Happy Valentine’s Day (45/365)

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Here’s hoping you have some loved ones to give a big hug to on Valentine’s Day.  I feel incredibly lucky because I live in a house filled with love.  My wife gave me a very nice sweatshirt, some Sobe (my favorite drink) and of course, Cadbury Eggs.

I nailed it, like usual, giving her a gift certificate to a nail salon, some flowers (although I buy flowers often.  They just look so nice in the house) and a card.

One thing that I enjoy about my kids being in elementary school is the card exchange that they do amongst each other.  I found some stickers one of them got, today.

Valentines

My kids were particularly sweet this morning.  We gave each one a small gift, and the oldest one ran up and gave me a hug.  Those are the best hugs.  One’s you didn’t ask for, provided they aren’t from a stranger.  STRANGER DANGER!

Fan Art Friday (44/365)

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Here we go, continuing with the only thing I have standardized for my journal.  FAN ART FRIDAY!  I have new fan art to display this week, and it’s from my mother!  As it should be, she’s probably my number one cant.  Let’s look at this week’s work.  We don’t judge which one is the best here.  Instead, we just celebrate all the beauty.

First up is Ivan’s effort.

Reindeer

Ivan drew a reindeer.  He used many different items to create this like a pencil, a marker, and then colored it in with crayons.

Next up is The Flower Child.

Lion

The Flower Child painted a lion.  She loves how colorful it is.  She used paints that we have at home.

Here’s Bob the Builder’s picture.

RobotWaves

This is the octopus super hero.  Up above, he is transmitting sonic waves so he can teleport.

My mom added one to the collection.  A great message for all anyone creative!

MomArt

She took a picture of her picture and sent it to me, so sorry for the blurry quality.

Finally, here’s one from my wife, Lisa Marie.

MomMath

I’m not sure what is in this picture.  I think there’s a smiley face in there, but my wife said it was a parabola.  Is that what they call a smiley face with only one eye?

Celebrate the Small Victories (5/365)

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You have to celebrate the small victories in life.  For instance, two days ago, my youngest son came down with the flu.  He was barfing like a championship level hurler for 24 hours.

That wasn’t a victory.  That was brutal.  Ivan, my poor little guy looked as pale as freshly fallen snow he was so sick.  Thankfully, he recovered and is doing well now.

fuflu

The real victory was he got better and my two other children didn’t get the flu.  Usually, if one of my kids come down with some ailment, the other two contract it soon there after.  So hooray for only one puker.

The Watch Someone Else Barf Diet (3/365)

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I am not advocating bulimia with this post.  That’s a bad idea.  However, if you are someone who loves food, and can’t help but to eat delicious goodies, I suggest the “Watch Someone Barfing Diet”.

What’s that you ask?  Well, the “Watch Someone Else Barf Diet” a simple plan.  When someone else is sick and barfing, just watch them throw up.  Then you’ll feel really sick too, but hopefully not too sick.  With this comprehensive diet formula, you’ll feel just disturbed enough so you don’t eat anymore.  Food looks mighty repulsive when it comes hurling out of another person’s mouth.

Did those last two paragraphs sound like a terrible infomercial.  I have to make light of puking right now, or else I’m going to spill my guts too.

I'm on a diet.

I’m on a diet.

It’s all because, Ivan, my five year old is heaving chunks.  The poor little guy woke up at 11:30 pm and said his stomach hurt.  When our children wake up in the night and tell us that, there’s a 95% chance they are going to ralph.

It’s just past midnight, and I’m writing again.  I’d like to sleep, but I’m worried he’s going to wake up again and miss the bucket.  He missed the first time around at 11:30 pm, and puked up dinner on the carpet and his bed sheets.

I had to wash those out in the utility sink in the laundry room.  The chunks of cheese from the pizza he ate were so large that they clogged the drain.  I had to get a pencil and jam the cheese barf down the drain to unclog the sink.  GROSS!

The second time, at about 12:30 am, he made it into the puke bucket, but it was still gross to dump it in the toilet and then flush it down.  Then I had to rinse out the slimy stomach acid residue from the bucket.

Alright.  That’s enough.  I’m making myself sick writing about it.  I just hope the little guy is feeling better and getting some sleep.   I’m going to try to get some shut eye right now too.

