BBQ & picnics – eating alfresco

 

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The summer brings its own unique challenges when your children are hypersensitive, and when they are stressed by change. There are of course the obvious challenges, summer brings heat, heat means different clothes are worn which feel different, are unfamiliar and outfits don’t feel as practiced. There’s sun cream – the feeling and the smell, and the need for sunhats. School breaks up for the holidays so you add in a whole string of changes of routine, weeks at home with parents working; at home and parents off work some days; holidays away; days out & visitors. And along with the constantly shifting routines comes very unpredictable eating compared to term time.

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We plan fun eating as families don’t we! Days out can involve cafes, tea-shops and picnics. Some stay at home days mean take away in the sitting room with a film, some days we eat in the garden ‘because it’s hot’, other days we have people round and BBQ outside. Over the years we have found eating outside together as a family really difficult. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, eating together as a family even in the normal routine has always been a challenge. In fact it has only been possible at all in the last 6 years! It still feels fragile and new to me! (I wrote about it in ‘no-one told me that’)

There are many things that make eating outside difficult.

There are lots of distractions, some of them are good but often we all end up on high alert due to other distractions – wasps, (bees, hover flies – in fact anything that flies and could possibly be misinterpreted as a wasp!), spiders, ants and flying ants, seagulls and crows. The fact that many insects and animals in the great outdoors are attracted by the smells of our picnics makes eating outside incredibly challenging. It’s tricky to enjoy eating when facing an overwhelming feeling of impending doom!!

We have had some very memorable, funny-with-hindsight, eating alfresco experiences so far as a family. One of my early memories of these challenges was a picnic in County Durham, on a wooden picnic table by a beautiful giggling stream. All dappled in the sunlight coming through the trees. I sat one side, Andrew the other. B & A were still quite little, and I remember by about 3 minutes in I was sitting with both of them sitting on the table facing me, their heads burying themselves as close to me as possible with me drawing my rain coat around them to defend them from all the flying things – with Daddy of course standing guard against big flying things near by! So much for the beautiful spot. We did get a fleeting glimpse of a water vole though in-between the cries of terror when gnats came too close!

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When they were a similar age I remember a fateful picnic on the beach during which a seagull plodded nonchalantly over and took the sandwich out of A’s little hands – I’m not sure he’s been able to forgive that seagull yet!

Yet another memorable outdoor eating experience was at a family farm attraction, which just happened to be having a wasp problem that summer. We started our lunch outside but the wasps were dive bombing us, flying at us and down at our food through our hair!! We quickly went inside with our picnic only to find exactly the same problem but this time in an enclosed space. Goodness it was grim.

At a zoo day out quite recently actually we had problems with dive bombing seagulls. One took the food out of my hands in flight. Again we tried putting Daddy on guard walking around us but it was not enough, and we had to abandon outdoor eating and run for shelter.

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Just this lunch time A was recalling a camping meal with friends during which we had to warn a friend who was just about to take a bite & chew that there was a wasp sitting on his mouthful.

Many a camping meal outside the tent has been abandoned as one by one members of the family have run inside despite the heat inside the tent in the day, and eaten zipped in the bedroom behind the flysheet.

Ah, fond memories (who am I kidding!!). Well, this summer is no exception, we’ve already had some BBQ’s in the garden, eaten outside (well, for some of the meal anyway) and been camping. So far mosquitoes are coming out top predators during mealtimes but there’s still plenty of camping meals to be had so wasps, ants, earwigs & seagulls all have the chance to come out on top still! Bring it on!!

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Tired

When people ask ‘how are you?’ what do you reply?

‘Fine’

‘Good’

‘yep, how are you?’

One of my go-to replies is ‘head above water!’ But in the midst of the relentless, coming-at-me, complicated, tiring, purposeful, joyful, infuriating, beautiful life of ours there are times when I add in my head – ‘just’. You know that kind of tired when you’ve been treading water for so long the weary ache sets in, or you’ve been carrying something just slightly too heavy or awkward and suddenly you just have to put it down for a minute, when you’re running to catch up with someone and you’re nearly there – but not quite. That tired.

That tired that opens the door to the insecurities – ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘what’s the point in trying’, ‘it won’t work’, ‘I’m failing’, ‘I always fail’, ‘I’m a failure, rubbish, why bother’, ‘nobody, invisible…’ – and a tiny voice in the midst of the clamor ‘ ‘help!’. Elijah tired.

When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.

Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, “Get up and eat!”

He looked around and, to his surprise, right by his head were a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. He ate the meal and went back to sleep.

The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.”

8-9 He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.

Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:3-9 MSG)

I come back to this passage over and over again. So human. So real. And God, our Father so gentle and purposeful. ‘There’s still a journey to make, eat, sleep, come on keep following – I’m here with you – one thing at a time Elijah’. We are seen, known by name, loved and sent with purpose & company. Time to catch a breath, eat & sleep the best I can and keep on stepping out with God.

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understanding personal space

 

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excuse me – still here!

So how on earth do you begin to learn all about personal space, and respecting other peoples?? Everyone has a boundary at a slightly different distance. Relationship determines subtle yet important differences for each context. Different cultures have unspoken yet definite socially acceptable ‘rules’ about it. It’s not something that gets openly explained very often, yet we’re expected to get it right – every time, every social gathering, family meal, sharing of the peace!

For most of us it is learnt when we’re very young, one of those things that gets ‘picked up’ simply by being in relationships and experiencing a variety of social contexts. Learnt through picking up subtle body language cues; inference gleaned through experience; making connections between a variety of moments of cause and effect, carefully and correctly interpreted in the midst of social interaction. It’s a wonder it’s ever possible to get this right!

