Friday, March 30, 2012

Frilly tea party girls!

Hello again. My tea party-picnic habit is catching on around here!

Yesterday my girls and I did another family picnic at the park for breakfast. This time our picnic was at 8:45am - ish, well before our scheduled 10 am play date there with dear friends. While I was packing up the picnic at home Elena, age 2, suggested that we pack enough hot cross buns for our friends to have, too. I was so proud!!!

Again, it was lovely to sit in the quiet morning and have an al fresco breakfast with my little ones, with all our vintage linen and my china cup. As I poured my tea I thought of my own dear grandma, who is now in Heaven, who always packed a thermos of hot water and a tea bag to bring with her when she was going out.

After our breakfast was over and we were playing on the playground with sand toys, bubbles, a ball and the swing set, it was wonderful to watch our friends as they picnicked with the snack we'd packed them. The mother and 3 daughters made a lovely tableau - daintily eating hot cross buns while sitting on our red and white checkered picnic cloth, in the shade of an olive tree.

Then this morning, little Elena invited me to have a tea party with her on the living room floor! She had spread a baby blanket on the rug and had her china doll-sized tea set out. "Mama, come have a a tea party with me." she beckoned. "What kind of tea is it?" I humored her, wondering what sort of answer my 2 year old would come up with.

"English breakfast!" she announced cheerily, holding up her tea pot.

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather.

You can bet that I attended that tea party right away, after giving her a big hug and telling her how much I love her. Oh, I almost cried I was so happy.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tea time with our little girls

Took the sweet little girls on a picnic in the park for breakfast today! It worked beautifully, I'm so pleased. I used a real basket, along with some of my great-grandmother's crocheted table linens, a quilt I made and a red and white checkered cloth that is sooooo classically picnic-y. It was so delightful. Brought along scones, a jar of jam, fruit and yogurt, a thermos of hot tea, and a real teacup and saucer, each swathed in tea towels for safety. It all worked so well, and as it was just me and my daughters, nothing felt show-offy or awkward.

Lately I have been feeling lonely for fellow tea drinkers, nostalgic for tea times shared with good friends who understand (that is, as Anne Shirley would say, kindred spirits). Kindred spirits who do not think it pretentious or irritating to use cloth and china even on a picnic.

--in case you are new to my own story, I am new-ish to my current region and am thousands of miles away from my New England tea drinker family and friends!--

Somewhere along the line I began to feel sad about not being near those friends, and then I decided that I should just go ahead and have tea parties with my own little girls. Even if they do only drink from sippy cups, and even if we are in the hot desert where everyone seems devoted only to cold drinks.

Today I found great freedom in simply packing up our wee picnic breakfast just exactly the way I wanted to, and eating it with the girls in the park. If we had been meeting anyone on a play date I would have felt like a show-off with such a basket. But since it was simply a family affair, I didn't have to consider the perceptions or reactions of others, and I was free to do things in exactly my own way, which was an incredible relief. God makes everyone differently, of course, and I think He made me to do things with frills. For me, it isn't showing off, its just the way I am.

Madeline and Elena were blissfully unaware of any of my over-processing, and they greatly enjoyed the novelty of eating breakfast at the park.

There was a Highland Festival at the park this morning, so during our breakfast we were serenaded by distant bagpipes, and lots of kilted musicians and Scottish enthusiasts strode past us. It was marvelous.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Houseguests: Preparing for them, then enjoying them

Enjoying company is a little easier for me these days. Now that I avoid overhostessing, things are better. There is still a tremendous amount of energy required to prepare for house guests; even a generally clean household needs a few extras before guests can comfortably be absorbed into the home.

I feel like I have read a lot about Christian hospitality and how our attitudes are supposed to be welcoming and how we are to show love to travelers and friends by opening our homes to others. We read in the Bible about how the early church met in homes, about how Chloe (wasn't it Chloe?) opened her home so believers could meet, learn, and worship together. And then there was that couple in the Old Testament who had Elisha over to eat and sleep often on his travels through their village. As I prepared for house guests this time, I thought about that couple. They really were not just fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants hospitable, they were organized. As you recall, they built Elisha a room onto the side of their house, so that he would have his own special place to stay whenever he needed it. Wow. Now that's hospitality.

Hospitality is hard, at least for me. People don't talk about this aspect of hospitality, at least not while I'm in earshot. Maybe no one wants to seem unfriendly, so they gloss over all the upheaval hospitable behavior can cause. We need to be hospitable anyway, because God told us to be. While I was preparing for guests, here are some things I did:
-Planned our flexible menu and grocery shopped accordingly.
-Baked some breakfast treats that are fast "before rushing off to the 8a.m. church service" food options for everyone.
-Talked with my toddler about our guests to prepare her.
-Moved our potty training area to a guest-free zone.
-Put a welcome sign up on the door of the guest area, along with some welcoming toddler masterpieces.
- removed often-used items out of the guest room, in our case this consisted of baby care and baby clothing items
- gave the guest room an extra dusting, sweeping, and overall freshening-up.
- Washed the quilt and linens on the guest bed and brought the air mattress out of storage.
- Washed the guest bathroom really well, after removing all the children's bath toys and towels from it.
-Set out fresh towels and new bars of soap and extra TP.
-Prepared the dining area for guests.

So while I did all that, over the course of the week which led up to the arrival of the guests, I thought about how truly hard it is to do all of that in addition to keeping up with the needs of our household and our family. Because that little list I just wrote doesn't cover any of my usual must-do housekeeping activities, and all of those household cycles (laundry, dishes, meals, childcare, joyfully repeat) continued throughout all that preparation.

And people ask homemakers what we do all day! *smile and chuckle*

Anyway, the act of opening our homes to others requires work, organization, creativity, and then when the guests come we need to show them patience and kindness and attention (yet not overhostess, of course) and enjoy them.

It seemed like a great deal of the preparation involved physically removing our own things from the guests' space, anticipating what their needs would be, and providing for them accordingly. It felt like an object lesson, like I was learning that hospitality is putting someone else's needs first.

So now the guests have been with us a couple of days and I'm realizing that despite the enormous
amount of work, it is so great to have 2 new personalities in our daily routine. They have transformed our household into a place with a lot more laughter and a lot more goofing around, it is really enjoyable. The visit is a treat for all of us. I am glad they have come.

Now I'm off to go prepare for a company dinner and a company breakfast while the little ones nap.