P.S. I think that diet would really work.  Whenever my kids have the flu and are puking, and I don’t get it, I still don’t eat hardly anything for a few days.

Punching the Poo out of Cows Down on the Farm

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Being a farmer is brutal.  Doing all that manual labor, growing crops, smacking around the livestock, and shoveling poo must be rough.  Dealing with the poop is probably the thing that really makes me appreciate farmers.  They can handle that smell of hay mixed with manure.  It’s so brutal.  I know you probably get used to it after a while, but the smell of animal feces can really singe my nose hairs.  Have you ever smelt a pig farm before?  Dear Lord!  That scent is so indescribably awful.

Is there poo on my pitchfork?

Is there poo on my pitchfork?

I’m not much of a fan of farms, but I visited one last weekend.  For months and months, my five year old son, Ivan, has been asking to visit a farm because his 4K class went on a field trip to one.  We went there on Saturday to buy pumpkins, but we took in a lot of the other activities too.  We enjoyed a tractor ride, the kids all rode on a horse, and the most fun was catching chickens.  Did you know that you can walk up behind a chicken, and snatch them up.  They flap their wings a little sometimes, but mostly, they just sit in your hands.

The strangest part was when our whole family went into a small barn with a milking cow.  This old lady was by the cow, and she let each one of our kids have a turn milking it.  The cow, we’ll call her Bessie, because I call every cow that name, was a cranky beast.  After my kids milked the cow, the old lady did too.  The only problem was Ol’ Bessie tried to kick the lady.  The lady got really mad, stood up, and punched the cow in the ribs.  The cow appropriately responded to the attack by taking a huge dump.  My kids laughed and laughed as the lady grabbed a pitchfork to clean up after Bessie.  The stench of manure was so powerful, my eyes were burning when we evacuated the barn.

I don’t know if punching cows is a normal, nor do know if cows poop in protest when they are punched, but thank goodness I don’t have to clean the poo.

P.S. Farmers, if you’re out there.  Is it normal to punch the livestock?  I’ve only been out there with the cattle a few times and on two occasions, with two separate farmers, they punched the cows.

 

Pokemon – Gotta Catch ‘Em All. Actually, Don’t!

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Something very dangerous, and downright sinister has happened in the Tiefenthaler household.  Pocket monsters have infiltrated our walls, and we’re surrounded by them.  For the uninitiated, Pokemon is a Japanese word, that means “pocket monster” in English.  It started as a video game for Nintendo, and expanded into a cartoon show, movies, and a trading card game.

Here’s why it’s such a big problem.  On the bus, a kid named Sean introduced my 3rd grade son, Bob the Builder, to the Pokemon card game.  Bob loved them and decided he needed Pokemon cards.  It sounds nice on the surface, until I realized that one pack of 10 cards costs $4.10 cents.  That’s ridiculous!  This hobby could be wicked expensive.

F you, Pikachu!

F you, Pikachu!

Side note:  I want my kids to grow up normal, but I wish they didn’t ride the school bus.  In addition to learning about Pokemon cards there, they also learned some very colorful language.   I’m so glad they are expanding their vocabulary.

Anyways, I caved and bought Bob the Builder a pack of cards.  Of course, he opened them in front of my seven-year old daughter, The Flower Child.  Now she needed some cards.  I don’t remember all of the persuasion techniques she used, but I’m pretty sure there was some crying involved.  That didn’t make me cave.  What did was she also complained so much about the cards that my five-year old, Ivan the Terrible caught wind of this injustice.  He needed some cards too.  I wasn’t about to get between Ivan and some Pokemon.

Back to the store I go for another pack.  In order to save money, I bought a three pack of cards for $11.98.  If I bought three separate packs, it would have been $12.30.  Hooray for saving 32 cents!  I’ve you’re keeping track, that is now $16.08 spent on pocket monsters.

I handed over the packs of cards upon my return and thought it was finally all over.  I was wrong.

The Flower Child had a special “EX” Pokemon card that was more powerful than any of the cards that Bob the Builder or Ivan the Terrible had in their packs of cards.  Joy.

After some kicking, screaming, crying, and more crying, I said they could get some more cards on one condition.  They could all have their own three pack of cards, but only if they let my wife and I take them out to eat at a Mexican restaurant.  I needed a beer, and my wife demanded a margarita.

