Saturday 01 Oct 2016

Birthday Dinner
Jennifer Flaten

I don’t know if I am thrilled my kids think eating at Olive Garden is the height of fine dining. Maybe I’m embarrassed that we are so typically Midwestern. I guess if the endless salad fits wear it, right?

Eh, I think I will go with pleased that the kids stuck to eating the breadsticks and not to using them as weapons. For a minute there, I thought the breadsticks were the “final solution” in the land war over who would sit by me at dinner.

I thought the war for seating rights was a sweet gesture considering these same kids would step over my cooling corpse in order to get to the TV in time for their beloved Adventure Time.

Since it was my birthday meal, I chose the restaurant. I did not leave it open for discussion simply because discussion is a sure fire way to end up eating sandwiches at home. It’s axiomatic that if I ask for input on a decision, be it dinner or what cereal to buy, I will get two kids who agree and one who does not.

The kid who doesn’t like the pop-tarts, cereal, restaurant choice or whatever will defend his position, to the death if necessary.

Actually, not to real death but close usually it involves much sulking, sighing and dirty looks, which is worse than death and explains why I have 32 boxes of cereal in my cupboard right now.

Sometimes, buying two of something is a lot cheaper in the end, but I did not intend to “dine” at the food court in the mall-the only place that serves everything the kids like.

Also, I didn’t ask anyone’s opinion about my birthday cake. I learned my lesson the year I asked the kids to decorate a cake for me. Naturally, they couldn’t agree on a decorating theme, so I ended up with three tiny birthday cakes-good-and a huge mess from the fight that ensued while decorating-bad.

This year, I bought ice cream cupcakes. My thought was if no one else liked them than more cupcakes for me. Although, I did hid and extra pack in the deep freeze, you know just in case everyone loved them and ate them all. It’s best to be prepared.

I thought it best to present the dinner choice as a fait accompli. It truly didn’t matter where we ate-okay, that’s a lie, I didn’t want to eat at any place that has a clown as a mascot or deep-fried anything-as long as someone else brought the food to me and did the resulting dishes I was happy.

I picked a restaurant with 52 kinds of pasta and you guessed it, two of us wanted pasta and one, well, ordered a pizza. At least that is vaguely Italian.

The best part was the gift opening. My kids take gift buying very seriously. If I give them a list-which I did alphabetized and color coded-plus a handful of cash they will buy everything on the list.

I also learned a valuable lesson. Kids don’t believe in bringing you back change. If you give them an amount of money, they will spend that exact amount of money. Why, sometimes they even pad their purchases with gum and candy, so as not to trouble you with change.

By the way, if you ever wondered who bought those “As seen on television” items, it is kids shopping for the mom’s birthday presents. Personally, I never thought I would be the proud owner of anything “As seen on television,” but here I am with one. My daughter saw it and absolutely thought I would love it. It is a room air-freshener and it sits, rather proudly, on my desk.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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