I don't have any idea what came over us on Saturday night when we decided that dining out with our children would be a nice idea, but I can tell you now in hindsight that it was a temporary lapse of sanity. Maybe our disturbing thought pattern was encouraged by us aristocratically needing to be waited on and catered to after living the life of mere peasants for nearly a whole week since debarking from our cruise, or maybe it was that extra nudge we got from knowing we had a gift certificate to use that was just burning a hole in our pocket. Regardless, we were not right in the head when we thought up this idea.
Despite our decidedly naive stance going into the situation, we were both quick to admit our mistake. Upon arriving at 5:00, the opening hour, we had a brief wait wherein Jimmy quickly located the chocolate covered peppermint sticks at the hostess station and proceeded to immediately inhale his first one. Kyla, seeing Jimmy delving into this sweet decadence of course had to have one. I had just returned from having taken both Kyla and Jimmy to the bathroom to clean up (and this is prior to even being seated, let's remember) when I narrowly caught Jimmy red handed with a whole fistful of chocolate-peppermint sticks. I know this is my personal weakness as far as sweet things go, but I still felt it my duty to try and demonstrate and enforce a little self control for Jimmy (at least in public and before sitting down to a crazy huge feast). So there I was, my hand on his wrist just beside the hostess station with a small crowd seated around us observing the melodrama. I tried to get him to simply release the treats. "Jimmy, release it!" I commanded in a tone that probably very much sounded like I was talking to one of our dogs, but it was to no avail. He was locked in on it (kind of like the way Albert on Little House on the Prairie was when he was needing his opium fix). "Jimmy, you HAVE to put it back. You cannot have this before the meal." I had to repeat myself a couple of times before Jimmy came to and responded to me. And this was all before being seated.
Once seated, we were free to raid the salad bar. Jim sat with Kyla while I took Jimmy up and in an orderly fashion attempted to gather food for myself, Kyla and Jimmy (somehow I picture a painting called The Harvesters. . . yep, that was me, gathering for our clan). It was really quite the challenge though with little Jimmy. Though he's been through buffet lines before, somehow, maybe because the food was all different and presented in strangely appealing ways, he had a hard time not grabbing any old thing that caught his eye and then studying it in his hands only to then return it back to the salad bar for someone else to pick up. The monologue that ensued from me went something like this: 'No, Jimmy! Don't touch it with your hands! Wait! You can't just grab! No - once you take it, it's yours!'. Ya, I'm sure we contributed to the peaceful and elegant feel of the restaurant.
The restaurant was a Brazilian Steakhouse with a Churrascian grill (not that I would ever have any idea what any of that would mean except through now experiencing it). Pretty much that means (in my opinion from observation) that the meats (all kinds and lots of them) are cooked over a large open flame with different skewers located above it. Throughout the meal, gauchos (I'm not joking - at this place they wear real Brazilian cowboy attire - Yee Haw!) come around offering the different meats and slicing you off as much as you'd like at your table (I don't know that this is the type of restaurant a vegetarian would necessarily be super comfy in). Lucky for us, we were seated directly in front of the window to the kitchen - which meant my children simply had to turn around in their seats to lean up on the glass and watch the cooking channel that was ensuing behind them. It was really great entertainment, and I'm pretty certain the cooks back there got some amusement out of their tiny faces pressed up to the glass and their expressions of excitement as they sharpened knives or basted meats or pulled out a skewer of sausage (the meat Jimmy had been waiting for all evening - not that he wasn't indulging in some mozzarella chicken or lamb chops prior to that). At one point, we watched as Kyla did a slow motion dance in her chair to the music playing while watching the cooking; it was a riot. We also had to reprimand Jimmy for licking the glass (ya, he had to take it that one step farther that just wasn't okay).
Aside from the kids' awe over the cooking display, there was a good bit of delighted screaming coupled with some moderate bickering which had to be broken up. There was food dropped and silverware dropped. Little Jimmy learned the fine art of accepting or declining varying food offers from the gauchos: "Em. . . No thank you. Not this time." (spoken in the most adult voice he could muster up). The table was quickly and frequently filthy, and our waiters seemed uncertain of how to handle the ever mounting mess (ya, my sentiments at home exactly!). For a good portion of the time, Kyla undertook the cleaning with her napkin. She cleaned the "MESS!" as she declared it. But then she kicked it up a few notches and even polished the brass buttons on the seats, and then she cleaned her face, and then she cleaned her Daddy's ears and his nose. It was at this time, with her napkin wrapped finger up her Daddy's nose that someone came by to refill the drinks and appeared uncertain of whether to be amused or grossed out.
By the end of the dining experience Kyla had to be carried out whilst crying loudly over some sort of injustice which was so magnanimous that I've already completely forgotten it, and Jimmy was too distracted to remember the chocolate mints by the door (his shirt bearing evidence of every single item he had even considered tasting). Our table and area in general did NOT look like the rest of the facility, and I'm pretty sure people were alright with seeing us leave (they were actually probably wondering why we didn't hit the McDonald's Play Place instead). Though Jimmy did end up having to come home and right a page about 'good manners' and what all that would entail (due to a few behavior issues we encountered) , I'd still say it was kind of fun - in an adventuresome, embarrassing, non-restful sort of way. But the next time either Jim or I get any crazy ideas in our head about dining out with children, we will both be referencing this blog for a quick reality check.