the perfect picnic

by Amy

i had just gotten done lecturing the oldest on her attitude.  it was sour.  full of complaints and dreary, monotone comments.  like there was nothing exciting about the amazing day we were headed to.

the sun was out, we had a paper bag full of yummy food and my gramma’s patchwork quilt tucked under our arms.  and it was little’s first birthday!  we were gonna party like toddlers in ball pit!  it was bound to be awesome.

but she couldn’t turn that frown upside down.  i used all the standard mommy lines about joy, shared some scripture with her in hopes of inspiring her to make an about face but nothing in my bag of tricks worked.  so i used my standard mode of operation and said “welp.  we are going to have a real hoot of a time and i would love it if you and your good attitude would join us.”  and then i bowed.  because that is what your annoying mother does when she is trying to get a smile out of you.  it was either that or shaking her.  i took the high road.

we treked out the the park with a hot, fresh pizza, a small gift for little jonah and a handful of balloons.  doesn’t it sound like a perfect picture of happiness?  i mean really…what do you do on a first birthday?  they won’t remember it (unless you take pictures), they can’t really do anything independently that will keep them alive and there aren’t really any fun places that they enjoy.  i considered granting one of his wildest dreams.  but a free range trip to the public library where he could pull as many books off the shelf as his little palpitating heart desired…that just sounded like a trip to jail.  or i could let him loose in the bathroom of every accessible house so he could perform his famous toilet-paper-roll-revealer trick.  he is really fast at it.  like a magic trick.

but the park is free, it keeps his big siblings out of my hair entertained so i can pay my full 60% attention to him.  unless there are ground critters roaming about.  and then he’s lucky to survive.

i digress.

so we are at the park and i dictate orders to all of the older kids.  it’s what i do.  i also like to push the envelope for what i like to consider “teaching independence” to my small people.  so i hand the pizza box to my three year old, show him how to keep it parallel to the ground (and actually use that exact word) and then push him off in the direction of the tree.  30 feet later, he’s in tears.  the pizza is no longer a circle and it is no longer free of grass.  in fact, it isn’t even edible anymore.  we managed to save one piece per child and the box.  [massive sarcasm] phew.  the box.

i remind the kids that everything is ok.  there is still plenty of food to eat and tons of stuff to be excited about.  no one answers which means, in my constant state of dillusion, that they all agree with me and march forward, boldly behind their fearless leader.

i bought glass bottled sodas to go with our picnic.  as a special treat.  and because they feel just right when you are sitting on a vintage quilt.  but i didn’t bring the bottle opener.  as Bear Grills has taught me, i improvised.  using my house key and sheer wit, i began to pry at that darn lid.  it isn’t working.  so i keep going, like a fool, because it HAS to work.

i have to have fanta.

the lid shoots off into a grassy oblivion and the contents of said bottle dispense themselves all over ethan.  i start laughing as he starts crying and i remind him that he sees no problem with peeing his pants so this sweet liquid really shouldn’t bother him.  yes.  i said that.  and it is fully true.  can you tell we are potty training?

so, our picnic does not go according to plan.  i forgot a fork so i couldn’t eat my salad.  the balloons were overfilled and pop like gun fire as we are sitting there.  every time, it makes jonah cry.  an apple…a real apple, falls from the tree that was lovingly covering us with it’s shade, and hits corbin on the head.  what are the chances?  one of the other kids wets their pants because they waited to long to go potty (because we were having so much fun, right?!) and another child gets a wicked splinter.  the box of cupcakes falls over and they all mash together.  the wind is blowing too hard that we can’t keep the candle lit long enough to even get past haaaaaaappy bir.  haaaaaaappy birth.  forget it.  no cupcake sing-along for you one year old.  it’s the thought that counts at this point.  i accidentally punch jonah in the head whilst reaching for his food and someone steps in dog poop.  this picnic really sucks.

like a true psychopath, i just started laughing.  they all look at me, wondering if i am about to explode in a fury of “this is stupid we are leaving!” or if i really did find this funny.  i really did find it funny.  how could you not.  and she started laughing.  with me.  not at me.  her frown was upside down.  we giggled, balloons popped and the wind was violently blowing through the trees above us.  it was magical.  despite everything going wrong…it was the perfect picnic.

we stayed at that park for a few more hours.  we played and opened presents and learned how to make our glass bottle sing.  we missed papa but we enjoyed the fact that we got to be together to celebrate jonah’s first birthday.  and as we got in the car, Caelan smiled and said, “mama!  that was a ca-razy picnic but i don’t think we will ever forget it.  will we?” as she flashed me her big, toothy grin.  cupcake was still stuck to her rosy-from-the-sun cheeks.  baby was rubbing his eyes in preparation for his afternoon nap and the boys were still discussing who was cheif of police.  it was the most perfect, crazy picnic ever.

happy birthday sweet jonah.  we will forever sing praises of your amazing first birthday celebration.