Plan­ning an adult din­ner party while jug­gling kids is no easy feat

The Western Star - - CLOSE TO HOME - Heather Huy­bregts Heather Huy­bregts is a mother, phys­io­ther­a­pist, blog­ger (www.heatherona­rock.com), wine ad­vo­cate and puf­fin whis­perer from Cor­ner Brook. Her col­umn ap­pears monthly.

I love to cook. But I have kids. So meal prep of­ten in­volves dump­ing frozen french fries onto a bak­ing sheet and putting PB&J on things.

Nonethe­less, last night we had friends over and, to­gether, we planned and pre­pared (and devoured) a four-course meal, com­plete with dish-ap­pro­pri­ate booze.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the free­dom to spend an en­tire evening with adults (adult-aged peo­ple), drink­ing, laugh­ing — not cook­ing chicken nuggets. So maybe I was be­ing a lit­tle fan­ci­ful when en­vi­sion­ing how the big day would un­fold ...

There would be mid­day mi­mosas and we would be wear­ing the crispest of white slacks. At some point, we’d be smelling fresh herbs in what ap­pears to be an Ital­ian coun­try­side. Once back home in our trendy, spot­less and im­pec­ca­bly-dec­o­rated stu­dio apart­ment, we’d throw on our favourite vinyl (I don’t even own a record player), fire up the stain­less steel gas stove (also does not ex­ist) and cre­ate a culi­nary mas­ter­piece. And, while there was nothing overly ide­al­is­tic about my plans for us to dance around the kitchen, sam­pling var­i­ous de­li­cious sauces on big wooden spoons, and slow-mo­tion laugh­ing with our eyes closed, I knew these vi­sions were sub­ject to change.

What was the po­ten­tial hur­dle, you ask? A two-year-old. And a six-year-old.

On the eve of my culi­nary ad­ven­ture, my hus­band in­formed me that he would have to work the next day. I would be on my own with the chil­dren. Easy peasy!

The next morn­ing, our kitchen counter was still strewn with dishes and food bits from the night be­fore. So the chil­dren had muffins (cup­cakes) for break­fast while I fran­ti­cally started scrub­bing things. Slowly, the coun­ter­tops and floors resur­faced and the liv­ing space went from smelling like a ham­ster-cage-in-the-wash­room-ofa-con­demned-hos­tel to smelling like a clean-ish human home. Con­tent, I ran up­stairs to dress — I was gone for maybe two min­utes — and re­turned to the en­tire con­tents of the play­room dumped onto the liv­ing room floor. I chose to un­see it and we headed out.

I asked my friend and co-chef, S, to meet me at the play­ground so I could run the chil­dren — yes, like dogs — while we brain­stormed. We could barely hear each other. Stand­ing in a sea of swarm­ing, scream­ing chil­dren, S was yelling some­thing about pinot noir at me when the twoyear-old got clothes­lined by an eight-year-old. A ran­dom kid started grilling me with so many ques­tions I won­dered who he was work­ing for. My tod­dler’s nose ran in­ces­santly; thank­fully, S sur­ren­dered her last tis­sue, with which I suc­cess­fully smeared the snot up his face and to­ward his eye be­fore he ran away.

S does not have kids so I found my­self apol­o­giz­ing, in­ces­santly, on be­half of the world’s pro­cre­ators.

Get­ting the young­sters from the play­ground to the gro­cery store was easy; they just, first, needed to try each of the five see­saws. And the tod­dler did that adorable thing where he throws his arms in the air and arches his back each time I try to lift him. S watched, helplessly, as we did this de­light­ful, slip­pery­worm dance all the way back to the car with the tod­dler shriek­ing, “I don’t WIKE da wed car!” My sci­atic nerve was zing­ing with all the back-bend­ing fun.

Safely back in da wed car, the chil­dren struck up an im­pas­sioned ver­bal bat­tle about who gets to hold the (to­tally ran­dom) rock. There was the briefest mo­ment of si­lence when the baby paused to drop a timely deuce.

We made it to the gro­cery store. In the time it took for me to dis­cover there was no fresh mint, the chil­dren had touched all the veg­eta­bles and stolen two ap­ples which were well-chewed by the time I re­al­ized what was hap­pen­ing. Luck­ily, we were handed getout-of-jail-free (free fruit) cards by a lovely woman who gave me “I feel your pain” eyes.

I briefly lost the tod­dler in the liquor store and found him in the beer cooler, just as he was pick­ing his stolen ap­ple off the floor and con­tin­u­ing to eat it. Wanna play a fun game? Carry four bot­tles of wine and at­tempt to chase and cap­ture a de­fi­ant two-year-old who’s zig-zag­ging his way through the glass labyrinth of a liquor store. I was feel­ing all kinds of war­mand-fuzzy; it may have been a blood-pres­sure thing, but I’m pretty sure it was just the “magic of moth­er­hood” they talk about. Speak­ing of which, is the “magic of moth­er­hood” sup­posed to feel like angina? #ask­ing­forafriend

I man­aged to get the kid­dos and those pre­cious bot­tles out of the store and across a busy park­ing lot to the car. The tod­dler re­fused to hold my hand, so I made sure to walk close enough to gen­tly knee some part of him with each step while re­peat­ing the word “dan­ger” in my scary­mom voice so he wouldn’t bolt. Which is just as safe. I used to judge par­ents who had their kids on leashes. Now, I salute them.

A quick trip to Sub­way (the tod­dler didn’t touch his sand­wich but he did spend 15 min­utes try­ing to bal­ance an open bot­tle of ap­ple juice on the crack be­tween the two ta­bles while dead­pan star­ing at two gentle­men who were just try­ing to en­joy their lunch) and we were home and ready to start the food prep. Did I want to lie, face­down, on the cold bath­room floor and weep with grat­i­tude (ex­haus­tion) af­ter the morn­ing? Sure. But did I? Mo­men­tar­ily. Then: game on.

Eight ac­tion-packed hours later, the chil­dren were in bed and we were start­ing the first of our four courses. Black bean soup with sherry. OK, so we for­got to add the sherry. But it was de­li­cious. As was the roasted beet salad with toasted wal­nuts and fried goat cheese. We made home­made pasta! And we drank all the wines!

It’s an im­per­fect science, this “fine din­ing.” As is this par­ent­ing gig. The house did not stay tidy; nowhere close. The sound­track was less “New York jazz” and more “mommy, mommy, mommy”. But funny how, in hind­sight, re­al­ity is so much more hi­lar­i­ous and — dare I say? — bet­ter than the fan­tasy.

Per­haps we par­ents can have our cake and eat it too; al­beit, cake that has been dropped on the floor and is cov­ered in hair and tiny fin­ger­prints.

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