Back to the store we go for $33.94 worth of stupid Pocket Monster Cards, and that’s before taxes.  The running total is $590.76 for cards now.  Actually, it’s not that much, but I didn’t feel like doing any more math.  I’m a writer.  Leave me alone.

Here’s the real danger in this situation.  I like collecting cards.  Somewhere in the basement, I have stacks of baseball cards.  Even worse than that, I still have Magic the Gathering cards under my bed.  In college, I played that game a ton.  I remember cashing my monthly check from Hollywood Video when I worked in college and then spending it all on Magic the Gathering cards.  Granted, I only got paid about $41 per month, but I needed more cards!  Will I get sucked into this card craze?  Please, no!

At the restaurant, they tore into their packs.  The first thing Bob the Builder and Ivan the Terrible looked for was if they got any special “EX” cards.  They didn’t get any, but the Flower Child got another.

So, do any of you readers want to give me your old Pokemon cards?  Specifically any “Mega” cards or “EX” cards.  For the love of all things sacred, give me your Pokemon.  I’ve got to catch them all!

Flu + Frozen Pipes = Doom

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WARNING – If you have a weak stomach, do not read any further.

You must be brave.  I commend you for continuing.  Get ready for a gut wrenching tale.

I only ask one thing.  If you make it through, you must share this with your friends, and more importantly, your enemies.

Note – We are in the middle of a very cold winter.

The day after Valentines – Saturday, 2/15/14 – 3:00 AM – Central Standard Time

My six year old, The Flower Child, wakes up crying.  She complains of having bad dreams, so I reluctantly get up and rub her back to help her calm down.

Lisa, my wife, gets up too, but she doesn’t come into The Flower Child’s room.  Instead, Lisa walks into the bathroom and barfs in the toilet.  All the commotion wakes up my four year old, Ivan the Terrible.  I assume Ivan will ask my wife or myself to tuck him back in, but instead he enters the bathroom and upchucks into the garbage can.

“The toilet isn’t flushing,” Lisa moans from the bathroom.   Even though she is still crying, I exit The Flower Child’s room to check on the status of the toilet.  My wife and Ivan are both sprawling out on the cool tile floor like dead bodies.  “It flushed once, but won’t anymore,” my wife says.

I step over them to fiddle with the lever of the toilet because there are some chortle chunks floating in the toilet bowl, but it doesn’t flush.  I take the back of the toilet seat off and notice that the chamber in back is not filling up with water.  This is not a good sign.  I twist the sink handle to see if water will come out of the sink, but only a few drops sputter out and then nothing.  We have no running water.  Our pipes must be frozen.

Oh no.

Oh no.

2/15/14 – 3:30 AM – Central Standard Time

I can handle kids and my wife dumping out their guts.  I can handle frozen pipes.  But together, it might be too much for one man to take.  I cast my doubts aside and remember my mantra in times like this.  “Cast iron stomach! You have a stomach of steel.  You can win this battle.  Stomach of steel!”

The Flower Child hasn’t stopped crying, but her sadness must take a back seat for the moment. First up, I find every available bucket or garbage can and double bag each one.  Next, I get on the computer, find the emergency number for the local utilities, and call them.

Here is a brief transcript of the conversation.

OPERATOR:  How did you find out that the pipes were frozen at 3:30 in the morning?

ME: My wife and my four year old child are throwing up and we can no longer flush the toilet.

OPERATOR:  I will send help immediately.

ME:  Thank you kindly for your help.

2/15/14 – 3:45 AM – Central Standard Time

We set up a makeshift bed using towels and sleeping bags on the hardwood floor in the family room.  My wife and Ivan the Terrible continue to heave out their guts.  After every vector spewing episode I take the double bagged garbage can to the garage, tie the bags and dump them into the large garbage can in the garage.  It is well below freezing in the garage, so the stomach spittle remains should freeze, effectively eliminating any puke stench.

As I was transporting one load of vomit to the garage, my wife informs me that The Flower Child threw up in her bed.  I march into her bedroom and find that she blasted chunks all over her comforter, sheets, and stuffed cheetah.  I strip all the sheets and comforter from her bed, throw the stuffed cheetah in the middle of these sheets, roll it up into a large ball, carry it to the garage, and throw it on the garage floor.

