Wednesday, April 30, 2014

FBW: The Guilt Tip

I usually put something in italics here to introduce Flogger Blogger Wednesday. So that's what I'm doing. Right now. I ate a double-cheeseburger for lunch, and now I have the meat sleepies. So let's just move forward, alright?  

Last weekend arrived like a liberator, busting down the doors of our home to free my family from a hellish 2 months spent under the iron fist of illness. On Saturday morning, when the day dawned bright and warm, the hacking coughs disappeared, the night sweats evaporated, the tide of poop receded at last. There was much rejoicing and eating of maple-flavored sausage links.

We spent most of the day laundering sheets in scalding water, bleaching all the hard surfaces, and collecting discarded tissues and crusty stuffed animals in a heap to be dispensed with a la The Velveteen Rabbit.

But we did eek out a little time to revel in our newfound health. For an hour before dinner, Pork Chop crawled around in the backyard with a giddy look on his face. He pulled stones from the moist earth and put them in his mouth. He snapped twigs and plucked leaves and put them both in his mouth. He smashed an ant under his rosy palm and put its corpse in his mouth. And I, too, took off my shoes and stepped out onto the warm stone path that cuts through our yard. I breathed in the green scents of spring, and then I fished a salad of yard debris from my son's mouth. It was a glorious.

The view from below the red bud tree in our front yard.
Mother Nature, you hussy!

In olden times, before our son was born, Shelby and I would have celebrated such a Saturday with a leisurely meal and some sexy outdoor boozing. In young'un times, however, Shelby and I celebrated by settling into our ass divots on the couch and drinking Two-Buck Chuck. It was an unsatisfying end to an otherwise good day. So I proposed a little romantic family outing for Sunday, which really begs the question, who the hell proposes a "romantic family outing"? Besides sister wives, I mean.

I suggested that the three of us take a jaunt to La Fromagerie in Old Town Alexandria. Normally, I would hesitate to bring a toddler to an eatery that specializes in expensive wine and fancy cheese, but I was dizzy with well-being! And my precious offspring was full of joie de vive! We would have such a glorious, French time!

We knew that La Fromagerie was small; we had dined there once before, albeit without Pork Chop. But it's a seat-yourself affair, with a wide front window and easy-going service. The fact that my son had risen an hour early that morning, that he woke from his 10 a.m. nap howling with mysterious baby anguish, that he lay in a motionless heap beside his toys as we readied to go -- none of that deterred us. The wheels of our romantic family outing were already in motion.

I figured that we could park our son next to a corner table, order up some grub, and sip wine while Pork Chop talked on his Elmo phone. And we did, in fact, succeed in securing a corner table and in not-very-gracefully cramming the stroller next to that table -- all while a guy in a salmon-colored polo shirt gave us the stink eye. And I'm not saying this guy was a douchebag, but I am saying that he was drinking a Riesling with his steak sandwich and that he was wearing a salmon-colored polo shirt.

After surveying the menu, Shelby and I glanced at each other. What, exactly, had we planned to order for our kid? The roasted rabbit sandwich? The orange-rind and cumin-spiced salami? A mound of paprika-smoked goat cheese with a side of crostini? We settled on an $8 tapas-sized plate of gouda mac 'n' cheese.

Pork Chop waited quietly enough for his lunch, mostly because his mouth was crammed with apple puffs brought from home. He jammed the puffs into his face so quickly and forcefully that half of each puff burst into a fine shower of crumbs that sprinkled onto the floor and nearby tabletops. Before Shelby and I could tidy up the mess, our waiter arrived with the tablespoon's worth of macaroni. To the waiter's credit, he took in the devastation wrought by the puffs, smiled defeatedly, waved at our son, and said, "Enjoy, big guy."

