in public settings. Sabrina hits her Shirley Temple with her very large menu and I catch it all in my lap. The baby nurses to be quiet and I'm afraid to move her once she stops for fear of waking the screaming meemie. Dinner is like riding a very big wave - a swell of sheer terror followed by peace and quiet, kind of like being in the eye of a hurricane. One boy eats all the salad off our cantakerous friend's plate. The picky kid hates his mac n' cheese. I can barely digest my gnocchi due to such a hormonal rollercoaster dining with the kids in high society.
At the end of the meal, we are greeted by no less than four other tables bestowing their pleasure at having dined with our brood; they are all so beautiful and well behaved they exclaim. (You have to wonder how many glasses of wine these people have had, but I take any compliment I can get these days.)
Thank you Lord, maybe I should take priests dining in public all the time.