I get a call from the workers, and they say that they are on route.  They tell me that they will be working from inside my house, in the basement where the main water pipe enters my home.  They also tell me to clear away anything near the pipe because they have a large machine they need to put near the pipe entrance, and they are about 15 minutes away from my address.

The Flower Child is transported to the makeshift sick bay on the family room floor.  I hustle downstairs to move my weight bench, exercise bike, turn tables, record collection, and paper shredder from the area by the water pipes.

2/15/14 – 4:00 AM – Central Standard Time

Help arrives.  Two bearded utility workers enter the home, carrying a large machine and a bunch of hoses that will inject hot water into pipes outside.  With all the commotion, my eight year old, Bob the Builder, wakes up and joins me in the living room.  He doesn’t feel sick, but I set a double bagged garbage can next to him on the couch.  Bob asks who’s making all the noise in the family room.  I inform him that Mom, Ivan, and The Flower Child all have the flu, and they are busy sending messages to the wastebasket.

2/15/14 – 5:30 AM – Central Standard Time

The utility workers aren’t making any progress.  My son, Ivan the Terrible, tells me that he might have to use the toilet because something wants to come out the other end of his body.  I warn him that the toilet Mom spilled the groceries in has already been flushed.  He has to use the other one.  Also, if he has to go, he shouldn’t flush it.  He says he can’t hold it and rushes to the loo.  Shortly after he exits, The Flower Child takes a dump in the toilet that is already loaded with fecal matter.

2/15/14 – 6:00 AM – Central Standard Time

The stench from the crap loaded toilet has wafted out into the home and mixes with the already prevalent scent of stomach acid.  I resist the urge to flush the toilet by pulling my shirt over my head.  God help anyone that has to use that toilet again.

2/15/14 – 7:00 AM – Central Standard Time

The utility workers come up from the bowels of the basement.  They couldn’t unfreeze the pipe from inside the house.  They leave, but they promise to return soon with reinforcements.  I hold my best poker face and say, “Thanks for trying your best.  I hope you can fix it when you return.”

On the inside I scream, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Already prepared for this, I call up a local hotel and immediately book a room over the phone.

2/15/14 – 8:00 AM – Central Standard Time

After haphazardly packing several outfits for my sick family, I load the clothes into the van.   Right before throwing the casualties into the van, I make my way to the bathroom to flush the brown down.  I cover my mouth and nose when entering, but I probably should be wearing goggles too.   The putrid smell of hell’s candy burns my eyes.  Tears well up as I approach the toilet.  Whatever happened in here was beyond awful.  I don’t know if the first blast or the second caused it, but supersonic sewer sewage is spattered all over inside and outside of the toilet bowl.  I flush the toilet and dive out of the bathroom.

Once everyone manages to get a jacket on their sickly frames, we get in the van and roll to the hotel.  Thankfully, no one has a wet burp in the car, but after we get out, Ivan the Terrible calls Uncle Ralph and his Cousin Hurl in the parking lot, and The Flower Child brings some fluorescent cheer to a snowbank next to entrance of the hotel.  I feel so powerless in this moment.  The only thing I can do to help The Flower Child is hold her hair back so she doesn’t get any on herself.

2/15/14 – 9:00 AM – Central Standard Time

Bob the Builder and I pick up some wet wipes and bottles of water from the store.  We return to the hotel and drop off the goods.  Ivan the Terrible looks much better, but The Flower Child and my wife are still pleading their case to the porcelain judge.

2/15/14 – 9:30 AM – Central Standard Time

We might as well get what we are paying for, so Bob the Builder and I enjoy continental breakfast at the hotel.  I put myself on the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) to hopefully avoid the same fate as my family and eat one banana and a piece of toast.  I warn Bob that he could get sick too, but he throws caution to the wind and eats a bowl of Fruit Loops and chases it with a frosted donut.

2/15/14 – 9:45 AM – Central Standard Time

Bob the Builder and I return to our home.  Reinforcements arrive and begin working outside.  The utility workers attach jumper cables to a pipe next to our driveway and run an ungodly amount of voltage through the pipe.  The electrified pipe will heat up and melt the ice block.

2/15/14 – 11:00 AM – Central Standard Time

Water starts running in the house.  I thank the utility workers for their hard work.  They inform me that pretty much all of Hartford is freezing up and they quickly leave to help the next home on their list.

