Panera Bread….and a sweet stranger.

“Can you please hold that door for mom?” “thanks, buddy”

There we were walking into one of my favorite “guilty pleasures”….Panera Bread.  You know…….when you walk in the smell of fresh baked yumminess hits your nose…and then you MUST decide quickly which “pick two” it will be today. For me…it is always the chicken casear sandwich and a soup. My personal fav…chicken tortilla. (sooooo good) But that wasn’t on the menu today so I struggled through french onion soup.(insert evil laugh…)But…I digress…. the smell of cinnamon crunch bagels from Panera can do that to you.

The “out to lunch” option with kids. Every parent has the debate over whether they can handle a lunch out with their kids. Will they behave? Can I manage it? Are we talking “time out” or “what the hell is wrong with that kid”? Sometimes it depends on how bad you, as a parent, want Panera or whatever lunch “weakness” you have. Today…I took the plunge, and let Dirty Dog D open the door for the huge double stroller as we entered…all six of us. =) If my insane hunger wasn’t the driving force behind the time that we arrived, I would have waited an additional 30 minutes as the place was crowded.

As per the norm, within 15 minutes I had approached by at least 5 different strangers. “Are they all yours?” “You sure do have your hands full?” Some smiles, mostly just stares. I feel so many people watching me. Are they hoping that one of my kids freaks out and they can give me a “that’s why she shouldn’t have so many kids” look? Are they impressed that I look pretty normal and my children appear happy? I guess I will never know. I can’t read minds. I won’t alter the way I live my life because of what someone may/may not think. So I continue giving out jobs to the kiddos, “Sweet Pea, please take the Fashionista, and Dirty Dog D to the bathroom. You games. Bathroom, wash hands and come right back, ok?!” I hand mini-me my iphone so she can find the Fisher Price App and show Miss Missy all the various animals and their animal sounds. (that should bide me about five minutes). I pull together a few small tables that are available. Back to the counter, to grab the four orders of kid mac n cheese (ridiculously good). I have to insert a photo of this mac n cheese because if you haven’t had it…you need to. It took all my will power not to scarf down some of the little shells off the top of those bowls.

Yep...the dreamy, creaminess.....
Yep…the dreamy, creaminess…..

Back to the munchkins……the Fashionista, upon her return, gets everyone napkins. DDD grabs the baby her bottle of milk from the diaper bag, Sweet Pea fills up two glasses of ice tea, while Mini-Me dishes out the chocolate milk.  More glances…..Sweet Pea offers to say grace and we start our lunch. So far, so good……everyone is “all about” the Panera mac n cheese. Then I hear it…..”excuse me???”….I look up to an older woman sitting with her younger daughter and granddaughter. “Are they all yours?” I’m not sure how to make out the question. It doesn’t sound negative. “Yes…” I say. “Well, you sure do have your hands full!!”. I smile. What I want to say is…”that’s original!” I’ve been burned too many times by that comment. My kids have often asked why people ask me that. They know it’s not a positive comment.

As I walk by their table to put my double stroller out of the way, I hear, “Do you mind if I ask what the age range of the children are?” Another question…..”sure, the oldest is 8 and the youngest is 14 months”. “Wow…do you homeschool them all?” “yep….and they LOVE going out to lunch. They know that it is because they can BEHAVE in Panera that we can be in here”. The woman simply smiles. I’m not sure what has happened. I’m not sure how to read her face so I go on eating my lunch and caring for the kiddos.

As I begin to clean up the kid’s bowls and place everything on their trays, the lady and her young granddaughter are at my table. “We would love to be able to help you with your food. Can we take these trays for you?” I am speechless. I manage to utter a “sure….thank you. Children, what do you say?” As the children thank the woman for her kindness, I am in awe of the generosity of this stranger. Lord, thank you for this “loveletter” today. Thank you for showing me that some people’s comment “You sure do have your hand’s full”…may just be an observation that a mom with five children could use an extra pair of hands or two. Thank you for the reminder to always seek the best in people.
What about you??? Any stories of stranger generosity that you want to share?? I would love to hear them!!!!

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  • Darcy says:

    Took the whole family to IHOP one day an had all the regular looks and stares as we entered and as we ate. At the end of our meal, the waitress came up to me and gave me an envelope that she said was from the couple that was sitting next to our table. That couple was the same couple who asked me if the kids were all mine and commented how busy I must be as we entered the restaurant. Inside the envelope was a gift card for IHOP with just about enough to pay for our entire meal. Definitely a blessing!

    • tammim1010 says:

      Darce…that’s awesome! How generous of that couple. =)

  • Carolyn Salamida says:

    I was flying home from NYC this summer without Tom. Tommy was on my lap when we got stuck sitting on the runway for 4 hours. The woman was very nice next to me and held Tommy for me while he was sleeping so I could use the rest room. She helped me off of the plane and stayed with me until we could reschedule our flight,

    • tammim1010 says:

      Carolyn, flying on planes are the worst. I’m glad to see you got the help you needed. =)

  • jenv77 says:

    I’m really impressed that you even go into Panera with the kiddos. I tried once, back when I just had two and it was craziness. People kept nearly tripping over the stroller as I tried to maneuver through the line to the seating area. Then trying to find a spot to sit where I could actually bring the stroller… Maybe now it wouldn’t be as much of in issue with the bigger ones to help out. But I do remember getting all sorts of weird looks back then, like I was an invading or something.
    But I’ve had a few experiences out where people were nice and held doors and smiled at the kiddos instead of snarling. Always a mood lifter to meet people who like kids and are understanding about the crazy that we bring. 🙂

    • tammim1010 says:

      Try again…come on, it’s Panera….the mac alone is calling you. =)

  • Jenny says:

    You are right – total love letter! I am so glad that Mrs. J taught us about those. I try to look for them as often as possible, too.