Monday, 27 July 2009

Scallops a la Sudocrem

Since arriving in the US, we've eaten out a fair bit - but always with the Littleboys. And dining en famille, while fun in some ways, is not a relaxing experience. It usually starts off well, with restaurant staff smiling indulgently at the boys in an 'aren't they cute?' manner, and as long as their food appears quickly, everyone is relatively happy. (Note to restaurants: never, ever think that it is a good idea to bring the adult food before the kids' meals. Unless you fancy a force 10 tantrum on your hands).

By the end, however, we are usually scrambling to pay the bill as the boys charge up and down the restaurant screaming, leaving a trail of half eaten food, spilt drinks and destruction in their wake. Our culinary experiences have therefore been limited to pizzerias and so-called 'family-style' establishments where everything comes with fries, a salad bar and a choice of seven thousand dressings.

So when I discovered a local centre that offers a creche on Friday nights so that parents can go out, I jumped at the chance. It was The Doctor's birthday so what better way to celebrate than dinner a deux? I signed up the Littleboys for childcare, which was on offer from six until nine (which would seem a strange time frame in the UK, but you have to remember that Americans eat early).

That afternoon was hot and humid, and the boys and I had been out to the local park. When we arrived back, we were all sweaty and Littleboy 1 decided to indulge in his favourite activity of watering everything in sight with the power hose. I always try to direct him towards the rose beds but inevitably we end up with all of us getting a good soaking. By the time we had finished, I realised it was 5pm. They, and I, needed to be ready to go by 6pm, I thought, if The Doctor and I were going to have any chance of a decent evening out. The following then ensued:

5.10pm. Start cooking the Littleboys' supper, which I had planned on being quick and easy with minimal mess - fishfingers, baked potato and slices of cucumber.

5.20 pm, Somehow, between rushing around trying to assemble bags for them and remembering I am supposed to provide 'snacks' to take to the babysitting room , I manage to burn the fishfingers, setting off smoke alarm at the same time.

5.25pm Disable smoke alarm. Oh well, I think, they'll just have to have potato and butter. The boys are unimpressed by the solo potato, and insist on ketchup, which always results on sticky fingers wiped on clothing (already damp from the hosing) and the most horrendous mess. There is nothing for it but to strip them down and give them a bath.

5.30 To save time, shower myself, whip a brown sundress and some heels on and slap on some makeup in record time (nothing like getting ready for a date when you have kids, hey?).

5.35pm Bathe Littleboy 1 at a speed that I think even surprises him. Littleboy 2, meanwhile, is still pottering by the loo. I leave him there while going to get Littleboy 1 dressed and ready to go.

5.40pm Re-enter bathroom to find Littleboy 2 smearing himself from head to foot in Sudocrem*, which he has somehow found and opened. He looks at me wide-eyed and says "I got cream, Mummy."

5.45pm Put him in bath and scrub him within an inch of his life.

5.50pm Still scrubbing. Sudocrem incredibly difficult to get off. All over him, any bath toys which he has touched and three flannels which now need industrial washing. Why has he chosen this particular activity, I wonder - something which has never occurred to him before - on our first evening out on our own for about three months?

5.55pm. Finally he looks acceptable and less like the abominable snowman. Whip him out, dress him and finish assembling snack (Marmite sandwiches in the absence of any other food in the house. Well, might as well live up to eccentric Brit stereotype). Make pathetic attempt to clean supper mess from kitchen.

6pm: Amazingly, we are ready to go. The Doctor arrives home, and although hot and sweaty is frogmarched out of the house without time for a shower. We all set off.

Of course, I hadn't taken into account the fact that American restaurants are incredibly efficient. There always seem to be about three waiters per table, food appears speedily, and when you're done they whip out the bill immediately. So, we sat down for our meal - delicious fresh Long Island scallops and soft-shell crab, accompanied by much-needed martinis - at 6.30pm and it was over by 7.45.

This left us with over an hour before we needed to collect the Littleboys. We wandered down through the town to find an orchestra about to give a free concert in the little harbourside park. We perched on a park bench and listened, while watching dusk fall and the lights twinkle on over the boats in the harbour, until it was time to find the Littleboys again. They, meanwhile, had had a wonderful time making pictures of rainbow fish and charging about. So, a successful evening all round, despite its unpromising start.

And it wasn't till the next day that I noticed, on my brown dress, a nice, big white splodge of cream which I must have worn all evening. Classy.

(* For non-UK readers, Sudocrem is a thick, heavy, nappy rash cream....)


Nota Bene said...

Seriously impressive achievement to get them spruced up in so little time...and to appear as the mad-English mother with marmite sarnies and sudocrem patches. Well done!

mothership said...

sounds JUST like my date night on Saturday except I had banana on my dress instead of Sudocrem. I hope you had a lovely time. I managed not to pick a fight with Husband despite massive PMT. Considered this personal triumph!!!

