"Right," I said as I pulled out of the driveway.
"Well, we don't need daddy anyway, right?" Madeline went on. I chuckled a little, thinking how to respond...I don't think she would get an "it depends on how you look at it" reply...
"No, we don't need daddy right now," I said.
"Mom! You have FOUR kids! Of course you need daddy," chimed in Aidan.
So, the kids wore themselves out at the birthday party and by the time we got to the festival, I had to bribe Lily to get back into her "Bad Spida Man" costume, change Liam's dirty diaper, put Madeline's shoes back on and explain to Aidan why he shouldn't sit in the middle of a parking lot to put his shoes on. Then there was the finding someone to watch the little ones while I used the restroom, and trying to maintain my sanity among the droves of dressed up children strung out on mass amounts of sugar. Good times.
Dinner rolled around but FIRST there was the Costume Parade. After the pastor went through every. single. child. one. by. one. by. one. by. one by DEAR GOD, DO WE HAVE TO LET EVERY KID SPEAK INTO THE MIC?!....letting each one tell us who they were dressed up as, I had about had it. I had spilled the first glass of water I tried pouring (apparently wings pose a problem with gripping), Liam had eaten a good portion of a paper napkin and Lily was fishing for ice in her glass, making a lovely little puddle before drinking the water and then crinkling the plastic cup and whining that it was broken when I got up to gather my brood and leave ASAP. But Aidan insisted he was still famished (apparently he didn't eat enough tamales at the birthday party, unlike Liam who had a big, red rash around his mouth from the cheese tamale he gobbled up before I realized there was a big ol' Jalapeno pepper in it! Nominate me now folks as I just know that move will clinch me the "Mom-of-the-Year" award!) Anyhow, I figured it would be easier to let them eat some noodles at the church than to feed them when we got home.
We waited for the line to dwindle before joining it and a friend of mine mistakenly took my incredulous smile as an invitation to sit down with us with her daughter and their VERY BIG PLATE OF SPAGHETTI DINNER. While my kids drooled, she explained how they had forgotten their son's allergy-free food so her husband, God bless his soul, had gone home to get it. You know, so her kid wouldn't die. From the noodles.
"Is your husband in line getting dinner for you guys?" she asked.
"Um, no, he isn't here," I said.
A look of utter pity washed over her face as she exclaimed, "Oh goodness, you are all by yourself?!"
NO, I AM NOT ALL BY MYSELF! Notice the four (4) hungry kids sitting with me. Being by myself would be MUCH EASIER!
"Kurt isn't feeling well," I told her as dispassionately as possible. I got up to help Aidan bring back all the food and drinks and ignored her asking how I was possibly going to manage it all by myself....
When we got back from getting the food (picture it: I was holding our 8 month old elf, 2 dinner plates and a juice box, following a 2 year old who, as careful as she was trying to be, left a trail of noodles behind her that even Hansel and Gretel would be proud of, and was followed by a 5 year old carrying a full plate, 4 napkins and the other two juice boxes) she was gone, her daughters half eaten dinner still sitting there.
Aidan inhaled his noodles and bread and went back for more. After eating the one meatball at our table, Madeline ate her bread, explaining to me that she really only liked the squishy part. Lily took a bite of bread, spit it out and then proceeded to open the brick of butter and shove the entire thing in her mouth. And that is when Liam started to cry. And I mean really, really cry! A HOLY JALAPENO sort of cry! And for a baby who seriously cries so rarely that I hardly recognize the sound when he does, this put me right over the edge, leaving all grace aside. I told Aidan and Lily to grab their balloon swords, managed to catch the half eaten butter as Lily let it drop from her mouth and out the back door we flew with Aidan and Madeline whining about how we were going to miss dessert. (Lily on the other hand seemed eager to get back to the three half eaten lollipops she had left in the car.)
The correct answer is: Yes, Madeline, we do need daddy. Otherwise, we'll all go hungry because free meals aren't always what they're cracked up to be.