“We should all go out for lunch,” my husband says one morning.
He has been watching Milk and Mayhem play harmoniously together for ten minutes and now believes they will behave like humans when we leave the house.
“But going out for lunch is always a disaster,” I sigh, holding a yoghurt pot full of soil, which Milk has just presented to me as a gift.
“Not this time,” he says confidently. “We’ll go somewhere kid-friendly, with quick service, but with food you and I actually like.”
He is talking about a noodle chain where the food is cooked in front of diners, who sit on benches at long communal tables.
“But will Mayhem eat Asian food?” I ask, well aware that Mayhem eats everything put in front of him, including Lego.
“Loads of my friends go with their kids all the time.” My husband says, pulling on his coat.
At the restaurant the waitress tries to seat us next to some people on a long table in the middle of the room.
My husband is horrified. “I’m not sitting here,” he whispers, ignoring the stares from the family who are trying to eat their lunch while we hover over them.
“But that’s what they do here,” I say, bemused, as my husband strides off to the end of the restaurant to an empty table next to a mirror.
“Me, Mummy, Daddy and Milk!” shouts Mayhem with glee. He waves at himself.
The children are given paper and crayons and we are fooled into thinking we can order both a starter and a main course.
“You know the food is cooked fresh to order, so it will all come out at different times?” says the waitress.
We nod dumbly. But when she is gone I say.
“But why? What does she mean? All restaurants cook food fresh to order don’t they? Why can’t they bring the food out at the same time like everyone else?”
“That’s just what they do here…” says my husband winking at me.
“Well I think that’s lazy. They obviously can’t be bothered to get the timing right, and we all know that getting the timing right is the hardest thing about cooking…”
Our waitress has returned to serve us our healthy green smoothies. She seems to place mine rather heavily on my paper place mat.
The starter of duck pancakes follows, and to my surprise Milk and Mayhem love it. I watch in dismay as they eat my share.
By the time the noodles turn up I am starting to relax. We show the boys the chopsticks and they spend the next few minutes fighting each other across the table.
My husband interrupts and guides Mayhem towards his noodles.
“Me not like that!” Mayhem shouts, pushing the bowl away, his face going pink.
“What about the chicken?” says my husband, fishing a piece of meat out of the tangled dish.
“Me not like chicken!” Mayhem starts to cry. “Me want Mamma’s food.”
Mayhem is staring at my noodles, which I have just doused in chilli oil.
He wriggles from the bench and runs over to me, pushing Milk out of the way.
“Me want your food Mamma,” he cries.
I shrug and pick him up and let him have a forkful of my chilli-infused chicken and prawn noodles.
We watch as he turns red and starts spitting and spluttering.
I feel relieved he won’t be eating any more of my lunch, but my husband is glaring at me as he calmly spoons some sticky rice from his bowl onto a plate in the middle of the table.
While the boys try to get the gooey rice off their spoons and into their mouths, we shovel our food down as quickly as we can.
“It’s lovely,” I say, beansprouts hanging from my mouth.
“Mmm,” my husband replies, curry sauce dripping from his beard.
Some music comes on and Mayhem starts bouncing on his knees using Milk and me as support for his enthusiastic moves.
“Let’s dance!” shouts Milk climbing down from the bench.
“No!” I shriek, knowing Mayhem will follow.
My husband is swallowing a lot and has gone very quiet.
“I’m going to be sick,” he says.
He has indigestion. I can feel the same burning ball climbing my throat.
He leaves me with Milk and Mayhem spinning round and wiggling their bums next to another group of diners, who are doing their best to ignore what is happening.
I signal for the bill just as Milk yells, “let’s be dogs!”
Immediately both of them drop to the floor and start panting, while waiters carrying hot broth hop over them.
When my husband returns he finds us all crouched under the table with the sticky rice.
“Everyone enjoy that?” he asks as we drive home.
“Yes! Let’s go again!” shouts Milk.
“Me too! Me like noodles food!” squeals Mayhem, stabbing Milk with a chopstick.