Home Office Mum said...

Super impressive time management skills. Sounds like a marvellous idea (the creche) although I can't imagine my children going to it without an almighty tantrum. But at least you got to have a proper date even if it was bearing the signs of motherhood throughout.

Iota said...

I asked someone to babysit so Husband and I could go out for a meal for his birthday tonight, and said 7.30. They thought that was terribly late to be heading out for a meal. (Must be Husband birthday season.)

I'm impressed you've found fish fingers. Did you bulk order a frozen lorry load from England? Or are you being polite about fish sticks?

Don't you remember that scene in 'Pretty Woman', where Julia Roberts goes to the races, in a dress and hat which are FABULOUS and are brown with white spots? I was reminded of it the other day, when I saw an article about how spots are back in, this season. So I'm sure everyone thought that you were wearing a limited edition dress, with which a creative designer was giving a nod to the Julia Roberts dress. And of course as you didn't notice it at the time, you carried it off brilliantly.

I can't believe I'm so full of sh**.

I also can't believe that you're so organised as to be having nights out (in the plural, no less), so quickly after arriving in a foreign land. You're one impressive woman.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Loving Iota's idea of the pretty woman spots. May have to steal it myself for the next time I am out with goo on me somewhere which always happens.

Sudacrem is amazing stuff, we have carted over lorry loads of the stuff. But, it does need industrial cleaning to get rid of it when smeared on sofas and the like.

And what is with the early eating thing. The yanks must consider us terrible lushes for eating late with long lingering glasses of wine to follow and eventual collapse into bed at gone midnight before painful day of childcare the next morning. They might have a point... but I'll never be disciplined or organised enough to find out.

Expat mum said...

Tip for dining out with small children - ask the waiter to bring the kids' meals when they bring out your appetisers/starters. My kids used to go mad if we were brought salads (which they wouldn't eat anyway) and they had to wait longer to get something to eat.
And yes, we often used to have to walk around the block because we'd only been out an hour and a half and we wanted to use up the babysitting time. Ha ha.

nappy valley girl said...

NB - got to do my bit for the English...

Mothership - now that is seriously impressive.

Home Office Mum - mine are fine as long as they're together - one of the benefits of having 2 boys close in age.....

Iota - love the idea. (and I always loved her dress). Yes, I do mean fish sticks - not as good as the real thing, are they?

Brit in Bosnia - the early eating thing takes some getting used to, but I'm starting to see the benefits. Like more sleep!

Expat Mum - what do you mean, appetisers? The only thing we ever have en famille is garlic bread, and the boys eat all of that....

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Ooh I am so pleased I am not the only one to serve cucumber with fishfingers! And also have had sudocrem experience. So annoying, it's like they are all ready to swim the channel, it's so waterproof. Glad you had a wonderful night. US do childcare so well. I WOULD LOVE a little creche system like that here. Glad you had a lovely night with the Doctor, despite him being sweaty and you having a big white patch on your dress. x

Mom/Mum said...

Ahhh your night out sounds wonderful, despite the hectic start. And harborside concert oark ....I want to live where you do. It sounds so lush.

At least you had time to get showered and changed. My babysitter is forever tuning up to find me still in my sweatpants and mummy gear, without a scrap of make-up on. I always seem to spend mot of her sitting time in my bathroo, getting ready, which is costly and kind of defeats the point eh?!

ps Have you discovered the restaurant Americanism of giving crayons and kids menus to you with pictures for them to colour on? Seems a great idea, until you turn up with two littleboys who like to throw the crayons everywher and rip up the menus. Dining en famille - tis fun innt?! x

nappy valley girl said...

CTTF - cucumber is about the only green thing they eat, so they have it with most meals!

Mom/Mum - yes, crayons usually amuse them for about five minutes before they get chucked on the floor. Lots of UK restaurants have cottoned on to this too now!

A Modern Mother said...

When we lived in La Jolla we had a babysitter every Saturday night (what an achievement I know). We'd go out to dinner and then like you said, would have a couple hours to kill. We usually ended up going for long walks... said...

Never mind the sudocrem. Did you have a lovely, lovely time. that's all that matters. i have done school runs and shopping trips in my bedroom slippers (such was the rush to get out). Always enjoyed them. Though not sure accompanying children did as much ...

ella said...

Despite the sudocrem, it sounds like you had the perfect night out. (How I miss efficient US restaurants...)

Matt said...

If you're ever in Manhattan with the tots and in need of family dining, the McNally restaurants (notably Schiller's Liquor Bar on the Lower East Side) and Balthazar (in SoHo) are excellent with kids -- apparently because McNally has kids and has had all manner of bad restaurant experiences with them. So they know to get appetizers out before you sit down and kids' meals jump the queue. Also, oddly, Kenny Shopsin is delightful with kids, though he's known for making his adult customers cry.