2/15/14 – 4:30 PM – Central Standard Time

After scouring the house for hours, I know what must be done.  I have to clean the toilet that is covered with colon cannonballs.  Armed with a toilet wand, a scrub brush, bleach, Lysol and Scrubbing Bubble disinfectant spray, I enter the battle zone.  Step one.  I douse the whole area with chemicals.   Step two.  I exit the bathroom and hope that magical scrubbing bubbles are cleaning the toilet on their own, just like in the commercial.  Step three.  I re-enter the bathroom and find that that commercial is totally false.  Step four.  I scrub all the keester cakes and Mississippi mud off the toilet until it is sparkling clean.  Step five.  I close the lid so the cat doesn’t try to drink the toilet water.

Sunday – 2/16/14 – 2:30 AM – Central Standard Time

Bob the Builder wakes up with a bad stomach ache.  We guide him to the toilet and he immediately hits the eject button on his belly.  With running water, it isn’t very difficult to clean up after Bob the Builder.  I just flush the toilet.  Thank you utility workers!  Thank you from the bottom of my stomach.

2/16/14 – 8:30 AM – Central Standard Time

The final battle.  I think for a moment I cleaned the entire house and eradicated any sign of abdominal chum or Montezuma’s revenge, but I am wrong.  Piled in a ball in the garage, The Flower Child’s pink and white striped sheets and Butterfly comforter taunt me.  I snatch the cold boulder from the garage floor and heave it into the laundry room.  “Stomach of steel,” I chant to myself.  I unroll the ball and pull out the first of three blankets.  Only a few chunks are on this one.  I take it to the utility sink and run water over the clam chowder surprise.  It doesn’t come off.

That’s when it hits me.  The chunderspew that covers these sheets and blankets are frozen.  I have to use scalding hot water to dislodge it.  My hand trembles as I turn the knob to the hot water on full blast.  Slowly the half digested stomach purge heats up enough to peel off of the sheet.  Unfortunately, the putrid, acidic, noxious odor of Hurl and Ralph return.  The smell assails my nostrils, and I gag.  Between dry heaves, I manage to get the first sheet clean.  The comforter doesn’t have much on it, so I just chuck it directly into the washing machine.  However, the third blanket is loaded with frozen leftover lunch.  I repeat the cleaning process, but because these pieces of rainbow retch are larger, they don’t immediately slide down the drain. Some larger pieces sink and clog the drain, while lighter fare float about in the clogged utility sink.

I turn my head upward and ask for divine intervention.  Please, don’t make me reach into the sink!  For the love of all things sacred, don’t make me do it!

My prayers are answered.  The hot water works its magic and the chunky puddle begins to drain away.  I watch the remaining stomach discharge melt, break apart, and slide down the drain, never to be seen again.  I toss the last blanket into the washing machine.

All that remains is the stuffed cheetah.  I contemplate burning it, or throwing it away, but The Flower Child loves the cheetah.  With my bare hands, I scrub the oral diarrhea out of its fur, and whip the stuffed cat into the washing machine.  I win.

You made it.  Hopefully you didn’t retch on whatever device you were reading this.  Now remember to share it because sharing is caring. 

Cleaning Behind a Car Seat is Disturbing

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My children are disgusting.  I suppose I am partly to blame for what I recently discovered in the van, but I was reminded once again that all the food that we give to our children while we’re driving doesn’t end up going in their mouths.

My little helper

My little helper

On one car seat, the clasp broke.  I had to remove the defective car seat and put in a new one.  When I crawled into the back seat of the family van, I was horrified by the things I saw.  I lifted out the old car seat, and there were tons of crumbs and other partially eaten remnants smooched into the folds of the van.  Buried in every crack and crevice were goldfish crackers, half melted fruit snacks, blackened banana peels, apple cores, Golden Graham shrapnel, and countless Honey Nut Cheerios.

I retreated to the house for some high powered artillery:  an extension cord, and my Dyson DC41 Animal Vacuum.  My four year old son, Ivan the Terrible, came outside to help.  I plugged the vacuum in an sucked up all the debris.  Ivan joined me in the van and “helped out” by honking the horn repeatedly as I worked.  It took me quite a while to get in every nook and cranny, but I thought I cleaned up everything.  Ivan got on his belly and crawled into the back seat to inspect my work.  He squirmed out from under the back seat and held up one last Honey Nut Cherrio.  I asked him to give it to me, but he ate it instead.

