Sunday, November 05, 2006

Birthday Blunder

Saturday our family went to South Bend for a fancy birthday meal for me and my dad. If anything could have gone wrong, it pretty much did. And it is all my fault. So to my family, once again - sorry!

In late September I ate dinner at the Studebaker Mansion, a beautiful home that houses a five star restaurant. The next day I told my mom about the neat place - we both enjoy history stuff.

Her response, "Oh, the Studebaker Museum, dad would love to go there some time."

My thought: well, the home was kind of like a museum, there were pictures everywhere, history notecards, furniture, display cases...yeah, it kind of was like a museum.

So Tara thought: hey, wouldn't it be fun to have everyone go eat there for the October/November birthdays? Dad could go see all the neat Studebaker stuff and we could all eat at a fancy restaurant.

I think: hey, that would be fun - I'll set everything up. Bad idea...

We pick the weekend. Word is that Notre Dame has a home game that night: should we pick a different night? I call, and no, we can still eat that night, but we should make an early reservation so we can miss the crowds and traffic. So we all agree on lunch. I call - oh, they're not open for lunch, but they open at 4:30pm, and yes, you should come early as the crowds will pour in. Okay...well there will be twelve of us - including four kids, we'll need two highchairs and two booster seats. After I make the reservation I read on the website that parties larger then eight have to be split amongst at least two tables. Hmmm....that could be a problem, but I'm sure we'll be able to pull the tables together or something. I should have known this was not going to be good.

Mum and Dad took Jerm, Maria and Eva in their van, coming from Angola/Avilla; we had S&F and ELI in our van coming from Fort Wayne/Columbia City. We all get to South Bend around 4:20pm. We walk into the restaurant, ooing and ahing at the impressive structure and striking interior. We wait awhile, surprised that the other van is not here yet. I go to call them, to find out where they are at, at which time my mom calls me, asking me where I am at.

"Tim, there is no restaurant here at the Studebaker Museum. Where are you guys?"

"Uh, mom, we're here at the Studebaker Mansion, that's where the restaurant is, what are you doing at a museum? I didn't know there was a Studebaker Museum."

"We thought we were going to see the Museum, that's why what Dad wanted to see."

"Oh...sorry, my fault."

So the other van arrives, we all gather in the lobby, the girls go find the restroom and we wait. The manager is getting acquainted with the twins. Kind of neat.

We go downstairs to our dining area. Sure enough we get seated at two different tables, two huge oval tables that are end to end. Now it's getting awkward - I was the only one aware of this impending situation, and there was no pulling them together. We decide that I'll sit with my dad and mum, Jerm and Maria and Eva at one table, everyone else is at the other one. Except that Eva wants to sit with Emma. That's fine.

But then it's like someone hit a button, and one by one the kids all took turns whining, crying, and fussing. They're not hungry. They don't like the seating arrangements. They want to touch all the other tables. I apologize to my family profusely, to the servers and waiters. Fortunately there are no other patrons in the WHOLE DOWNSTAIRS. (I thought we had to get an early reservation because the restaurant would be packed and the city in gridlock!) Eventually some families do come down, and out of the whole seating area, they are seated right next to our the embarassment gets worse.

We're eating very very delicious food, that is very very expensive; surrounded by tired, fussy, loud kids.

Levi sits on my lap eating ice out of his sippy cup. Then he dumps half the water on his lap. So he cries. Then I give him more water and ice, and he smiles. Then he eats some ice. Then he dumps that on his lap. Then he cries...argh! So then Isaac sits next to me on Papa Ger's lap, and he wants to eat ice out of his sippy cup, except he has milk. That won't he cries! So then I give him my glass of ice water. He is happy...for now.

We finish our meal - the parents silent, except for the occasional comment about the flavor of the food. Glares happen across the table. Kids are acting as if they came from another planet.

The waiter asks if we are ready for our bill - YES!

Mom wants us to get a picture taken in front of a fireplace. I'm thinking maybe we can walk around the other three floors and try to salvage the "museum" part of the evening. NO - lets get out of there as fast as we can.

I slowly walk to the van, my wife is in there with Emma (who is in trouble for the fifth time); I open up my side of the door, look her in the eye and say "Sorry, I am so sorry for botching up this night!" She is kind enough to reply softly and tenderly.

Determined to do something right, I easily persuade everyone to find a normal restaurant to have desert. We find a DQ, we get ice cream, and everyone has a wonderful time.

Fortunately, driving home out of South Bend, we were able to laugh about how awful everything turned out. My mother was gracious and insisted that we all had a wonderful time, we'll just have to be sure to go back when the kids are alot older. Thanks mom.

But then, out of the blue, the twins start fussing on the way home. Nothing we do can get them to be quiet. They cry, they whine, they wimper. Ugh. Finally, five minutes from home we threaten them with the "If you don't be quiet, dad is going to pull over this van and squeeze your knee." I pulled into a parking lot, turned around, spoke sternly to them - and voila, silence the rest of the way home. Why didn't we do that 85 minutes earlier?

So, sorry everyone for the botched birthday party. There's always next time...


Anonymous said...

How entertaining

Anonymous said...


mum said...

It was NOT a botched party. Dad and I had a great time. Our kids weren't crying. I wouldn't have wanted to miss eating in that magnificent old mansion. It was facinating. You really didn't goof! I knew what I meant and you knew what you meant...we just didn't have the same "meant." Oh, well, now we have two muesems to see..yet....and this made a really, really great story.