Making Christmas memories with salad

Part of my renewed commitment to enjoying the holidays is to make a few memories with the kids. I wanted to take them one evening during the week to look at Christmas lights. While sitting in the car to gaze at lights used to be a pastime of mine, I wanted the kids to get outside since the chilly air temp has a lot to do with creating Christmas memories for me.

So we headed to Reston Town Center. Not the most unique set up, but it was close by and free. So if the plan went bad we had an easy escape plan. The kids were floored by the lights. All the trees were fully wrapped in white lights from top to bottom. Anna ooed at the big Christmas tree. Alex stood fascinated by the ice skaters. It was a mini wintery wonderland for preschoolers. Done, I thought! What an easy outing. It was well past dinnertime and since everyone was happy, I decided to stop in for dinner at Panera. I pitched a ham sandwich for dinner and both kids’ faces lit up. But when I walked to the door and saw they were “temporary closed” for cleaning I was sorely disappointed.

Now as every mom knows this is a tricky situation. Do I repitch a new dinner idea? Find something with the same theme to console those saddened by the disappointment? Or abandon the whole trip and go home? Now, a smart, experienced mom would say a kink in the plan means a chance that the rest of the outing will go south so choice C (go home) is your best bet. Did we do C? Nope, we found someplace sandwichy to go instead. Live and learn and follow gut next time, I say in hindsight.

I’m guessing since you’re still reading you’re curious about dinner. Well, we walked to the La Madeline across the street. As we walk in, the man entering in front of us lets the door slam on me, my son and the stroller once . . . and then again. Grumbling mom of two small kids enters. Menu reads ham sandwich, perfect. Done. We wait in a very, very long line of customers. (Go home, my brain says. Stay or else you’ll have meltdowns, my heart says.) We wait. The kids are surprisingly good. Just as the guy says “next in line,” Alex asks a question. I must have missed the next “next in line” and the lady behind me says, “EXCUSE me” in that nasty tone, and I shoot her a dirty look. Hey, lady, lighten up. Do you see me struggling here?

We move through the line and my kids are starting to lose patience. I have a tray with food on it, a stroller and another child. People are passing by me at rapid speed. I’m wondering how I will get to a table with everyone since the woman behind me keeps sighing at my pokiness. Finally, the guy comes with our food, while I’m in still in line and just stands there. No offer to help. Just stands there staring at me. (Note to self: Next time ask for help.) We finally find one of the last tables left that seats more than two people. It hasn’t been cleaned yet and the man is standing drinking his coffee with his dirties on the table. He offers the table. We grab it. He stands and talks to my kids, while I bus his table. Meanwhile, I have to go grab our tray from the cash register area. (I had to leave it to get kids settled.) I get them set up with food. The man is still yakking away. I go back and get forks/spoons for the kids. I get everyone settled, get coats off, split the sandwich and breathe a sigh of relief.

Anna starts screaming bloody murder because there's lettuce on her sandwich and it starts to fall apart as she eats it. Ok, problem fixed. I take a bite of my salad, and she insists since it’s on her plate it belongs to her and forbids me to eat the Caesar salad I had been craving. So, my child who NEVER eats salad, eats the whole thing. As I start eating my soup, Alex starts crying that he has to pee right that minute. We put down our forks (Anna cries because she loves her salad) and we run to the bathroom, praying my stuff is still there when we get back. Alex pees, singing the whole time. We come back and sit down. I take a bit of soup. Anna decides she wants some. She takes a bite and loves it and insists on eating it. Alex finishes his water and asks for more. I stall on getting up again,and finally she insists as well. I get more water. I sit down, take a bite of something since most of my dinner was eaten by my daughter, and Anna spills the whole glass of water over the table. No offer from busboy looking on (who still hasn’t bussed the table from before). I groan and mutter profanity under my breath and say, "Hey, guys. We’re out of here." Alex grabs the rest of his sandwich and we walk back to the car.

My memory of what could have been a magical Christmas evening, will forever be the disaster at the Reston La Madeline (not a kid friendly place at 6 p.m.) I will never take my kids back there, except that Anna keeps going on about the salad. Perhaps the memory is not Christmas but that Anna learned to love lettuce!


kim said...

What a rotten ending to such a lovely night. My company's in RTC so we'd occasionally do la Madeline for lumch. The place and clientele tend to get snippy at lunchtime too, so now that I travel with a toddler, I only consider it during off peak times. Weekend brunches can be hit or miss as well but I LOVE their croissants.

I'll always mourn the day that Ruby Tuesday closed. Their salad bar was PERFECT for us.

Cara Fox said...

ugh. we have totaly been there. we were christmas grinches and skipped our town square's lighting ceremony last night because it has ended EXACTLY like this for us for the past three years. maybe next year...or not.

Anonymous said...

Panera was closed for CLEANING? UGH. There is NOTHING worse than having your heart set on a hearty bowl of FAMILIAR soup and a sandwich in a cosy setting like that to have your plans crushed by poorly scheduled "cleaning." How dare they infringe on your perfect evening. I have a 2 year old and we've taken her a handful of times to La Madeline over the past year and have had similar experiences. A close friend of ours was treated incredibly rudely there while dining with us and after that I swore I would NEVER go back. I'm so glad you wrote about your experience because it lets all the Reston moms out there know where we are "welcome" and where we aren't. One of my pet peeves is people who don't help a mom toting a child in a huge stroller with doors. Doesn't that just kill you when someone in front of you can't hold the door when you are pushing a stroller through? I mean, how hard is that - to hold a door for someone? Hopefully your next outing will be a little less traumatic. Thanks for giving us the heads up about Panera and the GOOD experience of light sightings at the town center.