Our son, however, did not enjoy. Pork Chop looked at the mac 'n' cheese, his face clouded with confusion. "Surely this is not macaroni," he seemed to be saying, "The noodles, let me point out, are not orange." But Shelby, full of hope, handed our son a noodle. And the noodle was flung. I, full of hope and apparently suffering short-term memory loss, speared a noodle with my fork and held it to Pork Chop's mouth. And the fork was flung. And then the Elmo phone was flung. And then the sippy cup was flung. And when all of the available objects had been flung, Pork Chop flung himself. More specifically, he flung his belly forward, straightened his arms and legs, tucked his chin into his neck, stuck out his tongue, blew a raspberry, screamed "NAH NAH NAH NAH!," and slid out of his stroller and onto the floor.

Saturday's joie de vive had turned into Sunday's giant, steamy pile of merde.

A young couple, who had been chatting with the sommelier, turned to stare. They regarded my family with horror. And I regarded them back with smug disgust because they were being judgmental and because they looked really rich. And while the couple and I were playing some kind of silent, reproach-filled game of chicken, my husband picked up our kid and took him outside.

Parents of little babies: Go out drinking RIGHT NOW,
while your kids' are still weak and small!

Shelby and I had each ordered a glass of wine. We had also ordered a large plate of cheese and cured meats. But rather than savoring the wine and food, I scooped a handful of cornichons into my mouth and washed them down with a gulp of my $13-per-glass Albarino. I watched through the sunny front window as Shelby bounced our son on his hip. Pork Chop calmed. I gestured for them to come back inside.

We opted to keep Pork Chop in my lap so that I could feed him cubes of "pungent, semi-firm cow's milk cheese with nutty, earthy undertones." And for 3 whole minutes, Pork Chop noshed on the nutty, earthy, not-cheap cheese and kicked his legs contentedly under the table. Then I made the fatal error of trying to eat a dried apricot. Pork Chop lunged for the fruit. "No, no, baby boy," I said. Pork Chop turned to face me, to stare coldly into my eyes. "No, no," I reiterated, "This food is for Mommy." Very quietly he turned back around and then swung his arms wide. One arm caught a glass. The other arm swept cubes of cheese and a pile of macaroni from the table. "And that, too, Mommy, is for you," he said (in my imagination). Then his face crumpled and the screaming commenced anew.

One person walked in the restaurant door, caught sight of our little brouhaha, and walked back out. The kindly waiter stopped by to ask if we'd like to box up the rest of our lunch. He had our check in hand.

My husband looked over the check, snorting at the cost of our romantic family outing. "How much should we tack on to the gratuity for sheer guilt?" he asked.

I looked at the food piled on the floor, the pools of water on the table, my howling child, the fleeing diners.

"A lot," I said. "A whole lot."


  1. "Top Romantic Family Outings in Virginia" is now an article I'm pitching. Thanks!

    1. I expect half of your earnings or $5000, whichever is higher.

  2. This may be your best yet. Thank you for the morning laughs.

    1. Thank Pork Chop, who, for the record, fell hard asleep as soon as we got home from the outing in question. I fought the baby, and the baby won. The baby ALWAYS wins.

  3. Let me apologize to you and your kind for being part of a judgy childless couple; when husband and I decide to go fancy (a rare treat), we assume everyone there has more money than us and therefore should have left their children with the opare or that their child eats better than us every day and would spit out a goldfish in absolute disgust.

    1. Well, Janice, I do have an MFA in poetry. So, yes, I am a 1-percenter. Don't hate because VERSES FILL MY PURSES. (And I would never feed my kid a goldfish; we are strictly a swordfish household.)

  4. I'm still picturing you and Shelby sitting at the table attempting to look very civilized and dare I say hopeful that your little one will enjoy this outing as much as you. As the lovely afternoon starts it gradual decline I can't help but start to smile and laugh. Let them judge you. Who cares what they think especially if they don't have a lovely baby who maybe wasn't interested in cheese and wine on that particular Saturday. Maybe next time?

    1. Oh man. You nailed it. We were trying to look civilized, which was maybe the biggest problem. We didn't even look civilized before we had a kid. Oh well. Like you said, let them judge. Parents of screaming toddlers need wine too.