Monday, April 18, 2011

The Crazy Arby Derby

I loaded my crew into our mini-van and grabbed my cell phone while I was backing out of the Arby’s parking lot.  I couldn’t wait to call my husband.

“Well, that was fun taking all the kids to Arby’s for lunch.”

“Wait a minute!”  My husband replied on the other end, “Did you just say ALL THE KIDS, ARBY’S and FUN in the SAME sentence?”

I always feel naively optimistic upon entering any establishment to eat when I’m flying solo with my fab four in tow.  Either I’m subscribing to the “Ignorance is Bliss” theory or my hunger takes over the logical part of my brain that is screaming, “Don’t do it!  Get out while there is still time!” 

With the smell of curly fries and roast beef luring me in, I succumbed to the magical spell of Arby’s.  Once we were inside, I unloaded my four-year-old, three-year-old, and one-year-old into a booth and scooped the baby into my arms.  I would have to have to leave my three darlings for a moment to go up front and order, but I wouldn’t leave them alone, I was leaving behind the Holy Spirit, I mean-The Holy Fear of Their Momma!  

“Sit here,”  I said, locking eyes with my wiggly Judah to make sure he heard so he would be without excuse on the day of judgment, “Please be good.  Don’t stand on the table, on the booth or your brother’s head.  Don’t eat food off the floor, don’t lick the windows and most importantly, DON’T MOVE.  I’ll be right back with yummy food for those who have resisted the temptation of acting on every crazy thought that pops in their heads!!”  My children looked like angels as I backed…slowly…away, keeping them in my line of sight as I stepped into the food line to order.

Thankfully, only one lady stood in front of me in line.  Un-thankfully (is that a word?!), she had probably been a live witness to Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood and was apparently going to be paying for her entire order in…pennies!  Dear Lord, I prayed, this is going to take a miracle to get back to my kids in under a century.  Please make them behave.  

One glance towards those three little angels quickly assured me it would take a miracle to get my unattended children to behave, as in the good Lord Himself showing up (bolts of lightning and a loud, booming voice would sure sweeten the deal).

It was like “Home Alone: Arby’s Booth Edition” at the table, it looked like a game of The Muskrat and The Weasel was in full-swing as Jude, Gideon and EvaLee laughed gleefully and chased each other under the table and through the booth seats, stopping now and then to investigate a fry that was squished into the carpet.

I tried to appear calm and collected as I bounced Gabby on my hip and casually glanced at Grandma Penny at the counter.

“Let’s start over,”  The clerk smiled at the sweet little lady, “Here’s five pennies, six, seven, eight, nine….yes, mam’, the total is $6.84 again.  Okay, where was I?  Oh, yes: nine, ten, eleven…”

I tried not to lose my place in line as I did my best to send a discreet evil eye at the boys (EvaLee is still young enough to qualify for Momma‘s “Get-Out-of-Jail-Free-Card“) but they were too busy having fun to notice the smoke coming out of my ears.  They were all popping over the booth like a group of Jack-in-the-Boxes on speed.  Finally, Gideon caught my eye and I took the golden opportunity to hiss things like, “Sit down!” and “Be quiet, stop that!” without actually making any noise as I didn’t want to draw any more attention to them or me.  I figured the neon sign over the kids, flashing “CRAZY, HUNGRY, SILLY CHILDREN HERE!!” was enough excitement without the a side-show of their mother shouting and hopping around across the restaurant.  I was praying Gideon could read lips…and deeply furrowed brows.

Speaking of praying, I was also praying Grandma Penny would suddenly unearth a ten dollar bill from her tiny knitted purse and we’d all get to order before the new year!  My heart sank as I heard the clerk still counting, “…seventy-five, seventy-six, seventy-seven…”.  Sweet Jesus!  I was just reaching into my own purse to throw a twenty on the counter and save us all from celebrating our retirement in the Arby’s order-line when the clerk exclaimed, “…and that should do it, Mam’!  You’re all set!”

I breathed a sigh of relief when all of the sudden my ears filled with The Bang Heard ‘Round the World: my wiggly three-year-old, Judah, attempting to stand with full force under the table and banging his head as a result.  The sigh of relief I had just been breathing froze mid-breath as I waited for it…and waited…yes, there it was, THE CRY.

Judah’s waaaambulence went off in FULL glory, giving every fire-truck and police-car in town a run for their money.

He bolted like an Olympic Sprinter towards me (I always wonder how much pain they could be feeling if they can run with that amount of focus and speed!) and jumped into my arms where he received (in addition to the attention of EVERY Arby’s patron) a kiss from me that silenced all his woes.  Just like that, he smiled and returned to the Boisterous Party at Booth #5.

I finally placed our order and reunited with my long-lost sanity and children.  We were just finishing the last of our milkshakes when a stooped elderly gentleman approached our table, his eyes twinkling as he leaned in towards us,

“Your children are so well behaved.”  

A milkshake never taste so interesting as when it comes through one’s nose when they attempt to suppress delirious laughter.

“Thank you, sir,”  I replied, “Um…you mean these children?  Did you see them while I was in line?”

He smiled and nodded, “Yes, I sure did and they are good.  I was so blessed watching you all eat and how nice of kids you have here.  I was just remembering my own children.  My baby boy just turned forty-five.”

Wow, forty-five, I thought, when my oldest is four, that feels like centuries away!  But time is short…life is short.  I thanked the sweet old man and as I watched him shuffle out the door, it felt as if life suddenly slowed down a bit.  I turned around and looked at each of my children, trying to freeze in my memory that moment in time, a moment I would never have again: Gabby chewing on a French-fry, covered in drool, EvaLee loudly slurping the last of a milkshake with a happy expression on her round face, Judah trying to nonchalantly slide under the booth (for the hundredth time, what exactly is the attraction to that spot!?) while I shook my head “no”, and Gideon jabbering away with his report from the front-line about any sibling that was committing a misdemeanor I may have missed.

Yep, that’s life sometimes.  Messy, loud, hectic…and fun.  I wouldn’t trade it for a million quiet dinners with the most famous people of the world at the fanciest restaurant in town.  So when I called Bob a few minutes later and said, “Well, that was fun taking all the kids to Arby’s for lunch.”, I really DID mean it.


Bringing up babies said...

Only you could find happiness in all the chaos! You're an inspiration! When I grow up I wanna be JUST LIKE YOU!

Tara Cole said...

I don't know 'bout that, hon--YOU have a great attitude about life! And, watch it: I'm not THAT much older, ...when you grow up, ha ha! Love ya.

angela said...

i could stay up all night reading these great stories, tara! i've so missed your mix of humor and insight. you are truly a gem that sparkles to reflect God's Light! thanks for shining on me :)