Mum Connections

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A month ago, we had dinner at the Calgary Airport. What better restaurant to have our last meal in oil and beef-heaven than at a steakhouse?

The waitress greets us with a cheery smile, asks us how many we are. “Four adults, two children,” I answer, pointing out L and R. My parents are sending us off before they head to Montreal the next day.  As the waitress walks us to a booth, she asks if I prefer high-chairs or booster-seats for the children.

“What are booster-seats?” I ask, fully aware of my ignorance. “Little seats that you can move around. They add height to any other regular seat,” she replies, without a hint of condescension.

The booster-seats sound perfect. My kids hate high-chairs.

“Great! Come on over this way. I’ll get the brown paper laid out first, and then bring out the crayons.” She smiles as she walks away in her black pants, and black t-shirt; her blond pony-tail bobbing along behind her.

“Here’s the crayons, and some menus. You need anything else, give me a shout. I’ll be back for the order in a few minutes,” she assures us. How wonderful! L and R sit at the table happily, unrestricted; and they draw pictures with my parents.

When she returns, Maher asks if she can suggest any vegetarian options for my mum. She pulls her pen out of her apron and uses it as a pointer, “There’s the garden salad, the coleslaw, there’s a veggie fajita, and we can do most any of the starters’ vegetarian. You just ask me, and I’ll request it in the kitchen.”

“Fantastic!” he replies.

“One chicken fajita should be enough for the two children right?” I ask her.

“Plenty. Portion’s big here.”

We place the rest of the order, and just before she turns around to leave, she asks if we want the fries out first. Maher and I looked at each other and then up at her. She understands. “Yes please, and the guacamole, and anything that’s ready. They’re hungry.” We didn’t mention that they won’t stay put for very long.

She smiles, winks, and asks, “They twins?”
“Yes, 23 months old,” I reply.
“I have three kids. A four year-old, and two year-old twins. All boys.” She says with a gleam in her eyes.
“Really? That’s wonderful. So you know!” I sigh with a sense of relief that sweeps across me.

I don’t usually stress out about being at a restaurant with my toddlers. In China it’s easy. Children are welcome everywhere, easy-going restaurants for sure, fancy places are no exception. The hosts, even the guests happily chat and play with them. That’s not to say that I’ve had any criticism in Canada over the last 3 weeks, neither in Montreal nor in Calgary; but it’s on my mind that they have to behave a bit differently. I do my best to keep the situation as much under-control as possible, without making a big deal out of it. And with my parents there to help, at least we’ll all get to eat.  But the mess we leave is always bigger than at the other tables, and our sweet waitress is the one who’s got to take care of it.

My stress dissipates after she hangs out longer, and after she tells us about her children. I feel a connection with her just for being a Mum of Twins. It’s not rational. But she understands what it’s like to be at a restaurant with excited twin toddlers. She’s not fazed by their loud chatter, their need to switch seats as they spill the water, and their desire to reach for the knives.

Part way through the meal, L needs a change of diaper. As we walk back from the washroom, the appropriately positioned toy store – right across from the restaurant — with a large poster of a crocodile eating a monkey, sucks Leila in. Before long, Rahul and two adults in our group join her. 15 minutes into the discovery, and a number of different dynamics later, I am back at the restaurant finishing up my meal, with my mum. I pick at the colourful bell peppers and onions from the children’s fajita, after I’m done with my own dish. It’s time to go though; time to say goodbye to my parents. I ask for the bill.

While I pay, the sweet waitress and I have a little chat. She’s the kind of woman who calls you honey. Not in a patronising sense.

“Who helps you with the kids?” I ask.

“My husband. He takes care of them in the day while I’m here, and he works at night. I was just talking to my co-worker over there,” she tilts her head towards another waitress, “Was just tellin’ her it’s been a week since I saw him. ‘N’ we live in the same house.”

“Man, that’s not easy,” I sympathise. She looks up at me, shrugs her shoulders and smiles. That’s when I notice the dark circles around her eyes.

“Have a good flight!” She waves.

“Thanks, and good luck with it all,” I pat her shoulder, and push our over-packed stroller out of the restaurant.

My mum and I walk over to the crocodile and monkey toy shop to pick up the rest of the gang. We slowly make our way to the security check.

Just this morning, L and R talked about a crocodile eating a monkey.

Have you had random mum connections that you still remember?

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Natasha, mum of Leila and Rahul was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher until her little yogis became the teachers. You can find more of her thoughts and stories at Our Little Yogis.