Story Time – We Have That Kid

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My wife is a very patient and caring mother, but a recent event with Ivan the Terrible pushed her to the edge.  She now refers to our youngest son as That Kid.

Oh, you're the parent of That Kid.

Oh, you’re the parent of That Kid.

Ivan is four years old, and if there is any window of opportunity for him to wreak havoc, he will break through that window, and then torch the whole building for good measure.

Across the street from our house is a huge empty lot where dump trucks unload piles of dirt.  We’ve had plenty of rain the past few weeks, and some of the water has pooled in between the mounds of dirt.

My oldest son, Bob the Builder, ran into our garage and took scrap lumber over to the empty lot.  He put the lumber down an created a bridge that crossed the wide muddy pit.

Ivan the Terrible didn’t think of these wooden planks over the soggy mud puddle as a bridge.  He called it a diving board.  Ivan walked on the planks into the center of the mud puddle and did a cannonball.  Mud flew everywhere.  Ivan then stood up in the middle of the mud, grabbed mud from the edge of puddle, and threw it at any kid that came near.

Bob ran back to our house and ratted out Ivan.  “Mom, Dad!  Ivan is jumping all over like a crazy person in the mud and he’s throwing it at everyone.”  We walked across the street to extract Ivan from the mud pit.

The only way I could hold Ivan and not get muddy was to extend my arms out as far as possible.  I walked back home holding my mud covered child like I would carry a stinky, poop filled diaper.

That’s when my wife lost it.  “Just look at you, Ivan!” she shouted.  “You’re a hot mess.  Why do you have to be That Kid?  Now we’ve got to hose you down.”

I stripped off Ivan’s mud soaked clothes.  Lisa turned on the hose and blasted him with it, head to toe.  Ivan shouted, “Its too cold!” and made a break for it.  He ran butt naked across the front yard.  I chased the streaking Ivan down, snatched him and brought him back to the hose.  After he was relatively clean, we took That Kid in the house for a bath.

When I was sitting in the bathroom as Ivan took a bath, I asked him, “Why’d you jump in the mud, Ivan?”

He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and said, “I had my water shoes on.”

– Dave

Story Time – Don’t Take Your Kids to Fancy Restaurants

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You know what’s worse than sticking a fork into your own eyeball?  Taking three kids, ages four, six, and seven to a sit down restaurant.

We recently went  on a mini-vacation.  When we arrived at the hotel, my immediate thought was, hooray, we get to eat out for dinner.   There was a Taco Bell right next to our hotel, but we thought we should take the kids out to a nicer restaurant.  Right across the street was the Olive Garden.  My wife, Lisa, and I thought that the kids would love it there.  Salad, breadsticks, pasta.  These are all things that the kids think are delicious.

I don't think they like their food.

I don’t think they like their food.

Unfortunately, our three children were not impressed.  First, they didn’t like the salad.  Included in an Olive Garden salad is a peperoncini, which is a pickled hot pepper.  My four year old, Ivan the Terrible, bit into a peperoncini.  He obviously didn’t expect it to be hot because immediately after the juice hit his tongue he started howling in pain.

Yet another reason why my children were irritated with our choice of restaurant was we had to wait for the food to come out.  The salad and breadsticks didn’t do much for them, so they proceeded to whine about having no food.  The seven year old, Bob the Builder, kept repeating, “They’re way faster at McDonalds.”

Finally, the food arrived, but yet again, our children were disappointed.  We gave them all some calamari, and they didn’t take to it as much as we thought they would.   Lisa then made the mistake of telling our kids that calamari is actually squid.  “Eew, gross,” my six year old daughter, The Flower Child, complained.  The Flower Child hated her lasagna too.  She told my wife, “It’s not good like the lasagna you make, Mommy.”

I loved the food.  Since the kids didn’t eat that much, I was plowed through my plate and then theirs too.  Everything was great in my book until I got the bill.  That’s when I decided that taking the kids out to a nicer restaurant was a bad idea.  Food for five at the Olive Garden is a heck of a lot more expensive than eating fast food.

– Dave

What about your experiences taking kids out to eat at a nice place.  Did it go well?  Any horror stories?  Please share!