flying noodles and fortune cookies

>> April 28, 2010

It was one of those days. You know the kind when things just don’t go so well. The kids are crabby, you’re crabby, your husband is crabby. Well, it was one of those days for me.

It was a very busy Friday and we had just finished grocery shopping. I had all three boys in tow (all aged 5 and under at that time). My PH had agreed to go along and help. Fortunately, we had managed to leave the store without terrorizing anyone, but by the time we left everyone was hungry.

Sure, we had a van load of groceries; but to go home, unload them and then fix something while the pre-meal meltdown was going on around me was more than I was up for. So I whined and begged to go to the Chinese buffet we all love. Of course I knew that once I mentioned it the kids would jump on the idea too. So Brad relented, and agreed to go.

It was a good restaurant. The Grand Buffet. Lots of vegetarian items (we are vegetarians, by the way), reasonably cheap, fairly clean, good service; and since it’s a buffet there’s no waiting for the food—which is a good thing with hungry kids. And did I mention we were all hungry? It should have been a nice lunch. What was I thinking? When we are all that hungry it can only spell disaster.

First of all, the baby needed to nurse. We were seated by the window in a booth. A booth is not the easiest place to nurse, especially in front of the window. You’re either flashing the whole restaurant, or flashing the whole parking lot. Unfortunately, Liam was at the age where everything distracted him and he wouldn’t eat very well. So I gave up and gave him some dry Cheerios from the diaper bag. Maybe he would eat some apple sauce, I thought, while I tried to keep him from grabbing all the silverware off the table.

Well, while I attempted to feed one hungry mouth, Brad attempted to feed the other two hungry mouths. Our plan was to get the boys eating, and then we would take turns getting our plates. So he took the boys up to the buffet to get their food. I could hear them clear across the restaurant. “No, not those noodles!” and “I don’t like mushrooms!” and “I want broccoli!” etc. When you are desperate, as Brad was, you sometimes forget which kid likes what. I pitied Brad, and said to little Liam--not expecting a response, of course—“Your brothers are giving your daddy a hard time.”

The response I got was not from Liam, but from the lady at the neighboring table, “Yes they are, aren’t they?”

I looked up and saw a sympathetic smile coming from a older woman. She looked much like a lot of other women her age here in the Pennsylvania Dutch region. Friendly, but forthright. What I saw in her was not condemnation, however, but understanding. Sometimes you just aren’t sure how to take comments from “well-wishers”, but she was genuinely amused by the antics. She offered to hold Liam while I helped Brad with the older boys, but I wasn’t comfortable enough with that idea. So I politely said that we would be fine.

Brad brought the boys back and they did settle into their meals. I got my food—yummy spring rolls, bean curd and vegetables, lo mein. Brad loaded his plate up too. It was good food. Then the multiple trips started: more lo mein for Adam, more broccoli for Mason, more napkins, more forks (Adam dropped his), more spoons (Liam threw his), more napkins, etc.

By this time glasses were spilling, and patience was waning. Adam wanted more rice noodles so I stood to let him out of the booth. As he emerged from behind the table I saw a vision of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Noodles were hanging from his arms, his legs, his chin, his shirt-front, his hair, and I think even his ears. You know how sticky those noodles can be? I guess they need to be so the chopsticks can pick them up. As I tried to wipe Adam off the noodles just clung harder.

Well, Mason found this to be very humorous, and he proceeded to throw noodles all over himself. Adam, not wanting to miss out on the fun, started grabbing noodles to stick on Mason. Then they squealed, and began dressing Liam in noodles too. Needless to say, noodles were flying.

Brad and I, as if synchronized, both attempted to catch the noodles mid-air, each grab a sticky hand, and cover a giggling mouth all at once. However, we didn’t have enough hands between us to accomplish the tasks, and we quickly realized we were losing the battle. Again, in sync, we plopped down in our seats with heavy sighs—his angry, mine defeated.

“Why do we even try?” I said to no one in particular.

With stares from the nearby customers, and glares from the restaurant’s servers, I sent up a “prayer flare” to God, asking for patience, wisdom, and superhuman power. Amazingly, the kids immediately settled down and sat back in the booth. Brad called out the familiar escape plea, “Check please,” and the waitress hurried over with a little black tray holding five fortune cookies and the ticket. The boys greedily reached for the cookies and tore into the wrapping.

“Read mine! Read mine!” Adam begged as his wrapper ripped open and his little cookie broke into several pieces. A outcry ensued, and I quickly switched his for the baby’s cookie, as Liam would only gum the broken parts anyway. But I promised I wouldn’t mix up the little slip of paper, because Adam was adamant that the first fortune belonged to him, and not to his little brother.
In frustration, I grabbed the slip out of his hands, and began to read aloud the message. “Your future is as high…” I stopped midsentence, a lump in my throat developing and choking my words.
“What’s the rest?” Adam asked.
Your future is as high as the lofty heavens,” I whispered contemplatively.
“What does that mean?” Mason questioned.
“It means,” I answered, with tears in my eyes and a warmth flowing through my heart, “that no matter what happens here on this earth—no matter how crazy and chaotic and frustrating it may be—our future is in Heaven with God. His plan is to take us to live with Him forever in Paradise. We can deal with anything if we just remember that.”
Adam seemed pleased with the words, while Mason replied with a shrug, “Oh.”
As we left the restaurant and went back to our busy day, I sent up a thank you to God for that little fortune cookie--out of all the millions of fortune cookies in the world--that He shaped and filled with His message just for me, as if to gently say, "That is why you try.”
© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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