Close Encounter of the Rude Kind

I went out with my family the other night to dinner.  We just went to Ruby’s, a family-friendly diner with very standard diner fare.  I picked it because of its location at the end of the Seal Beach pier.  Oceanfront dining for cheap really can’t be beat!  And, I really like the variety of lighter, healthier fare on their menu for being a diner.  And, it’s a great place to take the kids.  Anyhow, soon after we ordered, a group of 6 was seated next to us.  And one of them (I shall call her Mouthy), sat down right next to me.  I was sitting on a long booth, so we were literally cheek to cheek.

Of  course, I dislike Mouthy from the instant she sits.  I mean, really – is personal space THAT hard to understand!  She and her partner are pretty loud and overall annoying, but I can overlook that.  Then, our food comes.  Bugster was jumping up and down in her high chair with excitement when her meal of macaroni and cheese with apple slices arrived.  Once it cooled, she dug in to the mac and cheese.  (I want to pause here and remind you that Bugster is 17 months old.)  She dug in with her hands, and, as to be expected, was making a huge mess of her face.  But she was quiet, calm, and completely engrossed by her meal.  Likewise, The Big Cheese was on her absolute best behavior.

Then, in my left ear, I hear Mouthy.  “Oh, gross.  That’s so disgusting.  I can’t even look.”  I look over, and she is staring at Bugster.  She continues to make comments to her partner about how nasty Bugster’s face looks and the crime her parents are committing for letting her eat with her hands.  She literally goes on for several minutes.  The more she talks, the madder I am getting.  Dear Hubby doesn’t know why I’m fuming (he thinks I’m REALLY overreacting to the personal space thing), so I very softly clue him in.  Now he’s fuming, and all the while, sweet Bugster is enjoying every bite of her meal.

I run through all the things I can do or say to Mouthy.  I contemplate saying something immediately, but I was still trying to eat my meal.  I also think about “accidentally spilling” my sticky Cherry Coke on her lap. But, I was trying to balance standing up for my daughter without embarrassing Dear Hubby or setting a bad example for my kids.

While my wheels are turning, Mouthy leans over to get an even better look at Bugster, puts her hand over her mouth in disgust, and starts right back in on her tirade.  She even says,”I wish I had my camera.”  “Hello?,” I’m thinking, “I’m right next to you.  You aren’t quiet.  Do you get that I can hear you?  Do you really think I’d let you photograph my kid?”  Still, I take the high road for a minute and stay quiet.  I ask Dear Hubby to gather up the girls, and I address Mouthy on my way to the door.  “I can’t believe the awful things you were saying my daughter.  You are the rudest person I have ever met.  Did you think we couldn’t hear what you were saying?”  And then, I walked away.  Mouthy began to sputter that she hadn’t said anything, and her partner chimed in with something I didn’t hear.  All the while, I just kept walking.  I stood up for Bugster, and I did it without embarrassing myself.

I seriously want to know if she thought I couldn’t hear her every word.  If you’re going to be a nasty, rude gossip, shouldn’t you know that you are being loud?  Thanks for letting me vent!  Now, I can forget about Mouthy and move on with my life.

Eating Out with Toddlers On A Budget

My hubby and I love eating out, and we have tried to not let having two young kids stop us from enjoying some of our favorite restaurants.  But, Bugster didn’t like baby food for long and has been eating “adult food” exclusively since about 9 months.  We’ve struggled with how to keep our dining out costs down while still feeding 4 people full and balanced meals.  Some restaurants actually make this really easy, and I want to highlight a few for you now.  These restaurants have very low-cost or FREE dining options for older babies and toddlers:

1)            Claim Jumper

This national chain has been recognized by Parents magazine for being super kid-friendly, and it comes in tops in my book, too.  When you request a high chair for your table, they automatically bring two other things with it: a package of Oyster crackers to quell your baby’s immediate hunger needs, and a place mat with adhesive backing that they place on the table for you.

The crown jewel of Claim Jumper’s kid friendliness is its free baby plate.  It is a buffet on a plate for toddlers.  There is a dish of homemade chunky cinnamon applesauce, a cupful of mandarin orange slices, 2 cheese sticks (1 yellow and 1 white), and a huge slice of turkey.   And, did you catch that I said this is free?  The best servers offer it to you when you sit down.  But, if they don’t, all you have to do is ask for a baby plate, and it’ll come to the table moments later.

For the entire Parents magazine article: http://www.parents.com/recipes/cooking/kid-friendly-food/best-family-restaurants/

2)            The Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory is a notoriously expensive national chain that only added a printed Kid’s Menu within the last few years.  So, I know you may be surprised to see them on my list.  But, they also have a free baby plate.  It’s not a meal substitute, but it certainly quells the hunger of a cranky baby!  It is comprised of small slices of their bread (sourdough and brown) and banana slices.  They bring it while you’re still looking at the menu, allowing you to actually get through all 20+ pages of it.  Again, the good servers bring it without asking; but, if they don’t, you just have to request it.

3)            Chipotle

If you’ve ever been to  Chipotle, you know that their menu looks very basic: pick your meat, pick the entrée you want the meat in, and pick your toppings.  But, there is a hidden menu.  First, there are quesadillas.  You can even order different sizes (small is made with taco-sized tortillas, and a big/regular quesadilla is made with the burrito tortillas).  A small cheese quesadilla is perfect for a younger child.  The Big Cheese always gets the same thing – and it’s also not on the menu.  She gets a single chicken taco.  While tacos are on the menu, it’s a plate of 3.  They happily make her single taco for her every time we go, and charge us accordingly.

Bugster’s meal is free.  I order a side of beans and/or a side of rice, depending on the day.  If I request a small side and tell them it’s for the baby, they give me a small (2 oz.?) cup and don’t charge me.  If I don’t specify a size, it’s a little bigger, but the charge is insignificant, maybe $0.85 or so.

See?  Having kids doesn’t mean giving up on eating out. 

Feel free to share your own budget-friendly tips for eating out with a family. CLICK HERE for more tips on eating out with toddlers.