"I often wonder how you can find time for what you do, in addition to the care of the house; and how good Mrs. West could have written such books and collected so many hard works, with all her family cares, is still more a matter of astonishment. Composition seems to me impossible with a head full of joints of mutton and doses of rhubarb."~Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1816

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pizza Time

Ever since I stayed up way too late to watch a food network program about New York versus Chicago pizza this hungry mama has been craving pizza. P-I-Z-Z-A!!! It has become our go-to meal on Friday nights when we are too broken down by the week to prepare something complicated. Sometimes I put together my own pizza from store-bought crust, sauce and toppings, but more often I order delivery. One by one we’re trying every pizza place in our area. Our weekly taste test is another welcome chance for me to declare that California pizza just does not compare to East Coast.

One recent Friday the kids and I were too restless to wait around at home for delivery. We needed a change of scenery and I couldn’t bear herding us all to the park, our usual late-afternoon activity. I decided… gulp… that I would take all three kids out to eat pizza at a restaurant.

Here’s a blow by blow:

4:30 I call hubby to check to see if he is interested in eating out. Of course he is but he won’t be able to meet us until 6:30. Fine. I estimate that if I start getting everyone ready now, we likely won’t take our first bites of dinner until around then anyway. I click to a tivoed episode of computer-animated educational programming for the kids so I am free to nurse Baby without interruption before we leave for the restaurant.

4:55 The kids program ends and I begin marshalling Girlie and Toddler. Find your shoes. Where are your shoes? To Toddler: Let’s put on your shoes.

I smell something peculiar while putting on Toddler’s shoes... What is that?

In honor of the special occasion of going out for dinner Girlie insists on donning her favorite outfit. She ecstatically twirls around in her rainbow colored, peace-sign printed mesh skirt.

5:05 I hustle everyone out to the car and chase Toddler around it. He always wants to play with the old toys “stored” around the edges of the garage. I really need to move those. With a big ragged exhale I hoist him into the middle car seat and strap him in. Girlie goes into the pink flowered car seat next to him. Toddler starts crying, frustrated for the delay when I dart back inside for my purse, the diaper bag, and oh, Baby. I lug Baby over to the car in his bucket. He is just too big for that thing now.

5:15 We pull out of the garage.

5:30 We arrive at the pizza place!

The knowledge that I have loaded Toddler into the car with a poopy diaper now moves from my subconscious to my conscious mind. Good. Having to change Toddler’s diaper will eat up some time. I lay him down in the opened hatchback of the car. Girlie lies next to him. We pretend we are camping. Baby nods off to sleep.

5:40 We can’t stall any longer. We troop into the restaurant. It has quirky wall decorations that I hope will entertain the kids at some crucial juncture. The hostess greets us cheerfully. Stay positive, I bet she thinks, seeing a lone adult with three kids. “Hi!” Girlie and Toddler chime, their eyes wide.

From our table in a corner of the restaurant I spy over my shoulder furtively. A few super-organized families are quietly eating already. There’s a childless couple sitting three tables over from us. They have just ordered beers and are starting the weekend early. How lovely for them.

The kids and I buckle down on our coloring assignment. Toddler makes one scribble with a yellow crayon and is done. We both have trouble finding the scribble to show it to Girlie. She is momentarily entranced with her first game of connect-the-dot.

5:45 Our server introduces himself. He wears a beard and earrings. He can’t wait on us just yet but will be right back to answer questions we have about the menu. Questions? I have decided to order a pizza after briefly considering the a la cart options. Ordering a pizza instead of individual entrees will halve our bill. Pizza it is. I wonder how long it will take for them to make a whole pizza… I resist the temptation of insisting that the waiter take our order right away and try to relax. Try.

5:50 A hostess comes by and takes our drink orders. Lemonades all around. Of course she has the cups with lids for the kids.

5:54 The kids long ago stopped coloring, or playing with the crayons, I should say. Toddler then moved on to banging the small metal pail that held the crayons. Our lemonades arrive. Phew. Banging ceases for the moment.

5:55 Our server lopes back to our table. I give him our pizza order. How long will it take to make a pizza? Only 10 minutes? We shall see. I look at the clock: Hubby won’t be here for over half an hour. I force myself not to panic. Baby still is asleep. Toddler and Girlie still are upbeat, excited at the rare evening outing. They scope out the arriving families.

6:00 The hostess refills our lemonades, astutely understanding that drinking and playing with his straw are all that are keeping Toddler from escaping from his high chair in a Houdini maneuver.

The hostess returns and seats a family at the table right next to ours. Really? There’s a mom and dad and three girls, the youngest of which is a couple years older than Girlie. It seems like she is light years older than Girlie, who is having real difficulty sitting still. She didn’t nap today.

6:05 Our server comes by with – a basket of bread. He promises the pizza will be out any moment.

6:10 Our pizza arrives.

The sauce is fruity and thick. There is the requisite oil on the top of the cheese. The crust stands up but is not overly stiff.

My stomach gurgles but I select slices for Girlie and Toddler and begin carefully dissecting them.

“Pizza? Pizza!” Toddler is relieved to have the discrete project of eating.

“There’s your pizza!” I place it down in front of him triumphantly. He looks at me blankly. Apparently he has filled himself up on lemonade and bread. It can happen to the best of us.

6:15 I happily munch my pizza. Toddler and Girlie move around on their plates the tiny pieces I have sliced for them. Toddler resumes playing with his straw.

“Out! Out, Mama!” Toddler implores.

“But you haven’t eaten your pizza.” My voice lilts several notes higher in the middle of the word “pizza,” highlighting the incredible taste sensation awaiting Toddler when finally he takes a bite of his dinner.

Toddler nonchalantly picks up a piece.

6:20 I grab my second slice, half-knowing it will probably be my last. Girlie and Toddler are quickly popping and chomping their pizza bits now and likely will want seconds that they won’t finish.

Mmmm. I decide the sauce really is tasty. My grandma and mother made their own sauces so I fancy myself a connoisseur.

6:25 I assure the server that hubby still is on his way. I hope! As predicted, Girlie and Toddler hardly have touched their second slices of pizza. Genius that I am, I have split a single piece between the two of them, so hubby will have a full three pieces for himself.

We resume slurping lemonade.

6:30 Hubby arrives! He graciously insists that the scant three slices of pizza remaining are enough for him.

6:40 Hubby is finished with his pizza and we resolve to leave.

We squirm in our seats as our server takes his time cooing over Baby. He has a baby of his own at home and is smitten with the experience. I realize that the night’s success partly is due to his good management – and the bread. The bread saved us.

I squeeze my daughter’s shoulder on our way out of the restaurant. I’m proud of how she behaved. I’m proud of how I behaved.