“Let’s go out to dinner!” and other crazy ideas

For as long as I can remember, from my childhood on, my parents would celebrate our birthdays by treating us to a dinner at the restaurant of our choice.   What usually happened, however, was that at least this kid almost always chose the same restaurant every year and even ordered the same meal for each birthday dinner.  It just makes sense, then, that they would continue the tradition with their grandchildren.  Whenever they make the trip down to our house for a birthday trip, they generously allow the birthday kid or kids to choose where we all will eat dinner.  Apparently, the apples haven’t fallen far from the tree because they all seem to either pick Cici’s or Culver’s every time their birthday comes around.  (Perhaps they have a thing with “C” eateries, I don’t know.)   Several years ago, though–I believe it was in the BC era (before Chloe)– we ventured to Culver’s for Hannah’s birthday dinner.  What ensued when we arrived, however, was nothing short of chaos.  Imagine the scene:  five children, excited to actually be eating in a real restaurant; two parents trying to keep it all together; and two grandparents, desperately hoping they hadn’t made an enormous mistake.  Each child tried to holler out what they wanted while the adults attempted to keep it all straight for the cashier.  In short, by the time we sat down with our meal, the food wasn’t the only thing that was hot at the table, if you catch my drift.  There wasn’t much conversation during that dinner, and the evening ended with grumpiness all around.

There had to be a better way, I thought.  Without wanting to deny my parents’ wish to bless the kids with a birthday dinner, yet knowing that even one more repeat performance of that experience might not only sour my mom and dad’s desires, but could possibly result in us being banned from even stepping foot in the place, something had to change.   What I’ve learned in my experience with a large-ish family is that advance planning makes any event more enjoyable.  It may take a bit of time to get organized and some thinking ahead, but the payoff is tremendous.  For birthday dinners, it means that we all get to consume our meal without the guarantee of heartburn because of irritation.   (And lest you think I’m exaggerating and that it really couldn’t have been that bad…..It was….)

So now, before we head over to the restaurant of birthday child’s choice, I get the menu online and have everyone look it over to choose what they’d like to nosh on that night.  That way, we can look at the pretty pictures without the “May I help you?” pressure of the pleasant-enough-but-really-not-excited-about-taking-your-party-of-ten-order cashier’s stare down.  The added bonus is that everyone’s blood sugar is also leveled out during the process–an important element.

It may or may not come as a surprise that tonight was the appointed day for Ben and Chloe’s birthday dinner.  It also may or may not surprise the reader to learn that they named Culver’s as their watering hole of choice.   Not a problem, I thought.  Throughout the afternoon, the kids and adults alike perused the menu and we compiled a list, as seen below for easy reference once the barrage of greasy goodness arrived at the table.

Despite my meticulous planning and writing out, we still had a slight snafu with the order.  My wise mom just handed the paper to the cashier, but somehow two of the sandwiches got missed and another one was incorrect.  Not a problem, though: the manager was quick to rectify it and everything went on as planned.   Here’s a picture of the kids AFTER they ate….Looks like ‘full tummy’ chaos is about to begin here, with Patrick trying to shoot a paper airplane?!?!?!? and Chloe doing her best to block it.  Oh dear….



This made me think that a quick picture to preserve the memory wouldn’t be a bad idea.   So I discreetly directed each child to get close to their Nonnie and Papa so I could snap a speedy shot for the annals of history.   HA.  I may have figured out the advance planning trick, but I still have miles to go in the “know when pictures are a bad idea” category.   At first I just wanted one. good. shot, but I took about twenty.   Upon reflection, I think it’s more entertaining to show them all, so you can share in my experience.   Here they are, from beginning to end….

Shot #1: Brendan wanted to do a silly face.  He somewhat succeeded.  It was on the first shot that I failed miserably at the whole discreet attempt with my screeching, “Brendan!  Please just smile nicely!”

Shot #2:  Patrick shoots his dad a “PLEASE HELP US!” look as I take another shot.  Ben must have seen a squirrel.  My dad is losing patience.

Shot #3: Not bad.  Possibly a keeper–oh wait!  Papa’s eyes are closed.  Boo.  Keep going.

Shot #4: Papa’s talking and Brendan looks exasperated.  Notice, if you will, that Hannah chose a great smile and kept it plastered.  She hardly moves or changes throughout the series.  Cracks me up! My mom comes in with a close second to the “did she move at all?” contest.


Shot #6: Five out of seven participants NOT PAYING ATTENTION.  I think my dad didn’t realize that I had been taking a bunch of pictures because he hadn’t seen a flash.  In this particular picture, he is asking me as much.

Shot #7:  I’m about out of time in general.

Shot #LAST:  Overall, not bad.  Dad’s still talking, but I’ll take it.  🙂

Thanks, Mom and Dad, Nonnie and Papa, for an enjoyable trip for the birthday buddies’ dinner.  I think we ALL “savored” it this time!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. electrobro
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 21:24:43

    It gets better from here on out. Of course new challenges may arise, but the restaurant thing gets easier though exponentially more costly.


  2. godmadeknown
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 21:29:02

    Pre-menu perusing! Great tip!


  3. Maria Gowin
    Nov 14, 2012 @ 22:37:02

    Oh. Em. Gee. I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes!!!

    I have sooooo been there!!


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