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Foodie Friday: Eating out with twins

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Categories Feeding, Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, Preschoolers, ToddlersTags 5 Comments

Have a food related topic you’d like to see discussed? A food question you’d like to ask the moms at HDYDI? A food related tip that you’d like to share with the rest of us? Post in the comments section!

The topic  of this week’s Foodie Friday post is eating out with your twin babies or toddlers. I feel a bit disinguenuous writing this, since my response to “How do you eat out with your 15 month old twins?” is “I don’t”. However, that is a post for another day. Just because I’m too tired intimidated to do it, doesn’t mean you should be! I asked the moms at HDYDI and many of them both eat out with their twin kiddos and had many great tips on how to do this successfully.

Prep your table
Your kids are, well, kids. Don’t provide them with temptations they won’t be able to handle. Clear the table of salt and pepper shakers or they may go nuts shaking salt and pepper everywhere….and then nuts again when you take them away.

Bring supplies
Make sure to remember kid sized spoons and forks, if your kids still need these to eat. Bring wipes. Lots of wipes. They are good both for entertainment pre-meal (cleaning the table is fun!) and a good clean-up post meal. Bring sippy cups as well. Do you know how much of a mess toddlers can make with cups and straws? Believe us, when we say you don’t want to find out mid-meal. It’s impressive.

Time it right
Go early. It’s less busy, and your kids will probably be less tired. Know how long you have in a restaurant. One HDYDI mom of two year olds says that they have an hour. Another mom of 14 month olds says it’s more like 45 minutes for her kids. Plan accordingly. Ask for the check early. Can you call in your order before you get there? Even better! This works especially well for pizza, if you tell them not to keep it in the warmer. That way, it’s not too hot to be eaten when it arrives at your table. Be ready to make a quick exit if necessary. Do you have a second adult with you? You can leave him/her to pay the check and box up food while you and the kiddos make a run for it.

Choose your own meal wisely
As a smart HDYDI mom pointed out, it’s important to keep your hands clean and available and get food that can be eaten quickly. A huge, messy, delicious club sandwich—not a good choice. A neat, easily eaten chopped salad? Perfect!

Be relaxed
Don’t fight over the kids eating their veggies when you’re out. If they eat chips for dinner, so be it. Can you eat outside so that your kids can run around while they wait for food to arrive? Great! Wait until another day to teach about sitting still and waiting. That’s hard stuff to learn!

Get excited
Talk up the adventure to your little ones. Get them excited about it! If they know it’s a treat, they may be better behaved. Order two kids meals so that they can have a selection of yummy foods. Or order treats like chocolate milk that they don’t get at home. Another option is to bring along special toys to keep them busy.

Snack before hand?
The HDYDI moms were torn as to whether this was the right answer or not. One mom said that she alwayspicks places that have food on the table when you get there (Bertucci’s has rolls and most Mexican places have chips and salsa). If they go to a place without immediate snacks, she brings her own, usually treats that are not usually offered at home. Another HDYDI mom says they do no food before hand, and get all the meals at the same time, so that the kids do eat something and are busy eating so that the adults can eat too. Try out a couple different methods and see what works best for your kids, at their age.

Tip big
Let’s be honest. No matter how much you try to clean up after your messy lovely kiddos, you are probably not the server’s easiest or neatest customers of the night. Tip big! One HDYDI mom aims for 25% and feels that this might make up for the minor (or major) chaos that can accompany their meal out.

Choose a different type of place
And here is advice after my own heart! One HDYDI mom says that they go out to delis and bagel shops where you can order and pay at the counter. All the better for a quick escape. And, I have to say that while I have avoided dinner outs, except as an adults-only adventure, we have taken the kids out to a local breakfast place. Big, friendly, full of kids—somehow it seesm easier to do breakfast than dinner. They’re more cheerful, we have more energy and no one is trying to have a nice, romantic breakfast out. I don’t think. Is there a local place with a toddler play area? Even better! You can eat while they play.

Check out what the moms of HDYDI say about eating out, in their own words. Krissy wrote about it here. Goddess in Progress wrote a review of local lunch places, from the point of view of eating there with 11 month olds. Check that post out here. Other recommendations for kid friendly places, straight from your favorite moms here at HDYDI—Red Robin, Bertucci’sor a Mexican place like our local Border Cafe. Some of these are local places, but if you have one around, check it out!

Do you have tricks up your sleeve for eating out successfully? What do you do? Share your ideas with the rest of us!

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