So what about those of us who don’t learn by inference? Or easily ‘read between the lines’? What if body language cues are a language yet to be learnt? And what if the way you see things leads to joining up the dots between cause and effect differently from everyone else, and connections are made therefore to different facts, different variables in previous moments of social interaction? How are the rules of socially acceptable interaction with others, understanding their personal space boundaries learnt??

I suppose the answer is, differently; from a different perspective; with an often refreshingly different approach and an analytical honesty that isn’t afraid of questioning a cultural norm.

I suppose the answer is also, painfully. Others don’t respond kindly to people seemingly ‘rocking the boat’, and openly questioning cultural norms – especially when expecting someone to be ‘old enough to know better’. Doing life differently can lead to feeling like an outsider or feeling disliked and unaccepted.

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special interests

 

Some call it obsession, some think it narrow

but in our family we love special interests;

with intensity, with all we’ve got

we focus, we explore, we research and find out.

Our knowledge creates a safe space in which we can curl up and rest.

Familiar and known.

Digging and drawing,

collecting and cuddling, playing and gaming,

gather the facts, devour the info.

It is expertise we can share.

Breathe it all in, get the sand between your toes,

the clarity of focus takes experience deep, deep, deeper;

you can taste it, smell it, know it.

It’s all or nothing,

all in, or not at all.

That’s the wonder and beauty of special interests.

And in the pursuit we see

fierce loyalty, tenacity against the odds;

a single-mindedness that isn’t swayed.

Peer pressure can’t touch this.

So yes, some may think it narrow, some think we obsess.

I guess some may even find it boring,

but in this family we love special interests.

In them we see echoes of a Creator, a Father’s heartbeat.

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one of those weeks

Firstly let me apologize that it’s been a whole month since my last post. I don’t really know how it’s become so complicated and busy for us as a family lately! But I’ve missed having the chance to sit and reflect, and chat with you. How are you all? Is life busy with you?

This last week we had a break from school. Andrew took A away for a holiday, and I had a break here at home with T & B – who was still at college. Inevitably as Andrew was away the week was challenging in ways I could not have even thought of! A friend I rang for help at one point commented that she couldn’t wait to read the blog, so here goes…

Andrew had taken the girls and I down to my Mum’s for an overnight stay on the Sunday. The boys were heading to the airport on Monday morning. I was, believe it or not, meeting up with my sisters for a spa day on the Monday and then we had tickets to travel home by train that night so B could be back in routine for college. It was a surprisingly good day at the spa actually, and really special to have the space and time together. We finished the day with a massive afternoon tea in a beautiful setting with live music – what a treat.

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The train journey was hard work, managing the anxiety and the dynamics between B & T. It was helped by finding seats on both trains, no delays and the lovely surprise of sitting opposite a travelling cat on our second train which distracted us beautifully. However when we got off the train and were met by a friend to drive us home (Thank you – you know who you are!) I realized I had left my keys at home in the scramble to get going the day before. Dark, raining, but thankfully not on our own on our doorstep! Well after a few internet searches, and phone calls we met a local locksmith who coped with us, and got us into our house again!!

Tuesday was a day spent recovering from all the stress of change, travel, people and the shock of being locked out!

Wednesday began positively, T was up and ready (even if full of nerves) to go our for a pony day at the riding stables she goes to. A friends parents came and picked her up and took her for me. B then went off to college and I breathed and then got the hoover out. B had commented to me that the sitting room smelled funny, so I went there first. We had eaten tea in there so I figured it would just be the lingering smell of chips and nuggets. But no, tucked in neatly behind the sofa was a present from the cats… a well dead pigeon. After a good talking to myself I set to and cleared it all up.

Was just putting the bag of rubbish outside when a car arrived and there was T back early – brought back by her friend’s Dad (Thank you!!). She’d fallen off her horse.

As soon as the door closed T fell apart, having masked at the riding stables, masked on the way back in the car and in lots of pain she just lost it. She was shivering, sobbing and not talking. So I tucked her up into my bed, got the calpol, and sat with her waiting for her to calm down. It’s so difficult when emotions and pain are so overwhelming that words just can’t get out, I feel very helpless in those situations. As soon as the pain relief should have started working I tried to find out what was going on. She was still pale and cold, but as I talked to her she began to overheat and then the sensation of the covers and clothes became unbearable and in all of this I could see she wasn’t moving her arm. In my head I began working out what would be the best thing to do. This reaction didn’t seem to indicate a bump or bruise. It was hard to think straight though at the same time as managing T. So I texted a friend, blurted out what had happened and asking what they thought I should do. She rang, we chatted and then she said she’d ring back in 5 with a plan! True to her word she rang back 5 mins later having spoken to a GP to ask whether T should go to a walk-in or A&E, organised a lift and sent them to come and get us (again thank you, you know who you are!), and thought through what I needed to take with me, and what to tell B about getting home from college – she was amazing!! (Thank you – you know who you are!)

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We sat in A&E, just keeping T as calm as I could. Triage, waiting, sent for x-ray, called in – it was broken. A clean break right through near the top of her arm – too high for a plaster cast. img_20190530_083804287.jpg

So we were sent home with a collar & cuff sling, and advice to keep pain relief going. What a day – what a week!!

When he got back  (thankfully no further unexpected challenges) Andrew asked me if the week had made me wonder about getting back into driving. Do you know it hadn’t, but it had made me so very thankful for all the friendship and support that we have been surrounded by being part of the church family and the local community. When I pray for what we need as a family, God does sometimes give me or Andrew the gift, talent or resource we need to face the challenge but more often than not he gives us what we need through other people. I don’t quite know how I would manage to parent, adult or stay vaguely sane without that network of support around us.