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slow down.

April 30, 2012

We had a busy weekend where we were surrounded by way too many people. It’s nearly May(!) and people are beginning to come out of hibernation, and I forget, that since we are people who believe there is “no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes” that when the hoards of people reemerge on the weekend come the bloom and the bees, I’m the one who tends to want to hibernate. I don’t like lines, I don’t like witnessing others bad behavior, I don’t like port-a-potties and most of all, I don’t like not being able to give my children the wide berth they deserve when out and about. Large crowds make me anxious, and my children have inherited that anxiety, be it through genetics or influence, but outings in large crowds overstimulate us all and sometimes we just have to flee and escape.

Saturday’s outing began with a concert in a nature preserve, which was actually quite lovely and fun were it not for the crowd of under-7’s dressed and dancing like ke$ha and actually seeming to make the members of the band visibly uncomfortable. My children felt too inhibited to dance, I felt slightly embarrassed and uncomfortable watching it and we nearly left the concert which we were otherwise enjoying because of the spectacle of writhing, booty shaking toothless kiddos, but we were determined not to let it ruin our good time. We left the concert and headed to a music and art festival in a city park, which we have attended for four years now, since it’s inception, and despite it being in the city and attracting a large crowd, the park is spacious, on the water, and adjacent to a playground so there are lots of places to spread out and feel “free”. We walked around, said hello to friends, checked out the art and crafts and food offerings and then the kids took off to swing in the willows at the edge of the water and weave willow crowns on the rocks overlooking the river. We were able to give them the wide berth they need, and when they were joined by friends and grew tired of the willows, there was healthy food vendors and mama bags filled with enough snacks to make a picnic for the kids to enjoy while the grown ups enjoyed music and conversation. There was even enough space during the headlining band for the group of five kids to spin and dance and cartwheel  and roll on the grassy hill at the back of the crowd. Satuday was a generally successful outing for us, and we headed home happy and hungry, ate dinner and then kids were exhausted and off to bed after only a chapter of their bedtime book.the papa and I spent an hour or two together before heading to bed early in preparation of another long and hopefully exciting day.

Sunday we drove forty minutes to another music, art and food festival that we have been hearing about for years. The drive was lovely and scenic, we listened to mary pope osbourne’s tales from the odyssey while papa drived and I knit, and we were there before we knew it. The entire town was mobbed, and people spilled over from the sidewalks into the streets. We lucked out and found a parking spot in a metered lot not far from the action, and the fellow pulling out gave us his parking tag so we had almost two free hours! I set the alarm on my phone so we could walk back and feed the meter in time, but it turned out we didn’t need to. We walked over the bridge to the festival amid throngs of people, and found ourselves in the middle of a giant shoving match. It was so crowded that the children were nervous about getting separated and lost, and it was so loud that we couldn’t even find a place to discuss a plan in case it happened. Everyone was hungry, and there were lines for food,  drinks and portapotties. I had packed snacks, but we had heard that the food at this festival was great, so we were looking forward to trying something new. As it turned out, there was an Indian restaurant vending, the line was minimal, and they had some of our favorites on offer, so we got some korma and rice and tried to find a place to sit down and enjoy our lunch. We ended up eating in front of the Wells Fargo bank, as there we were able to carve out a sidewalk square to ourselves, though we did get hassled and had to move out of the way of several giant double strollers while we tried to enjoy our lunch. After eating and determining that hunger wasn’t the source of our collective grumpiness, we decided to walk back across the bridge and leave the festival. We found a small park, literally the size of a parking space, where the kids sat on a rock and skipped stones into the river for a while and we enjoyed the relative quiet. We got back into the car and drove until we found some nature, a park at the top of a steep hill, where we walked at out own pace, and enjoyed the rest of the day as a family, in wide open space with the sounds of nature and each other as the only distractions.

At home, as I dozed in a patch of early evening sunshine coming through the back window and papa was busy lighting the grill and getting ready for our first Sunday cookout of the year, my fella came and snuggled up with me and and asked if he could tell me something. We often have our heart-to-heart talks at night, under cover of darkness, and I guess he interpreted my doziness and lack of eyeglasses as a good time to clear his head and get something off his chest. “Mama?” he began. “I like doing things with everybody on the weekends, but today? Today was too much. Can we maybe think about only doing something one of the weekend days, so the rest of the time we can just be together and it isn’t so…much?” I told him he read my mind, that even though we are the least scheduled, least frantic and hectic family i know, we still need to recognize our limits and carve out time for just being together, even though it might seem as though that’s all we do. At the dinner table, over burgers both grass-fed and local and vegetarian white bean( courtesy of mark bittman), we talked as a family about how we want to spend our time together. We reminded each other what is important in our family culture. We planned game nights and camp outs and kite flying. We planned to try the hiking trail that intimidated us last year, when legs were littler. We talked about a picnic at the drive in, and lake swimming, and picking strawberries, cherries and blueberries. I’m delighted to watch these kids grow up, and I’m glad they are confident enough to do it at their own pace, and that we have the kind of relationships where its safe to say, “slow down”.

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