Sunday, October 10, 2010

Picnic in the Park

My girls have been asking all summer to have a picnic in a park. Though I am generally optimistic and I do love nature, the idea of attempting to serve four small children a meal in the outdoors--fighting wind, sun, and bugs--was less than appealing to me. When the weather turned unseasonably warm yesterday I mustered my ambition and decided to give my kids the experience they deserve--I do want Hannah to have more happy memories than going to the hospital.

I made gluten-free sandwiches for lunch, but just as I was about to pack them in the cooler Naomi's attitude took a nose dive, and the picnic plans had to be postponed 'till dinner. By the time discipline was dealt with I had neither time nor energy to make a different lunch. The sandwiches were served for lunch, and dinner had already been put in the crockpot. "Well," I thought, "Crock-pot ham and pineapples for a picnic--this should be interesting." I briefly pictured staking Toby's shorts to the ground in order to keep him from running off into the woods while I wiped pineapple juice from the chins and shirts of three girls.

To my amazement the picnic was a grand success. We were able to walk to a local county park, just behind our subdivision (OK, "hopping" the fence with a double stroller was interesting), and the weather was absolutely perfect--no wind, perfect temperature, slight shade. And to top off the amazement sundae, all four children sat completely still and ate every bite of dinner I had packed, with minimal mess and only a few mosquito bites. Hannah didn't waste time in thanking me, "Oh, I love it out here, Mommy! Oh, it's so pretty! I just want to look and look at the trees while I eat! Oh, thank you, Mommy!" Toby, too, was content to sit still, eat quietly, and fill his eyes with the scenery." I think this is the most pleasant dinner we've had in months," Matt said. And then I woke up--no just kidding, hard as it is to believe, it was real--and I had to agree with Matt.

We actually had picnicked in a secluded spot of a Frisbee golf course, so after packing up dinner, we followed the Frisbee golf trail for a family nature hike. Naomi became entranced with following the signs to find each hole. She took off running and giggling with her new boundless energy, and was so excited she nearly jogged in place every time we asked her to wait up. Hannah and Emma laughed and trailed after her. Toby threw his arms up in the air, squealed and ran 'till his little feet could run no more. He did attempt to take one short-cut through a thorny thicket and was extremely put-out with me when I thwarted him, but after a minute of screaming, flailing, and back-arching fury, he forgot the fight and joined his sisters again in the pursuit of hole #15. The whole night was such a success it may even have topped Hannah's hospital visit, but I haven't had the courage to ask her yet.

Though they hated to leave the park, I think four tired-out, wound-up kids were ultimately happy to have a warm bath, some cream on the mosquito bites, and a soft bed. No one woke me in the middle of the night last night. Why didn't I take them on more picnics this summer?

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